Ambode’s quest to secure the future of Lagos

That Nigeria’s economy is not healthy is no longer news, however, the effects of the dwindling economic situation is fast manifesting across the country. While some states can no longer cope with the obligations of paying workers’ salaries regularly, some are hanging in the balance, forcing them to visit Abuja with cap in hand, hoping for some bail out from the government at the centre.

Observers have even argued that without the bailouts, many of the state would by now be insolvent. But despite the economic challenges, Lagos State seems to be daring the odds and breaking new grounds.

With an increasing population of over 22 million people, the state has continued to witness an influx of Nigerians from other states and citizens from neighbouring countries on a daily basis, stretching its inadequate infrastructure.

Economic experts readily attribute the state’s ability to remain buoyant in the midst of the economic uncertainties to the dexterity of the man at the helm of affairs, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

Since assuming office on May 29, 2015, Governor Ambode has proved his financial acumen in many ways than one, which has among other things, led to the growth of the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

Governor Ambode is not oblivious of the fact that Lagosians expect nothing less from him, but to build on the legacies of his predecessors, hence his economic policy is focused on exploring new ventures to shove up its IGR to N30 billion by 2017 and N50 billion by 2018.

At every given opportunity, Governor Ambode does not hesitate to tell anyone who cares to listen about the potential of Lagos emerging as Africa’s biggest economic hub in no distant future.

To achieve this, the Governor is already mapping out strategies to complete some landmark projects already under construction, while plans are also in top gear to embark on new ones. This was the focus when he recently embarked on an extensive tour of the Eko Atlantic City (EAC) Project.

The Eko Atlantic City Project is a multi-billion dollar project sitting on over 10 million square metres and is expected to accommodate over 150,000 people who would reside there and another 250,000 who would work and commute within the city on a daily basis.

So far, out of the over 10 million square meters of the project, about six million square meters have been reclaimed, while there are 15 bridges and two tunnels designed with the project.

For Ambode, the EAC Project, on completion would go a long way, to not only boost the economy of the State, but also increase its IGR. Accompanied on the tour by members of the State Executive Council, the governor pledged the total commitment of his administration towards the success of the project, saying that it would go a long way to facilitate the quest to grow potential of the state economy.

In his words, “I would like to express the total support of this government to this project because at the end of the day we need to grow the economy of Lagos and this obviously is going to have multiplier effect on our IGR. We promise that we are going to grow our IGR to N30bn by 2017 and N50 billion by 2018 and this project is a sure outlet in achieving that goal.”

Satisfied with the infrastructure already in place at the EAC, the Governor said it now behooves on investors to take advantage of the massive opportunities, while commending the promoters of the EAC Project for their confidence in committing huge resources to the Nigerian economy, which according to him, was a positive sign that Nigeria remains the investment hub in Africa.

The governor also took time to inspect the 8.5 kilometre long shoreline wall, otherwise known as the ‘Great Wall of Lagos’, built to protect the EAC, saying it was gratifying that the project will not only protect the new city, but also protect the whole of Victoria Island against any ocean surge, which was one of the primary reasons for the project.

He continued: “This is a new and a bigger version of Victoria Island. We are going to have an Energy City here, a financial hub that is more or less going to run under a Free Trade Zone and so on.

“Basically, all these put together turns Lagos to that leader that we want it to be in Africa and the quality of infrastructure that has been put here is also encouraging.

“I just want to encourage other investors and other people who had taken one step or the other in respect of the Eko Atlantic City that the time is now because in another one and half years, this place will be something else,” the governor said.

Chairman of Eko Atlantic City, Mr. Ronald Chagoury said one of the first two residential buildings in the new city will be completed by the end of August, while the second will be ready before the end of the year, adding that the first office block will be ready between September and October, 2016.

Chagoury described the project as an impressive financial district which upon completion, would compare with the financial district in Paris, France and the 5th Avenue in New York, United States.

He added that the Great Wall of Lagos was scientifically designed to withstand any ocean surge and that it was built to last for 1,000 years.

Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, whose bank is the major partner with the promoters of the EAC project and the Lagos State government, said aside the fact that adequate arrangement had been made to protect the city, the project was all about saving the State and creating a new tomorrow for people to live in Lagos.

He added that with the project, the land that was lost over time to the bar beach had been reclaimed, adding that investors and interested people need not entertain any fear as to the safety of the city.

In similar corollary, Governor Ambode has set his eyes on seeing the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) take flight.

Prior to Governor Ambode’s visit to the EAC, the governor had accompanied the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to the LFTZ to inspect the level of work on the projects being carried out by the Dangote Group.

The zone, which has the capacity to shoot the state to global economic reckoning, among other budding industries and multinational companies is host to Dangote Group, developers of an $11 billion world class refinery with a processing capacity of 650,000 barrels of oil per day.

Aside the refinery, the Dangote Group is also embarking on a Fertilizer Plant and a Gas plant, all in one location. Speaking to journalists after a tour of the projects which lasted about two hours, Ambode said projects being undertaken by Dangote at the Zone would significantly boost the economy of Lagos and have great multiplier effects on the nation’s economy.

He said the projects would also be critical to the economic growth of the Lagos East and West Senatorial Districts, which according to him, will be open to massive investment opportunities on completion.

Governor Ambode said the decision of the vice-president to lead the inspection visit to the projects was a signpost to the benefits inherent not just for the state but to the nation, while pledging to provide the necessary support to ensure that the projects are completed within schedule.

Governor Ambode is also excited that apart from the 135,000 direct jobs that will be created from the projects, another 100,000 indirect jobs would be generated while income accruable to the Federal Government would be in the region of over $500 million in three years.

Only last week, the President of Togo, Mr Faure Gnassingbe was the latest visitor to the zone. His interest as expected was the Dangote projects.

Governor Ambode seized the occasion to inform the August visitor that the Dangote project was another confirmation that Lagos is a prime investment destination, expressing optimism that the project, one of the biggest in the African region, will positively change the face of oil and gas business in the West African region.

The governor said aside the fact that the project confirmed the positive investment climate in Lagos which has resulted in massive investor confidence, he also strongly believes that the future prosperity of West Africa is in collaboration between government and investors, which was why his administration has been working hard to encourage investment in the state.

He maintained that Lagos is home to all nations, races and creeds, including substantial Togolese population, adding: “I’m positive that we are providing them with the opportunities to get ahead in their endeavors.”

Governor Ambode said as a prominent Head of State in the West African region, he was not oblivious of the interest of President Gnassingbe in the Dangote refinery, adding that the project was one of the emerging opportunities in Lagos State.

While inviting Togolese investors to take advantage of the positive investment climate in Lagos, Ambode said the state is open for businesses, and that his administration, in a bid to encourage investment, had massively invested in infrastructure and security of lives and property.

“Lagos is open for business. We are open to collaboration with the Togolese government and investors to move our two countries forward. Our government is investing massively in creating infrastructure which will support businesses and individuals. We have made huge investment in security and we will continue to ensure that the lives and property of all citizens are secured.”

“We will remain partner in progress with all our investors. Our desire is for investors to invest in Lagos, grow their businesses, create wealth and jobs for our people and ultimately grow our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) positively,” the governor said.

For Dangote, the decision to site the massive projects in Lagos was not a difficult one to make. Dangote said the decision to site the projects in Lagos was due to the investment friendly climate in the state.

“Lagos is one state that is very investor- friendly and the governor himself has always been asking what the issues are and he normally put in place steps to resolve those issues immediately,” Dangote said.

He said the gas pipeline project would guarantee uninterrupted power supply in Lagos on completion, which he said would also positively increase the state’s Gross Domestic Project (GDP).

Aside the Eko Atlantic City Project and the Lekki Free Trade Zone, the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Badagry Deep Sea Port, Oshodi Regeneration Project and the historic 4th Mainland Bridge are other landmark projects the Ambode administration looks poised to bring to fruition.

For sure, with the above multi-billion dollars projects coming into fruition within the next two to three years, it is not too difficult to discern that the projected N50 billion IGR would be achievable. And as the governor has severally said, despite the uncertain economic climate, the future of Lagos is secured.

  • Anibaba, an economist, lives in Gbagada