It is one of the highlights of a four-year effort to transform Lagos. The awe-inspiring structure of steel and glass, rose from the rubble, gleaming and straddling highway, adding a spectacular perspective to the otherwise jaded skyline. The Oshodi Transport Interchange, the latest in the series of the monumental structures that grace public spaces in an evolving Lagos, is its own league.
In the runup to the celebration of the Lagos at 50 epoch, the city has been witnessing the appearance of a slew of roundabouts, laybys, walkways, bridges and bus stops. In the matrix of artistic and avant-garde projects spawned in the past four years, the Oshodi Interchange stands out as a construction magnum opus.
From the beginning of its construction to its completion (soon), the structure has perpetually wowed the public. In the first few months of its construction, the steel contraption jutting into the sky was astounding to the multitude that daily passed through the axis––not many could comprehend what was coming to Oshodi; now, in its state of near completion, the edifice leaves many in raw awe; their wonderment, rooted in the magnitude of transformation––both aesthetic and utility––that has become of the Oshodi of old.
A few years back, Oshodi used to be a vortex of untamable traffic, a metaphor for Lagos’ burgeoning population, a stark reminder of the need for a comprehensive transport system that meets the demand of the city’s over 20 million citizens, a nightmare for those caught in the web of its underbelly. In its dark, dangerous, nerve-wracking heyday, Oshodi was an apt byword for traffic chaos and confusion.
The statistics was dizzying: 100,000 passengers and one million pedestrians daily; 13 parks and 5,600 buses loading per day; 76 per cent of the land in the area clogged with transport and commercial activities. Such a matrix marked it out as a very busy transport hub with vexing traffic congestion that was one of the most fearsome in the country.
The Oshodi Transport Interchange is not a standalone project. Rather it is part of the Bus Reform Initiative of the administration of Governor Akinwumi Ambode. New bus terminals daily spring up in the city, bringing order and beauty to the landscape of Lagos. Of them all, the Oshodi interchange is the biggest and the most iconic so far. The reason behind the government constructions of terminals– Ikeja Bus Terminal, Berger Bus Terminal, Yaba Bus Terminal, Oyigbo Bus Terminal and Race Cross Bus Terminal–was the desire to make Lagos function like other megacities in the developed world.
In the emerging road transport order of Lagos, Oshodi is the heart of the network. The transport interchange, according to a government official, was conceived “to reduce travel time on Lagos roads; unlock gridlocks associated with the megacity and help people commute without stress.”
Governor Ambode himself has also affirmed as much. “If I say Lagos is going to be globally competitive, I must do things that work towards Lagos being competitive,” he says, “so that it becomes the best destination that anybody would like to visit, nobody who is a tourist in Lagos would enter danfo; it is not going to happen. So, we need to intervene and make the system work the way we really want it to work.”
The Oshodi Interchange still remains a conundrum to the average Lagosian. Its functionality, however, has been laid bare by engineers and government officials. It is a three-terminal, inter and intra-city transport hub, similar in function to the Victoria Terminus in London, the United Kingdom.
Terminal Three of the facility became functional on May 2, 2019, after President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned it on May 1. Terminal One and Two are billed to become operational by the end of the month. Terminal Three can handle 4, 000 passengers at a go. At full capacity, the interchange is expected to process an estimated three million passengers per day. While terminal One handles inter-city transportation, Terminal Two focuses exclusively on the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT scheme, and services commuters from Oshodi to Abule Egba, Okokomaiko, LASU and other far-flung areas. The third terminal is for buses plying between Oshodi and the Islands––Ikoyi Victoria, Lagos––and places adjacent to the routes, like Surulere and Ikorodu. Collectively, the three terminals will serve 1,000 modern buses.
So what is inside the terminals? Many still wonder. The bowel of each multi-storey terminal serves multipurpose functions: waiting area, loading bays, ticketing stands and passengers’ lounge, parking space for taxis and private cars and restrooms. A shopping mall inside Terminal Three will afford passengers the luxury to shop (or window shop) as they travel through the hub. Connectivity of the terminals includes 20 lifts and escalators, accessible walkways and pedestrian skywalks between two of the terminals. There will be LED Lights and a comprehensive passenger information system. For commuters, all these translate into comfort, convenience and security. To all intent and purpose, the interchange is an improvement in the standard of life of Lagosians.
With an initial budget of $70 million, the interchange is poised to transform Oshodi into a world-class Central Business District (CBD) where business, travel and leisure mix. Transactions will be conducted in a serene, secure, clean, orderly and hygienic environment that is comparable with other transport terminals around the world such as Stratford and Victoria Bus Station in the United Kingdom. With its touted 1,000 light effects to project the aesthetics of the ambience, the terminals will give Oshodi a tourism visage.
What does the New Oshodi Transport Interchange (first of its kind in West Africa) mean to the people? It means many things to different people.
Badamosi Aleshinloye gushes: “I am very delighted at this development. We all know how Oshodi used to be. It is nothing to write home about. Now I can proudly take a picture and send to my cousins in London, to tell them I live in a beautiful neighbourhood.”
He continues matter-of-factly: “This project has impacted on the surrounding neighbourhood. New roads have been built and drains are being properly channelled. There is a sense of order now in Oshodi.”
Cletus Maduka, 58, a fabric trader with four stores, sees opportunities. “Once the terminals are working, many new businesses will come up, and that is where I am excited. I must have a shop inside the mall.”
Obadeyi Ajose foresees further development. “This project has positioned Oshodi for further development in near or far future. The project is one of the definitive development and a confirmation that the megacity project has not been abandoned.”
More importantly, there is an end in sight to the ubiquitous “Negative Oshodi Moment.” I had mine in 2008 while among the crowd waiting for a bus. In the rush to board a bus, I felt a hand in my hip pocket, and my eyes levelled with those of a gentleman who a few minutes earlier was standing right next to me. Caught, he just pulled a face and muttered “sorry.” He was trying to obtain my Motorola phone. Mugging in Oshodi in the past was commonplace. If you were robbed of your phone, and you tarried long enough, it would be sold back to you a few minutes later by those peddling used phones.
Such notoriety is bygone in the New Oshodi, courtesy of the Interchange. The new initiative automatically decongests the area of riffraff; whatever is left of such undesirable elements and unruly traffic behaviours are on their last hours. There will be no place for rascality inside the terminals. With the existing over 30 parks being departmentalized into 13 lots, with modernised entry and exit, one can be optimistic that lasting sanity and orderliness has finally come to Oshodi.
This West Africa’s busiest Transport Interchange is constructed purely by Planet Project Limited, an indigenous construction firm.
It has been a long effort to tame and transform Oshodi. Eventually, it has been achieved. In style.