ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE, who toured the multi-level terminals at Oshodi ahead of its opening, writes that commuters would soon begin a different level of experience in public transportation.
How would you feel, enjoying the cool breeze from the rooftop event centre, or the rooftop garden located on the fourth floor of the Oshodi multi-level terminal? How would it feel, rendezvouing above the bedlam of traffic, soaking in the multiple colours Oshodi?
How would you feel sauntering into any of the terminals and climbing on the escalator to the next floor, where your bus is waiting and you sitting down in comfortable waiting room with chillers taking off your sweat? How would it feel, knowing that come rain or sun, you are safe, in the comfort of the terminals comparable only to what obtains at the airports?
All experiences are novel, no doubt. Just as the terminals touch lighting the Oshodi environment are. Novel in all respect! The first time such is coming up anywhere in the country and engineered from designing to execution and completion by a local contractor and a battery of engineers.
The emerging Oshodi terminals are like vaults of so many wonders. They undoubtedly would keep visitors awed. They are a perfect curtain, fittingly drawn on the old embarrassing themes and image that Oshodi evoked in the minds of not only Lagosians but also Nigerians; Oshodi where crime mingles with men, where ‘insanity’ stalks in daylight, where illicit activities are pasttimes. Oshodi evokes several passion – loved and feared at the same time. It is home to the dreaded Area Boys, where the homeless find home.
The three terminals seem to beckon on all. Welcome to the new Oshodi, a place of new possibilities.
From the old to the new
From its dim past as a farm post of the Oshodi Tapa of Lagos Island, Oshodi has grown in leaps and bounds, moving from a farmstead to a trade post and from this to major transport and commercial hub, offering shelter to generations of many who have been attracted like a bee to nectar by the sheer population it received into its many uncharted streets daily.
Because of its closeness to the international airport, Nigeria’s major gateway, Oshodi grew as a major commercial hub, becoming home to over 26 parks heading to different parts of the state as well as links to other parts of the country as well as the West African sub-region.
The impact of the huge population it attracted left a huge toll on its environment which was badly defaced, making it a sore thumb for the state and indeed the nation.
At the turn of the Millennium, successive administrations began to put in place efforts to reclaim Oshodi from the Area Boys and gangs of urchins that had made it a home. Those efforts, however, concretised by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration that started from scratch, using local engineers and contractors, a legacy project that would have the most profound impact on public sector transportation architecture not only in Lagos, but also in modern Nigeria.
Taste of the pudding
When the Ambode government swooped on old Oshodi, few hours into the New Year in 2016, demolishing and displacing about 10 markets and 16 motor parks, not a few Lagosians thought the government might have gone off the mark. Many labelled it as insensitive. They saw its engineering designed model of its dream as too ambitious and unachievable. Many thought the government, in chasing legacy has led the state into a phoney elephant project.
However, just as the government was finishing its term, in May last year, it invited President Muhammadu Buhari to open the Terminal 3, one of the three terminals that have ruptured and redefined the Oshodi skyline, and from where public transportation as envisaged by the promoters of the project was flagged off.
From that terminal alone, the contractor has accounted for 25,000 passenger traffic within one year, despite operating at about 45 per cent capacity.
The third terminal, undoubtedly, gave a foretaste of what to expect from the contractor who, as facility managers, have tried to keep the terminal in top shape.
For now, operations are still at the ground floor where passengers are boarding the seven routes of CMS, Obalende, TBS, Ikorodu, Ajah, Berger and Lekki. It operates about 40 High Capacity Vehicles (HCV) at the moment.
At the second and third floors of both the Second and Third Terminals are stacked about 100 minibuses which are expected to move into the inner roads, especially along Ajah and Lekki axis of the Lagos Island, while the holding bay and first floor of the first terminal had stacked 80 High Capacity Vehicles which would be rolled into Terminal 2, exclusively for the Abule-Egba corridor.
On the ground floor of Terminal 3 are the reception area, which welcomes you to the ticketing plaza, where you pick your tickets then move to the waiting area where you sit to await your bus and move for boarding.
Waiting to be activated on the ground floor are rows of café shops for quick shoppers. On the second and third floor are shopping arena and ticketing plaza.
At the fourth floor is a roof garden and adjacent it is the rooftop events place that can seat 1,500 people. It looks forward to having the place branded by local firms.
Conducting our correspondent round the three facilities, the Facility Manager Mr Yomi Solaja, said Terminals 2 and 3 had the same design, with a rooftop garden and event place, where you can hold an event away from the hustle and bustle and right in the skies of Oshodi.
Linking the two terminals is a 56 metres skywalk bridge with a covered steelworks that is 25 metres high. The bridge offers a scenic kaleidoscopic view of the various colours of Oshodi, with its traffic below.
While Terminal 3 services about 30 routes; Berger, Ojota, Lagos Island, Apapa Wharf, Ejigbo, Ajegunle Boundary, Lekki/Jakande/Ajah, Ijora/Costain/Obalende, Sabo/Ikorodu, Tin Can, Bariga, New Garage and Eko Hotel and other such routes, Terminal 2, services Abule-Egba, Yaba, Mushin, Ojuelegba, Opebi/Alausa, Ikeja/Ogba, Agege and Ikotun. Terminal 2 would serve only 10 routes; Ikotun, Ayobo, Yaba, Ojuelegba, Mushin, Opebi/Alausa, Igando/Egbeda, Ikeja/Ogba, Agege and Oshodi/Abule-Egba BRT route.
Terminal 1, on the other hand, had a unique design, four-floor edifice with a private VIP section fully sound-proofed to ensconce them from the world outside the steel door.
Terminal 1, Solaja said, would be partly managed by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) with whom it has entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would see a win-win partnership.
Solaja said arriving at the ground floor; passengers would approach the various ticketing booths depending on their destination. Their luggage would be collected and tagged, while they move to the first floor to wait for their route to be announced.
He said Terminal 1 would focus essentially on inter-state travels, with NURTW servicing all the Southwest states, while the logistic fleet operators operating from Oshodi and servicing the South-South and Southeast has signed on to move in once the Terminal begins operation.
He said the Terminal would be servicing about 22 states and Abuja, with the NURTW servicing Abuja and the entire Southwest, while the luxury vehicle fleet operators would be covering all the Southeast and Southsouth states.
A complement of the Terminal 1 was a vast baggage area to accommodate the logistics needs of the operators.
He said all drivers and their assistants would be taken through regular training and retraining to keep them abreast of the need for defensive driving, while all operators are to first approach the terminal from the holding bay where all vehicles would be tested regularly for their roadworthy compliance, before they approach the loading bay to pick their passengers.
The terminals have loading points on the three floors, and passengers could approach the parks through an escalator, or elevator or go through the stairways or a ramp.
On the frontage of Terminal 1 is a large outdoor space that would be taken by traders, or a relaxation and artefacts sellers.
Linking the first and second terminals is an underground tunnel, which is also access to the loading bay on terminal one.
Abutting Terminal 1 is a taxi park, which Solaja said has elicited interest from several operators, including so many car-hiring operators.
The Facility Manager said coming on stream and complementing the terminals are a shopping mall and a 30-bed hotel for anyone who wishes to refresh before proceeding on the next leg of their travel to their final destinations.
He said the entire land space has been fenced off and terminals would be able to operate with the least impact on the travel pattern on the main artery of the road.
He looked forward to the commencement of full operations in all the terminals by month end, even as he added that allotment of office spaces to interested corporate bodies would be done also before the end of the month.
Solaja believed that Oshodi would take a new turn when operations begin in all the terminals.
He said though the operators already envisaged that the Abule-Egba BRT corridor would be a heavy traffic area, projections, according to Solaja, is perhaps, for 15,000 passenger traffic, with an expected surge to 25,000 and above within the next three months of operation.
He said the interchange looks at providing a one-million passenger travel, adding that everything is in place to ensure a seamless operation with the inauguration of the Abule-Egba corridor by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Solaja admitted that for passengers and office space prospects at the terminals, security has remained a major concern. He said the operator has already gone into an agreement with the State’s Special Task Force which would complement the arrangement for the plainclothes security as well as private security outfits providing cover for the terminals.
This would also be complemented by Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTV) to be fixed in and around the facility.
On the issue of power supply, he said each of the terminals has a 4,000 KVA generating plant, with a 3,000 KVA back-up and a further 150 KVA back-up even without discountenancing connecting to the national grid.
He assured all tourists, visitors, commuters and patrons or prospective partners of 24 hours power supply in all the facilities, adding that the terminals are ready to provide world-class transit services to Lagosians and Nigerians.
The Managing Director of Planet Projects Limited and contractor Mr. Biodun Otunola described the project as a worthy legacy and a fitting gift, by the government to the people.
With the Oshodi Terminals, local engineers seemed to have sent a strong message of their readiness to take on the world.
Otunola, who described the project as completely novel said nowhere in the world would such be found, adding that it was handled entirely and completely by local engineers.
He praised the Lagos State government for the confidence reposed in Planet Projects, adding that the Oshodi terminals and interchange would change the narrative of public transportation and tourism. He said adequate provisions have been made for the comfort of commuters while providing so many avenues where economic activities could take place in a comfortable ambience, without the usual exposure to harsh elements that demean public transport users.
Otunola said by providing the terminals, the Lagos State government has, in an unmistakable way, told the people at the grassroots that their lives matter, and that the government is willing to work for them, just as it has been working for other segments of society.
Otunola said Lagosians would, forever, be grateful to the government for thinking of redeveloping Oshodi and taking away its cloak of slum and replacing it with a gargantuan project worthy of a megacity.