.           The man who no one gave a chance transforms Lagos into Africa’s biggest power state

 “A very creative, passionate and committed manager of men and materials. For him, nothing is impossible as long as there are ideas and wherewithal”  – Tunji Bello

It is 2025. The fourth Mainland bridge snakes across the  lagoon as it meanders through the Epe marshland and rests at the estuary of Ikorodu a bustling town of splashy new houses, lush parks and a fish market that has gained global renowned for its vibrancy, unrestrained haggling and boisterous competition. The Ikorodu International Fish market serves up a rainbow of sea food ranging from Tilapia to Salmon, to catfish and even the odd ray fish. The smell of smoked Salmon and Tilapia assails visitor’s nostrils as bargain hunters shove past rivals in an orchestrated melee of buying and selling.

The Fourth mainland bridge is Lagos’ hope for the future as a mega city and integrated city. This very ambitious bridge will bring together the Lagos of the future Lagos represented in Epe and that of the present. Epe is the Lagos of the future with the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical complex, the Deep sea port, the cargo airport and mass expanse of virgin land.

But moving from Epe at one end of the state to Ikorodu or Badagry at the other end is like a camel passing through the eye of needle – a distance of 61.2 km could take half of the day because of the usual heavy traffic that characterizes typical Lagos roads’ a needless waste of man hours and productivity. But the 26 km Bridge when fully completed will reduce the journey to less than hour, bringing the rural and urban together.

Lagos state’s aquatic heritage gains currency in its massive sea food market that hops from the bedlam of the bustling east coast town of Ikorodu to the equally frenzied fish buying port in the thick coconut grove of the ancient slave trade town of Badagry on the state’s west coast. Lagos is a complex carousel of multi-level road weaving through glistening communities of skillful traders and merchants; Lagos is the centre of balance between urban chaos and provincial sanity.

Back to 2017, the Lagos of Akinwunmi Ambode, the Lagos of eternal construction and cultural melting pot.  When he took over from his immediate predecessor in 2015, not many were convinced that this career civil servant, killer dresser and all round Lagos party boy, had the courage, vision and passion to take Lagos a step ahead of the performance of Mr. Babtunde Fashola who was, at the time, adored by many as the ‘miracle worker and wonder boy’.

Ambode was seen as too much of an establishment figure that lacked private sector creativity and engaged political independence. Indeed in his first six months even the London-based economic and political publication, the Economist, wrote a surly and damning report describing Ambode’s early attempt at governance as limp and colourless. It was a jab that jerked the administration to attention, forcing the true Ambode to forcefully step out of the shadows.

The governor of Lagos state has since charted a more rigorous and clearly defined course of urban development which seems to have provided a backstop for the work of his predecessor. But unlike Fashola, Ambode’s growth model reflects a significantly more robust and quality-driven angle. Roads constructed by Ambode including his bus terminals and lay bys are by a mile and a yard superior to that of the previous governor.

Ambode’s commitment to quality also plays out in his insistence on top notch human resources; he arguably has one of the finest crops of skilled professionals as Commissioners and aides in the country today. This has been acknowledged by several Lagosians who are generally pleased with Ambode’s metamorphosis.

‘When he started off, he was painfully slow and tentative and many of us had hastily written him off as Tinubu’s error. We felt that the Jagaban’s magic touch, at least for once, had failed him. But today everybody is eating humble pie. Ambode has pleasantly surprised us all by doing a spanking job of taking Lagos to another level ’, say Mr. Tunde Idris, a Lagosian.

For Madam Kofo Akerele Bucknor, a former deputy governor, Lagos is witnessing a positive transformation.

“The new Governor seems to be doing a lot to revive the infrastructure in the state. He has been doing a lot and the people have started seeing what he is doing in his two years in office.

“Lagos has always been the economic centre of Nigeria and because of that there has been rapid economic growth and the growth is mostly in trading. In the 70s and even in the 80s the state experienced rapid economic growth because there were factories and industries all over the state.  This actually provided employment for our youths. Now there has been a decline and this started some years back, when the taxes were so high that a lot of industries started moving away from Lagos to Ogun State, and even Ghana and Ivory Coast.

“While there has been growth in trading and commerce, the real economy has not grown. In fact it has declined because most of the factories have closed down. I do not believe that this is the kind of economic growth we need; the kind of economic growth needed is industrialization as it was in the past so that our people can get employment. This will also provide growth and services for our people a well”, she said.

Barrister Ladipo Johnson, a Lagosian, seems to agree with her. In his reaction to the development of Lagos he said that to a large extent the infrastructure of the state has developed but not the level that one would expect. According to him there are two ways to look into the issue, because the state has come a long way infrastructurally. A lot of places have been opened up particularly especially with the roads and the road network.  Places like Alimosho is opened up regarding the road net work. Looking at Lagos and you compare it to other states in the country you will say Lagos has done so well.

But looking at Lagos standing alone, with what has been available to it in terms of its resources, from internally generated revenue and what have you, you will say that we are still moving at a slow pace. And that we are not moving ahead with the requirements of the people and the state in general of an ever growing population. The state at this stage seems to be responding to meeting up the challenge after we have realized that there is a deficit in a particular area. We hope that things would improve and that the state would be much more aggressive and strive regarding infrastructure.

Lagos: The Ntrillion economy

Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest confederation of commercial businesses will in August 2017 play host to Africa’s largest cultural festival since Festac 1977 involving an estimated fifteen million visitors to mark the states 50th anniversary. More importantly, the state will be giving validation to the fact that it is the strongest sub-national economy on the African continent. The state’s gross domestic product (GDP) of USD 131 billion dwarfs the economies of all other West African nations combined, with the exception of Nigeria itself, it also places Lagos as the seventh largest economy in Africa (as at 2015).

In 2016 Lagos states internally generated revenue rose to N302.5 billion. With a population of about 20million people (and an average growth rate of 3.25 per cent per annum) the state is 1.8 times the population of Benin Republic (11.2 million), 2.4 times the population of Togo (8.5 million) and 9.5 times the population of the Gambia (2.1 million), the state is equally between 74 and 76 per cent of the population of Ghana (27 million).

It is also 13 times the IGR of the largest oil producing state (Akwa Ibom) in the country.  Lagos and Ogun states are the only two states in Nigeria that generate more internal revenues than their federal allocation from the federation account. In 2016 Lagos generated 169 per cent of its Federation account allocation while Ogun state generated 127 per cent. Lagos state alone was responsible for 37.5 per cent of the total internal revenue of all the 36 states in the country.

The massive economic power of Lagos has only recently been reflected in the pace and breadth of development. A major problem with the state between 1999 and 2015 has been the fairly modest correlation between revenue growth and infrastructural development. Under the government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, great strides were made in raising the states internal revenue bar by pushing the frontiers of tax, thereby setting the tone for subsequent revenue growth in the next two administrations of Fashola snd Ambode. The problem with the Tinubu administration, however, was a large dose of hubris mixed with a strong sprinkling of power grab.

“Honestly why I said that Lagos state has been witnessing decay in infrastructures is because there has not been proper maintenance of roads; Lagosians don’t have water, no proper housing scheme for the masses, and there are chaotic traffic situations. I think the present governor Akinwumi Ambode is trying to solve that problem”, Bucknor said.

Ebullient, impassioned and politically wily Bola Tinubu needed to consolidate control over a complex web of political support and required a humongous amount of money to do it. This perhaps held up his capacity to grow Lagos at a pace that would have accelerated the states mega city aspirations over his two terms in office. Political expediency took preeminence over economic exigencies, creating an environment of selective growth and development. Places like Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikoyi saw an explosion in infrastructural growth, while lesser parts of the state were stuck in a slow motion rut.

This explains why development across the state was restricted to very narrow corridors that typically reflected wealth, power and friendship. The Tinubu era started the spectacular Lagos revenue escalator but the application of the growing revenue was less than impressive as it created a new class of plutocrats that leached off the tax contributions of the state’s hard working citizenry. Nevertheless moving Lagos states monthly IGR from N600 million per month to over N10 billion was a major feat of the era.

The subsequent Babtunde Raji Fashola (BRF) administration picked up the revenue machine and cranked it harder pushing revenue to just under N30 billion monthly. The BRF era saw a rethinking of the   Lagos growth paradigm by encouraging a wider spread of development and a broader commitment of the state’s growing budget to capital rather than recurrent expenditure. The administration also quickly recognized the importance of transportation in the commercial life of the state and began heavy investment in its urban mass transit infrastructure.

The bus rapid transit (BRT) programme of the era was wrongly attributed to the administration as initiator, the truth is that the BRT plan was formulated under the Tinubu government but could not be launched by the erstwhile governor as his tenor ended a few weeks before the bus rolling stock landed in the country. But Fashola keyed into the transport vision of Tinubu and leveraged it to set the mood and measure of his government. He was also helped by the fact that Tinubu supported his protégé, who was his former chief of staff, by taking up the diversionary irritation of politics to allow Fashola concentrate on the state’s economy.

The ploy worked like a charm; Fashola was able to concentrate on wider-based urban renewal and growth issues while Tinubu held sway at the level of juggling progressively more fractious intra party political battles. Free to spend ample time on economic issues, Fashola huddled together a team of relatively young technocrats prepared to contribute to a massive effort at remodeling Lagos and giving it a commercial and economic agenda bigger than its past. The Fashola administration turned order and planning into an art form that provided a platform for Lagos to flourish.

Nevertheless the Fashola administration was not without warts of its own. After winning a second term bid despite a poorly- hidden falling out with his political mentor, Fashola became less committed to the Lagos project and allegedly more interested in feathering his nest for his life after leaving office. The can-do BRF economic engine had begun to groan to a slow stall. To the administration’s credit, however, like the Tinubu’s administration tax revenues in particular and IGR in general had risen significantly. IGR rose from N203 billion in 2011 to N268 billion in 2015.

However, Barrister Johnson is nonplussed.

“Right now there are many things that are lacking which the present government should focus on. Whatever the case may be I think those who have governed the state have done their best to move the state forward. We need to do more to be able to attract investments and businesses. Lagos should take the lead in this. We have the ports, and we have areas that we can develop,. We have the Badagry axis to develop; we have the Ikorodu and Epe to go for rapid development.

“With the work going on the Lekki axis with the siting of the free trade zone there I think Lagos would eventually make it. The Dangote refinery too would in a big way boost the economy of the state. The state should by now encourage small business enterprises and not just big businesses, he said.”

But besides infrastructure, Ambode has also invested heavily on security and empowerment of businesses and individuals to keep the state safe, encourage social life and promote economic activities and employment.





Source: National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 2017f Business Hallmark forecast










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