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Monday, 14 September 2009

Thoughts of a frustrated Nigerian Architect.

"I moved out of Nigeria in 1980. This was about the time that Shagari became President of Nigeria. Since then, Nigeria has digressed and actually moved back in time while the rest of the world moves forward. My observation indicates that there may have been a concerted effort to destroy progress made in Southern Nigeria, which has been successful. Where are the Cocoa pyramids, and the Oil palms? Did you know that Nigerians were sent to Malaysia and Indonesia to train them on how to raise and Farm the Palm Oil?

In the case of planning, Lagos is my home state and My early years were all in Lagos. I can remember places like Takwa Bay that had beautiful blue waters and we used to beach our boats and sometimes stayed overnight in some of the huts (chalets) that we rented. Lagos was beautiful then, and many regular folks on Sundays laid out blankets along Marina to picnic while watching the beautiful display of lights from Ships. Security was not an issue, and we'd picnic until 10.00-11.00pm.

The Military created the 2nd destruction of Lagos methodically, and rumour has it that it was on purpose, because the North felt threatened by the quick progress and advancements that Lagos was making. I will refrain from getting into politics and resume my focus on the subject at hand.

Since as early as 1954, Lagos and Ibadan had been comprehensively mapped out by the U.S Army corp of Engineers. Were you aware that there used to be a Seaport (Airport) on the waters between Lekki and Ikorodu, where amphibious planes landed? Did you know that Lagos was a famous detination for European travelers to Africa for recreation, even more popular than Kenya? Did you know that Lagos had another Airport at Kirikiri and there used to be many international flight and plane shows there (Sponsored by Esso)? At these shows, did you know we could board the planes to inspect them and even paid to take 30 minutes flights on some planes? Did you know that the then USSR actually came after Festac '77, and setup a planetarium in Lagos for like 2 months, complete with replica Soyuz capsules and everything you needed to know about space? There was even a zero gravity chamber. This was also open to the public.

At the rate that Nigeria is going backwards, we should be glad with mimicking progressive Nations and playing catchup rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. We have the advantage of building upon time tested technologies which they have worked on already. Nigeria is yet to build any kind of "Wonder" and the closest that we had was the National theater for the Black and African Festival of Arts. It was a beautiful piece of art which involved the works of a great Nigerian Artist named Emokpae.

Infrastructure should be our focus which has restrained proper growth, and caused a lot of shack cities in Lagos. I believe that the British conspired to screw us up by imposing the "Plot system" on us rather than allowing us to think in terms of "Lots" as in America. Once a Nigerian sees a piece of property, they immediately think of how many 60'X120' plots they can squeeze out of it. This is a paradigm that is ridding us of green spaces within cities, and hence an unhealthy livestyle. Everything is a hustle and everyone is a hustler. Nigeria really needs a paradigm shift.

To address the issue that brought up this discussion, I will say that it is a travesty that the 3 Bridges connecting Lagos mainland to the Island are not Suspension bridges. The other day while driving across Carter Bridge, I noticed that it had been designed to allow the middle part to raise. It is also revealing when I remember that Eko Bridge actually has a Tower, and has long spans in the middle to allow potential. However, 3rd Mainland Bridge is an economic sabotage of Lagos, and I believe that it will need to be torn down to allow Marine Navigation in the future.

If Lagos Planners had any exposure and professional pride, they will have studied how cities/states with large bodies of water handled developments. The water itself is usually the economic foundation of these areas. The United States currently have learned lessons and have blasted down many dams, while creating fish ladders etc, at the remaining ones to minimize impacts on nature as well as navigation. The British have created water locks and extensive mechanisms to create more efficient water transits. I will post some transport data about the efficiency of barges as compared with other forms of transportation. There is no comparison at all. You will be shocked.

Lagos should have at least one suspension bridge linking the Island to the edge of Apapa. There should be one linking to Iganmu, and another linking to Ikorodu. The center part over the water crossing of 3rd mainland bridge should be destroyed, and a ramp built leading to a suspended part to allow for water navigation. Looking at Carter Bridge and Eko Bridge, I believe the original design allows for a retroactive installation of an active system to allow the center parts to be lifted for ships to navigate through. River Osun and River Ogun should be dredged to allow for low draft Barges to navigate them. Containers heading North and East should be automatically offloaded at the Ports into Barges destined for Ikorodu, Ijebu Igbo, or Abeoukuta via River Oshun and Ogun accordingly. These barges would include fuel barges as well. The Port at Ikorodu was built to allow this to happen until our Northern leaders decided and conspired to sabotage Lagos. Now Dangote controls it.

The Western world will never allow the amount of traffic issues that we see in Lagos continue for more than 2 years. They will realize that traffic jams in their cities amounts to failure in their planning. This oversight will be corrected in a manner of urgency, and immediately becomes priority. However, in Nigeria, we fail to understand the impact of lost man hours has on the economy due to traffic jams. Achievements that can be made in a day has to stretch to a week or more because of transportation problems. This has also affected the general paradigm of the people because they are now used to traffic causing goals to become unattainable. It is also a good excuse for inefficiency as people make up stories about traffic.

A good example of our backwardness is the proposed 10 lane highway to Badagry, from Iganmu. The process of constructing this will destroy both the Lagos/Isolo expressway, and the Ikorodu expressway as well. Mark my words. Do you know the logistics that it will take to move all the granite and other material that it will take to build this? Do you know how many truckloads it will require to get this job done? Do you know the amount of added traffic congestion that it will create? In any civilized nation it will be tantamount to madness to try to do this by road. Supplies are basically from Abeokuta, Ibadan, and Ijebu Ife. If things are properly planned, Ijebu Ife will terminate at a dock at Epe, Ibadan will terminate at a dock at Majidun or Ikorodu, and local traffic will be unaffected, except for the short runs from dumps along the Badagry water front. This is how logistics are planned in civilized Nations, and developments is never tantamount to making life hell for inhabitants. Lifetime Costs Cycle Analysis includes lost time caused by traffic to inhabitants.

I am lamenting here because of the frustration that I feel about knowing efficient and proper ways of doing things, but continuing to see the backwardness that we embrace in Nigeria while claiming to be pursuing progress. I wish and have tried to get to Governor Fashola just to advise him about potential pitfalls and more efficient systems and ways for planning. I have consistently studied Satellite imagery of Lagos extensively and now tend to believe that some of these expatriates are actually out to sabotage us and stifle our development. I sometimes wish to get a chance to Master plan an unspoilt area such as Calabar, or even Uyo because I believe that proper planning will jump start the economies of these areas and lessons learned from Lagos, will be used to avoid pitfalls.

I have learned to love Nigeria again in the past 4 years, and it kills me each day watching clueless people destroy it further by failing to plan for it's future. This is why my previous response may have been harsh, because at the moment Nigeria and Nigerians should forget about reinventing the wheel, but focus on exposures worldwide, and mimic what works best to get us started on the right track. We should be studying the true costs of Infrastructure plans over a time factor, instead of cheap immediate gratification that are more expensive on the long run.

I hope you don't feel offended by my previous remarks. It was only a venting of the frustration I am going through from feeling impotent about not being able to do anything in regards to mistakes being made in Nigeria. It even hurts me more when I see a Great Governor finally in my home state trying to do positive things, but not being able to be reached with advise that can enhance his goals. Most Nigerians with their so-called expatriate advisers are usually coming up with ideas that will fatten their pockets rather than the overall good of the community. I therefore apologize it you feel slighted by my previous remark."

by "Larez" on Nairaland.com

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Solar Power

If someone told you that there was a way that electricity could be produced for all, using a 'fuel' that Nigeria would never run out of, is currently abundant in and is currently not using, what would be your reaction?

Well, solar energy-fueled solar panels (or photovoltaic cells) are just that, maximising the use of a resource in which Nigeria is abundant in because of its geographical location. This can only seem like a fantastic idea (and it is), addressing the issue of electricity production in Nigeria.

A non-profit organsination called S.E.L.F.; the Solar Electricity Light Fund has been working towards bringing solar power and internet access to those who are in areas of poverty across the world, for example; the thousands of villagers in the rural parts of Nigeria. SELF is a charity which was founded by Neville Williams in 1990, which initially started by using the funds acquired to build several Solar Home Systems (SHS) one village at a time, as the years progressed SELF has become more like a information and resource point, informing villagers on how to provide solar energy for their villages and acquire the materials and knowledge.

SELF projects are based on three principles refering to their SID (Solar Integrated Development) model:

SELF-Help: Which allows the villagers to take control of their project, so that they are fully in charge and involved.
SELF-Reliance: Solar systems are purchased by the villagers in the community themselves.
SELF-Determination: Villagers and users of the system are trained so they have the knowledge required to maintain the systems themselves.

In Nigeria, the SELF project has already begun, even since 2006 some solar installations were laid in place so that villagers could finally have an electrical supply. Those same villagers were able to watch television in their village for the first time.

The reasons as to why solar systems unlike other electricity-producing systems are very suitable for rural environments such as villages are:

1. The intial input cost of installing a system can easily be recovered from the savings made through self-generated electricity.
2. It is also friendly towards the environment, designers and leaders are moving towards the ideas associated with sustainability and renewability. Villages have the chance to make better decisions unlike much more developed settings where there is already a heavy reliance on non-renewable electricity-generating sources.
3. The systems are independent of any national gas or electrical grids, which means that it is not only less costly to instal compared to extending the national grid, but it allows the villagers to have continous electricity event during a power outage of the main grid.
4. The solar energy systems are very low-maintainance, they may require cleaning every once in a while.
5. They operate silently as opposed to noisy fuel operated generators that many Nigerians currently rely on.

Disadvantages include the fact that the solar energy systems have high initial purchase costs, the amount of electricity generated also depends on the amount of sunlight the panel receives and another issue is that the panels must cover a significant area in order to produce a practical level of efficiency.

From balancing out the pros and cons it is obvious that the use of solar panels would be very beneficial to a country like Nigeria, where there is no problem with obtaining sunlight. The panels if endorsed by the government could really help to alleviate the current situation with energy; specifically electricity production.

In future maybe every household will have solar panelled roofs so they can produce their own electricity supply, giving Nigerians not only control but a reliable and sustainable form of producing energy for their families.

Image from wikipedia

By Tumi Jegede

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