With the announcement of the preferred bidder for the construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge recently, concerns are rife about the fate of the owners of about 800 buildings the proposed bridge would affect. In this piece, LADESOPE LADELOKUN x-rays the fears and expectations of citizens
“It’s a lie. That’s how they promise to build it every year.” These were the words of Bola Olatunde, while reacting to the plan by the Lagos State Government to construct the Fourth Mainland Bridge. Olatunde’s skepticism stemmed from what she described as years of recurring failed promises that predate the present government. In what is deemed a departure from the past by a number of observers, the Lagos State Government, through the Office of Public Private Partnerships had, on December 29, 2022, announced Messrs CCECC-CRCCIG Consortium as the preferred bidder for the construction of the bridge, which, it was learnt, would commence in the first quarter of 2023 and would be completed in four years.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that the 38 km long bridge project connects Lagos Island by way of Langbasa(Lekki) and Baiyeku(Ikorodu) across the Lagos Lagoon to Itamaga, in Ikorodu. According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Private Partnerships, Mr. Ope George, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Aramide Adeyoye, the project is estimated to cost about $2.5 billion, would be delivered through Public- Private Partnership initiative and tolled for two years.
The Fourth Mainland Bridge Project, Ope George said, will comprise the construction and operation of a greenfield tolled road and bridge with a design speed of 120 kilometre per hour, including the development of adjacent real estates, noting that the bridge, when completed, would become the second longest in Africa with three toll plazas, nine interchanges, a 4.5 kilometre Lagoon Bridge and an eco-friendly environment.
Despite promises of adequate compensation from relevant authorities, property owners, tenants, business owners and other stakeholders have expressed concerns over the proposed bridge. Apart from her skepticism about the commencement of the project, Bola Olatunde, a victim of house demolition, who now has her shop on Awolowo Way in the Igbogbo Area of Ikorodu said: “It’s a good thing if the government can start and complete the project. It will benefit the masses. But they need to spare a thought for houses and businesses that would be affected. Before I came here,the house that had my shop was demolished and I had not even spent five months after paying hugely for a year, including agreement and commission. Till today,I can’t get my money back because the landlord still laments that he has not been compensated since the days of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.”
In its reaction, the Federal Government too had recently expressed concern over the environmental consequences of the proposed project. Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum, Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdulahi, who was represented by Mr Gomwalk Celestine, said despite the laudable benefits associated with the proposed project and considering the biophysical and socio-economic nature of the proposed corridor, the project was envisaged to have significant negative social, economic, health and environmental consequences, including resettlement issues for numerous Project Affected Persons (PAPs). He further stated that it was the responsibility of the Federal Government, in collaboration with other tiers of government and relevant regulatory authorities, to ensure “that the negative impacts are adequately identified and effectively mitigated while the attendant positive impacts are realised for project and environmental sustainability.” “As policy makers, we must ensure adequate provision of an enabling environment for investments in critical infrastructure such as this project for Nigeria to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Nigeria’s commitment to Net Zero by 2060.” Meanwhile, the concerned state governments – Ogun and Lagos states- had created a platform known as Panel Review Meeting on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to discuss the project and its impacts. According to the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Mrs. Aramide Adeyoye, the panel review for the ESIA report on the Lagos Fourth Mainland Bridge project is the final review before the project is approved at the ESIA level, noting that adequate compensation is in line with international best practices. Adeyoye said:”This project passes through Lagos and Ogun states. So, it is a Lagos State initiative for Lagos State and Ogun State driven by his Excellency, Mr. Babajide Olushola Sanwo- Olu and that means all of the corridors within Lagos and those within Ogun State, there is a harmonious and integrated approach to settlement and that is what we will do and each party will be properly compensated, where necessary, resettle for the approaches is going to be wholistic. I think the issue compensation is not the case. It is a composite plan to make everybody happy.’’
Diary of failed promises
In March 2017, the construction of the fourth mainland bridge was expected to kick off following the announcement that a suitable contractor was about to be appointed. According to Construction Review, government officials had said that in less than a month,the construction timetable for the construction project would be released, adding that state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, had suggested that construction could begin before the end of the year as some of the funding for the project was said to be allocated in the year’s Lagos State Government budget. “The project may take longer time because we must ensure that a certain number of homes and other buildings, mainly in informal settlements, will have to be demolished and terms of compensation agreed with residents. “This is often a controversial process on infrastructural projects, partly because it can be difficult to determine exactly who lives in informal settlements” he was quoted as saying. In April 2018, the Lagos State government had revealed plans to construct the fourth Mainland Bridge. Speaking during a press briefing to mark the third anniversary of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode by the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, the Commissioner of Works and Infrastructure, Adebowale Akinsanya, had said construction work would commence before the end of the year. Also, in June 2021, Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu, had, during the assessment speech of his second year as governor, said that the construction of the proposed 4th Mainland Bridge in Lagos would start before the end of December. His words: “The laying of the foundation stone for the 4th Lagos Bridge site will take place before the end of 2021. The contract is at the final stage of completion and our Public-Private Partnership (PPP) concessionaires appear to be very committed. The preferred bidder out of the six under-listed bidders is expected to be determined by October.”
We’re ready to sacrifice our land but there’s only one condition for peace – Village Head
During a visit to the swampy village of Ayetoro in the Ikorodu area of Lagos, Sunday Telegraph spoke with the village head, Tabiti Alafia, on the expectations of the village from the government when the project begins. According to Tabiti, a huge chunk of the over 300 hectares of the land belonging to the village would be used for the project, saying the contractors would naturally love Ayetoro because ,apart the presence of the river in the village,most of the land there are still unoccupied by houses and that means they would not pay much in compensation. “We don’t have any misunderstanding with the government but they have also told us that it’s not possible for them to use our land without adequately compensating us. Look around there, most of the land here are not occupied. So, I don’t think they should find it difficult to compensate us. We can’t tell the government not to do what will be beneficial to the masses as long as we will get adequately compensated despite the fact that they will take a huge part of our land. ” We don’t know what they want to do for us but we have not been told we would be asked to leave. But when it gets to that, we can then begin a conversation. Moreso, after six years , the contract was awarded to a specific contractor in December last year. So, in that sense,we can’t say the pattern it will take for now. When the contractors come,we can tell them a particular portion of our land is for our ancestors and seek their understanding. But it hasn’t got to that level. We sent a delegation to the Lagos State Government and we were assured that we would be duly compensated.If it’s for the masses,we can’t stop them.” He, however, cautioned against violating the agreement between the village and the government. “If they are saying they want to build schools,roads and everything good for the masses and it turns out not to be so,then there may be trouble. But if they use it for the purpose for which it was released,we can’t have any problem with them. Of course, there must be a memorandum of understanding. If they breach it,then we go to court.”
Some victims of demolition during Ambode’s tenure yet to be compensated – Oba’s Palace
In an interview with Mr Sola Odusanya, Personal Assistant to the Adeboruwa of Igbogbo Land, Oba Semiudeen Kasali, at the palace, he revealed that Oba Kasali, who was said not to be in the palace as of the time Sunday Telegraph visited,had a week earlier visited the governor’s office, the lawmakers representing his part of Ikorodu and other stakeholders on the plight of his subjects, who have not been compensated years after their houses were demolished during ex-Governor Ambode’s tenure. He, however, insisted that some victims have been compensated, noting that others would also get compensated as they have not been forgotten by the state government.
“Last week, Thursday, specifically, Oba was with the governor, the senator representing us here and other stakeholders. The meeting was mainly about those that are yet to be compensated after their houses got demolished. As you mentioned, some people have been compensated and with time, it will go round. “Oba is trying his best to make sure that everyone is happy at the end of the day.
“The plan to construct the bridge is a welcome development. It will definitely bring development to everywhere it touches. We are still expecting the company that won the contract to come to the palace here to brief the Oba on their plans. We just hear and read about it. The people to handle it will come. We are expecting them. When they come,we can take it up from there.Initially,we were told the construction will affect 3,000 people.
Now, they said it’s 800.When they come ,we will get first hand information on what they are trying to do and how it will affect us here,” he said. In a bid to find out the fate of Ogun residents, who may be affected by the construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge, Sunday Telegraph attempted to have a phone interview with the Commissioner of Information, Waheed Odusile. Responding to questions about the effects of the project expected to pass through Ogun State, the commissioner pleaded that he be given time to speak with his counterparts in the relevant ministries to get adequately informed about the project, asking to be reminded a day later. When our correspondent put a call across to him as requested, he pleaded for more time, promising to call back. Meanwhile, as of the time of filing this report, he has not called back.
Until February 2022, Ogun residents whose houses – said to about 800- in the Ogunrun Ori area of Ogun State were marked for demolition for the construction of an interchange bridge along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway had hoped to be compensated following assurances by the officials of the Federal Ministry of Works, Sunday Telegraph reported. According to the residents, the Federal Government had assured them that it would not need any document to compensate them but they would later be informed that the Federal Government had handed over the project to the state government, noting that they were asked to get their Certificate of Occupancy for compensation, even when the same state government failed to issue them seven years earlier.
On why the Federal Government will no longer pay compensation to owners of affected buildings, Director of Federal Highways in South West, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Adedamola Kuti, explained that the Federal Government used to pay compensations in the past but the government’s decision now is that the land belongs to the state and any state government that wants the Federal Government to construct road in their domain must give her the Right of Way(RoW). According to Kuti, allowing the state governments to handle the payment of compensation is consistent with the provisions of the Land Use Act, which gives all powers on land to the state governors. He affirmed that, “it is the responsibility of the state and we have submitted all the relevant things we have promised. We are waiting for the state government.” Kuti said it was a regular practice to ask state governments to provide RoW where the Ministry of Works and Housing executes projects, stating that it is not asking for land but a RoW to work.
Lagosians can trust us,we’re different – Lagos Govt
The Lagos State government has assured Lagosians that would be affected by the proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge that it would keep its promise of compensating victims. In an interview with Sunday Telegraph, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Gboyega Akosile, said there was a difference between the Sanwo-Olu government and those Lagosians listened to in the past. His words: “The difference between what you have heard from previous governments and this current one is that this is a government that has fulfilled every promise it has made from 2019.
Every promise made by Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, we have fulfilled. The ones we’ve not fulfilled, we will tell you this is the reaaon we’ve not completed them.We promised that we were going to complete the Lagos Blue Line rail project, have we completed it? Yes,we have! Despite the fact that it’s a capital intensive project,we’ve completed it.
“We promised that we were going to construct a new road in Epe. Have we not done it? …From Eleko junction to Epe. Yes,we have done it.So, we have promised that we would complete all abandoned projects on ground. That’s exactly what we are doing. So, this government is not about mouthing activities, it’s about doing. It’s about action. That’s the difference.
That’s the difference between us and those Lagosians and Nigerians were listening to in the past,” he explained. Speaking further on why Lagosians should trust the Sanwo-Olu government, Akosile said: “When we’re going to do the Lagos Redline, we demolished houses and everybody was compensated, including tenants. Never has it been heard in the history of Lagos that tenants were given money because at any rate, government shouldn’t have any business with them.
“But this is a government of compassion.This is a government that cares about the people.Some tenants may have just renewed their rent. We took cognisance of that and paid them off.Not just the landlords,the tenants got money. “So, in the case of Igbogbo, everyone that compensation is due will receive their compensation. Naturally, government works by normal standard, people would need to present their papers. Everyone cannot just come and say “I’m a house holder”. What if you’re not the owner of the house. Definitely,they will be asked to bring papers, documentation to show that they are the owners of their building.
If you’re laying claim to something, wouldn’t you show me documents that bind you with the building?” When reminded that getting documentation in Lagos State for properties could be difficult, making it also difficult for property owners to present their papers, Akosile said: “I know what you’re talking about. Well, I believe that there are ways to go about it. ” He, however, assured Lagosians that regardless of the broken promises in the past on the commencement of the project, the construction of the bridge will start in the first quarter of 2023 as promised.