Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Victor Osakwe

When the construction of Lekki road was started in 1982 and completed in 1987, little did Lagosians know that 28 years later the road will be an avenue for exploitation. The road was initiated by Lateef Jakande in 1982 and built up to Eleko junction and was completed up to Lekki by Mudashiru Lawal and Mike Akhigbe administration in 1987. The road was built with public resources at a period when public resources were far more invested on the people, though with bureaucratic control as one of the major limitations, than now where public resources are majorly used to assist private companies with the sole aim to make profit. The Lekki road opened up the communities to other areas in Lagos and attracted commercial activities.

The concessioning of the road started in April 2003 by the Tinubu-led administration. It was concessioned to Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to upgrade and expand the 49.5 kilometre road in a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model for 30 years under the Private Public Partnership (PPP). The road is fenced such that it is impossible for road users to by-pass the toll gates. Besides, it closes businesses to the view of passersby- a situation that may force several businesses to close down. Besides, while it is used to shut out other businesses, the fence is also meant to generate additional revenue for LCC as it is to be rented out for mounting of advert billboards. All this is meant to make sure LCC makes huge profit. This arrangement has pitched about 50 communities in the Eti-Osa local government against the Lagos State Government and the LCC.

One of the major grouses of the people of the communities with the LCC is the 3 tollgates that will be stationed at 3 locations (km3, km13 and km23), which will fundamentally jerk up the cost of transportation and living. Three toll points within a distance of 23km is outrageous. In deed, the company planned to start charging tolls after just completing about 6km out of 49.5km road. Presently, buses charge N200 from Ajah to CMS or Obalende; this cost may go up to N400 or more. This will inflict socio-economic hardship on school children, traders and workers.

On Thursday August 19 2010, hundreds of protesters took to the street under the aegis of ‘Stakeholders Forum on the Lekki-Epe Expressway Expansion’ and marched from Chevron Roundabout to Jakande Housing Estate Junction. According to the convener of the forum, Mr. Adewale Sanni, “the protest was to test-run the resistance process of the stakeholders to the arbitrary introduction of toll gates on the expressway. We must come together to frustrate their desperation to extort us to the tune of N100bn annually through their tolling and fencing arrangements.”

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of LCC, Mr. Opuiyo Oforiokuma has revealed that the road will cost N50billion to construct. This means that with almost N100bn annual revenue, this is perhaps one of the most profit-yielding businesses in the world at the gross expense of the working people and poor. A group known as Lagos Progressives has alleged that the company (HITECH) handling the road construction is co-owned by the immediate former governor, Bola Tinubu who is the chairman while Fashola’s crony-Dr Tunji Olowolafe is the chairman of LCC.

One of the major reasons for the expansion of the Lekki road was not to ease the traffic on the road as alluded to by Governor Fashola, but to satisfy the profit of the so called investors that the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) may attract. Free Trade Zones (FTZ) are areas of a country where investors are allowed to manufacture or trade with the guarantee to make huge profit. For example, such arrangement allows investors to operate without paying tax, exempted from tariff, quota etc. This model is popular in Asia and South America, particularly in the third world countries in order to attract investment. Among the incentives awarded to investors at the Lekki Free Trade Zone are: 100 percent repatriation of profits and dividends (if the investor so wished), 100 percent foreign ownership of investments, 100 percent tax holiday, 100 percent permission to sell manufactured, imported and assembled goods in the domestic market, 100 percent restriction free to hire foreign employees, waiver on all expatriate quotas for companies operating in the zone, among others (Business Day August 20-22, 2010).

This kind of system allows for massive exploitation of workers. While workers and small traders in Lagos are being forced to pay multiple and huge taxes, big business in the name of incentives are partially or wholly exempted from paying tax.

The Lagos State Government has shown that it is no different from the federal government in terms of implementing the IMF/World Bank policy on the poor masses in Lagos State. Despite the cries of the poor masses that are going to be affected, the Lagos State Government has refused to stop the LCC from collecting tolls from that stretch of road. It should be recalled that the federal government has also concessioned Lagos-Ibadan expressway to Bi-Courtney who are also the concessionaires of the General Aviation Terminal and MM2 at the Lagos Airport. The ports have also been concessioned. The Lagos state government feels unconcerned about the hardship of the masses who are trying to make ends meet. It is contented in making the poor to go hungry so that LCC will reap huge profits. This is an example of robbing the poor to pay the rich. The masses have to fight back and demand an end to tolls on our roads and privatization of social infrastructures. Labour and pro-masses organizations should organize the masses and provide leadership for the struggle for quality and public funded utilities.

The struggle should be linked with the struggle for a working people’s government that is committed to socialist policies and programs. Such government will put under public ownership the commanding heights of the economy with the democratic control and management of the working people in order to be able to massively invest on people with provision of basic needs and social infrastructure on a lasting basis as against the massive exploitation of the working people to satisfy the profit-motive and greed of a privileged few.