“Most Nigerians now see Lagos as the mythical city with streets paved with gold and therefore people continually arrive in the state in droves in search of the proverbial golden fleece, thereby putting an enormous strain on social amenities and infrastructure. In addition to its peculiar infrastructural needs, this underscores the calls for it to be accorded a special status.”
On May 27, 2017, events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of Lagos State came to a close with a grand finale featuring a gala night which consisted of “a rich blend of good music and the best of Lagos cuisine, photo exhibition and the unveiling of a special coffee table book that captures the essence of Lagos through the lens of 50 accomplished photographers.” The cerebration itself, which lasted 50 days was designed to highlight the special role of lagos and how in the decades since its creation, it has continued to serve as the economic capital of Nigeria. That there was a cause for celebration was not in doubt. In the chaos that has characterised Nigeria’s economic situation of late, Lagos has remained a bastion of hope and reminder of all that could as yet be achieved with good governance driven by the formulation and implementation of people oriented policies.
Lagos State was created on May 27, 1967 by virtue of the State (Creation and Transitional Provisions) Decree No. 14 of 1967, which restructured Nigeria into a federation of 12 states. Before the promulgation of this Decree, Lagos city, which was the country’s capital, had been administered directly by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Lagos Affairs. However, Ikeja, Agege, Mushin, Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry were administered by the then Western Region Government. Lagos, the city, along with these other towns were fused to create the state of Lagos, with the state becoming fully recognized as a semi-autonomous administrative division on 11 April 1968.Lagos City served the dual role of being the State and Federal Capital until 1976, when the capital of the State was moved to Ikeja. After the full establishment of the Federal Capital Territory, the seat of the Federal Government was also formally relocated to Abuja on 12 December 1991. Nevertheless, Lagos till this day remains the financial centre of the country, and has also grown to become the most populous state in the country with an estimated population of about 16 Million inhabitants.
Lagos State remains at the centre of Nigeria’s economic activities. It is the hub of all banking and maritime transactions. It is also home to the country’s major sea and air ports. In 2015, Lagos State reported an Internally generated revenue (IGR) of about $1.3 Billion, which was stated to be three times higher than the state ranked second on the IGR scale. This figure also represented 39% of the total IGR of all the States in the Federation. According to an online publication, “Quartz Africa Weekly Brief”, if it were a country, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 90 Billion Dollars recorded by Lagos State in 2014 would rank it as the 7th largest economy in Africa, higher than countries such as Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya, countries recognised in their rights as two of Africa’s promising economies. Yet in terms of size, Lagos State remains the smallest of Nigeria’s 36 States.
As stated earlier, the achievements recorded by Lagos has been made possible by astute governance. The State has been fortunate to to have had leaders who did not see the relocation of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja in 1991 as a loss but an opportunity to tap into and develop the resources available to the State for its overall economic development while also exploring its history and strategic location to the fullest. Since the inception of civilian democratic rule in 1999 in particular, Lagos has undergone uncommon transformation so much so that most states now look to the Lagos model as a blue print out of their own dependency on Federal allocations for survival. The current Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode continually receives commendation for his proven ability to continue the developmental strides of his predecessors in office.
However, this success story appears to carry with it some challenges. Owing to its growth rate and given the poor conditions of other states, Lagos continues to be the most affected by the ills posed by rural-urban migration in Nigeria. Most Nigerians now see Lagos as the mythical city with streets paved of gold and therefore people continually arrive in the State in droves in search of the proverbial golden fleece, thereby putting an enormous strain on social amenities and infrastructure. This development is at the heart of the state’s disputation of the figure of 8 million inhabitants attributed to it during the last census. In addition to its peculiar infrastructural needs, the foregoing underscores the calls for it to be accorded a special status. Proponents of this idea argue that Lagos deserves some added incentives from the Federal Government to enable it cope with pressure brought about by huge population influx amongst other factors.
The first attempt to get such a recognition was rejected by the 7th Senate at committee level on June 5 2013. Another attempt by Senator Oluremi Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) through a bill, titled “A bill for an act to make provisions for Federal Grants to Lagos State in recognition of its strategic socio-economic significance and other connected purposes”also failed last year. Some of those opposed to the Bill argued that the State could not ask for more having already benefitted from huge infrastructural development going back decades when it served as the capital of the Country. In December 2016 another Bill sponsored by Rep. Babajimi Benson (APC-Lagos) and three others passed the second reading at the Federal House of Representatives. However in an obvious effort to avoid controversies which trailed the previous attempts, the current Bill appears to be targeted not only at Lagos but also other states which might deserve special status given certain parametres. According to the sponsor of the Bill:
“This is essential to mitigate the pressures of urbanisation, overcrowding and decaying infrastructure thus, reviving the economic potential of such states to contribute significantly to economic prosperity of Nigeria…The premise of the bill is the designation of any state within the threshold of 10 million inhabitants as a megacity by the United Nations. This bill will position Nigeria as a proactive country ready to address the urban challenges of overpopulation, poverty, infrastructure decay and environmental degradation.”
Whether this Bill will succeed where the others failed is yet to be seen. But irrespective of the outcome, it cannot be disputed that Lagos State does already enjoys a special status as a result of its history and the unwavering determination of its government to make it a model state. From justice delivery reforms and innovations, healthcare delivery, security and to infrastructural development, Lagos State is showing the direction the entire country should be headed. If this does not entitle it to some form of added support, in the form of a special status or howsoever described, I wonder what ever will.
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON