Appraising FG/Lagos New Partnership For Dev —Tayo Ogunbiyi



In what appears to be a clear departure from what obtained in the past when the Federal Government under the leadership of former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, waged countless wars on Lagos, it is pleasing that the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Government is opening a new chapter in FG- Lagos relations. FG-Lagos relations got to an all time low during the period 1999-2007 when the FG spared no effort to disrupt and impede the advancement of Lagos. Thugs of the Federal Road Management Agency, FERMA, were given a free rein to cause commotion on Lagos roads by attacking and brutalizing officials of LASTMA and LASAMBUS for operating on federal roads. Perhaps, the climax of the Obasanjo-led FG’s war on Lagos was the now infamous seizure of Lagos council funds.

It is, however, gratifying that the current FG under President Jonathan is making renewed effort to develop a new strategy that will not only foster a productive and lasting relationship with Lagos but bring development to Nigeria as a whole.

While leading a FG delegation to Lagos recently, coordinating Minister for Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, revealed that the FG would continue to partner Lagos in decongesting the seaport access roads. It will be recalled that Lagos in conjunction with the Presidential Committee on Port Reforms recently sacked the trucks, which had over the years brought untold hardship for road users along the axis. Okonjo-Iweala, and her team, during a courtesy visit to Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), promised that the Federal Government would continue to work with Lagos in ensuring that Apapa access roads are devoid of trucks.

It will, equally, be recalled that while speaking at the opening of the recently concluded 6th Lagos Economic Summit tagged, “Ehingbeti 2012“, President Goodluck Jonathan disclosed that the FG is preparing to build two emergency power plants in Lagos to ensure adequate power supply in the state. The president, represented by Olusegun Aganga, Minister of Trade and Investment, at the Summit with the theme, “From BRICS to BRINCS: Lagos Holds the Key”, also stated that given the centrality of Lagos to the economic prosperity of Nigeria, his administration is paying particular attention to the state.

The president equally informed the gathering that partnership with Lagos was inevitable because the state accounts for 20.2 percent of Nigeria’s nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 50.7 percent of non oil GDP, and the highest level consumption in the country. He said: “We believe that the co-operation of Lagos and the Federal Government is key. We will be extremely supportive of Lagos and any state government”.

Undoubtedly, a renewed FG commitment to Lagos represents a major way forward for the socio-economic renewal of the country. For one, 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 (2006 statistics) and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector GDP (2011 statistics). It accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, over 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. All banks in the country are not only located in Lagos, but actually have their headquarters in the state, while over 40 per cent of telephone subscribers’ base networks are also based in the city. Aside this, Lagos consumes about 45 percent of the petroleum products in the country.

Also, the two seaports in Lagos account for 70 percent of the sea trade in the country while the two electricity distribution companies Eko and Ikeja Districts account for 50 percent of PHCN’s transmission power. Similarly, about 80percent of international air travels arrive in and depart from Lagos.

Equally, Lagos is a private sector-driven economy. Growth in Lagos would have spiral effect on Nigeria as a whole. Lagos has the lowest level of unemployment in Nigeria at 7percent compared to some states that have as much as 40precent.

It is also important to state that Lagos, in the last 13 years, has become a model for governance in the country. Novel attainments such as the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRT), the Akute Independent Power Plant (IPP), Lagos Island IPP, the on-going Lagos Light Rail System and the pattern of road designs with pedestrian walk ways, the transformation of the Lagos Island Central Business District, CBD, Badagry and Lekki corridors, Yaba, Surulere, Alimosho to mention a few represent the success story of Lagos over the years.

Equally worthy of note is that, there is hardly any part of the country that is not represented in Lagos. Progress in Lagos reflects in parts of the country, because people who live in Lagos make their money here and go to their states to invest same.

All these point to Lagos as the economic nerve centre of the country. So, if Nigeria is to be rated as one of the major players in the emerging markets, Lagos, without doubt, holds the key.

Consequently, the Federal Government has to be committed to collaboration with Lagos, because a prosperous Lagos would certainly enhance the prosperity of Nigeria. Therefore, there is no need for unhealthy rivalry between Lagos and the Federal Government.

In spite of all that Lagos brings to the country’s economy, there is still a lot to be brought out in terms of the economic potential of the state. However, it would take ideas, relationships and investment to unlock these potentials.

For instance, regular and stable electricity power supply will enable the state unleash the possibilities of the economy beyond imagination. Small businesses within the state will, no doubt, thrive better if the state government creatively puts in place a scheme that could guarantee unhindered power supply. Equally, multi-national firms that have closed shop in Lagos because of the epileptic nature of power could be lured back if the power situation improves. This would not only lead to creating new jobs, but will certainly restore lost ones.

Also, there is more to do in the area of security, especially with the current trend of insecurity in the polity. A much safer Lagos where every inch of it is lit up at night from regular power supply and effective policing will usher in more prosperity.

There is also need to encourage rapid industrialization in the state. Imagine the inherent opportunities that the ability to industrially produce milk, bread and eggs in Lagos daily; produce and package vegetables and transport them within and beyond Lagos and its environs instead of importing them.

It is also imperative that the FG dispassionately considers the contentious issue of a special status for Lagos. The need to accord a special status for Lagos should be regarded as a non-political project. From the foregoing, it is clear that an investment in Lagos is a necessary blueprint for the development of the country.

In order to ensure that new windows are opened for development and growth in the economy, it is only rational that the Federal Government constructively engages Lagos for a partnership that would enhance the prosperity of not only the state but the country at large. Given the centrality of Lagos to the overall social-economic aspiration of Nigeria, this remains the way forward.

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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