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All eyes on Lagos to spur Nigeria’s economic growth

On May 29 2007, when Governor Babatunde Fasola of Lagos State promised in his inaugural speech to sustain his predecessor, Bola Tinubu’s legacy, not many observers paid serious attention to such a political statement. And you cannot blame them. They have been let down too often by the politicians who repeatedly fail to fulfil their campaign promises. But Mr. Fasola is changing this belief. Not only has he not spent tax payers’ money in needless probing of his predecessor’s activities and eventually reversing them, he has sustained and added more significantly to Mr. Tinubu’s achievements. From improvement in tax administration to provision of physical infrastructure and human capital development through education, health and sports, Lagos State is besting other states in the country.

Across all sectors, there have been considerable improvements

Education has received major boost since the commencement of reform in 2007. According to the Governor, the average number of Lagos students obtaining five credits including Mathematics and English has increased from 7% in 2007 to 38.28% in 2012 and has catapulted the State to the top 10 of the 36 States at the forefront of public education revival, and the only South-Western state in the top 10 this year.  While this is still a poor performance considering the marked distance from 100%, it is an improvement from 2007 and must be encouraged. 

The approach to health in Lagos is also commendable. Rather than the usual construction of grandiose hospitals in urban centres where most residents are usually enlightened in preventive health medicines, the State is focused on taking basic healthcare for diagnosis and cure to the sub-urban communities; screening and treating the rural dwellers in their thousands for diabetes, hypertension and cancer. The State has successfully trained and graduated the first batch of 300 graduate volunteers to serve its preventive health initiative at the grassroots level.

To solve the power infrastructure challenges in Lagos, the state government has stepped into creating captive independent power projects (IPP) in partnership with private investors. Three key successful projects in this regard include IPPs at Ikorodu, Akute and Lagos Island. The Island Power Project is an 18km dedicated underground distribution network; being powered by Gas engines and currently provides power supply to the General Hospital (Lagos Island); High Court (Catholic Mission Street); High Court Annex (TBS); Magistrates Court (Igbosere Street); Island Maternity Hospital (Lagos Island); State House (Marina) and street lighting of up to 20 Streets within Lagos Island.

Focus on Agriculture is the key to a sustainable growth strategy of Lagos State. A re-echo of the need to provide support for agriculture to thrive as Nigeria’s mainstay while reducing overdependence on oil was among the centre points of agricultural strategy for the State. With a population of over 18 million inhabitants to feed, food production is central to the State’s growth strategy. To meet this demand and cut short importation of food from other states, the Lagos State government has put machinery in motion to ensure that it provides for the people through the establishment of the Farm Service Centre (FSC). Mr. Fasola reported that the State is improving on rice cultivation, milling and bagging; poultry production and processing; fish and seafood production, education and provision of extension services to farmers. He also noted that his government’s quest to create farms outside the state is yielding results as Lagos acquires 500 hectares of land in Ogun State to grow rice to feed the rice mill in Imota, a Lagos suburb.

In terms of housing, the State is addressing the housing deficit to a large extent. Several housing projects embarked upon has been completed with several nearing completion. In addition to completed houses in Gbagada, Agege, Ajah, Ikeja and Surulere, the State government is currently constructing housing units in 10 sites in Igando, Omole Phase I & Phase II, Sangotedo, Mushin, Ilupeju, Agbowa, Ogba Phase I & Phase II, Surulere and Igbogbo. However, the common problem with these housing units is their cost. The houses, supposedly built for civil servants cost far above the purchasing power of the intended people and mostly out of their reach. The houses eventually end up in the hands of the few corrupt officials who can afford them or in the hands of other middle class residents who works for the private sector.

And the transportation challenge of Lagos State is being efficiently managed. Lagos has made substantial progress in solving the challenges of transportation and currently serves as a model for many states of the federation in this regard. The State Government has done considerably well in the construction and reconstruction of major highways and provision of mass transportation schemes that has eased the problem of commuting within the State. The mass movement of people from one side of the state (commercial) to the other side (residential) on a daily basis through mainly only one mode of transport- Road has done little to ease the problem of traffic gridlocks which overshadows government efforts.  Hence, current efforts at promoting other mode of transportation through an intermodal transport scheme with the Lagos Badagry Road expansion as a model is a promising development.

The State Government can do better than this

Despite the seemingly good performance of the Lagos State government, the oppositions accuse the governor and his predecessor of non-performance and corruption. Several reports have been circulated of how Mr. Tinubu, aided by Mr. Fasola has been amassing wealth for himself using tax payers’ money. The list of atrocities includes several real estate properties acquired by the State government and later transferred to Tinubu through the state pension scheme that he created. In addition, the oppositions accuse Tinubu of collecting $1 billion from President Jonathan to support his election bid in 2011. Unfortunately, these accusations are never substantiated with any evidence and more appropriately, never investigated.  But the oppositions are right about the performance of the state government. Lagos State can do better. The education statistics is grossly below target. A large proportion of the population don’t have access to pipe borne water. Many roads in Lagos (more than half) are in deplorable conditions and the housing deficit is still huge.  To quote Governor Fasola, “While we are not yet where we want to be, but I am positive that a lot of gains lie ahead”. Well, that is the spirit! The state may not be performing really well but it is still the state to beat in term of development.

Lagos truly holds the ace

The importance of Lagos to Nigeria makes it inevitable for the Federal Government to engage Lagos in its development plans of achieving Vision 20:2020. Lagos is home to about 2,000 industrial complexes, 10,000 commercial ventures and 22 industrial estates. It contributes 30% to the nation’s GDP and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector GDP. Lagos accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. According to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi L Sanusi, if Lagos that contributes 30% to national GDP can grow at 20%, that will make a growth of 6%; hence if the contributors of the remaining 70% of GDP can grow at an aggregate of 10%, the country would easily grow at 13% per annum, which is more than needed to achieve its objective of joining the BRICS to form the BRINCS.