There is no doubt that there is too much politics and a great deal of arm-twisting in Abuja about project sites in Nigeria. That is why it is expedient to appeal to the Buhari government to shun political talks about the need to pay attention to Lagos where one of the pillars of the governing Party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Power, Works and Housing Minister, Mr Babatunde Fashola hail from. In Abuja, gunmen are bound to emerge like a bolt from the blues and ask political questions about why there should be special attention to Lagos at this time. The bad men who always resort to some dubious sophistry will question why should there be attention to Lagos at this juncture when we need all the available funds to rebuild the broken empire walls in the North East. The political conmen in Abuja will even add another dimension of why should there be attention to Lagos at this critical time when money is needed for finding oil exploration opportunities in the Chad Basin in the North East.
These authors of confusion are always in the State House, Abuja. They emerged to General IBB and asked him to stop the then national Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) from further announcement of the 1993 June 12 presidential election results. The evil men around the Presidential Villa, Abuja quietly planned the debacle called Third Term agenda with President Olusegun Obasanjo and asked opposition gunmen to move in for demolition of the same political project 2007. They are always there.
The workers of iniquity in the Abuja palace concocted the political quagmire that triggered the infamous “Doctrine of Necessity” before a constitutional requirement on succession could be effected. They are there as members of the Inner Circle. They were the ones who told President Goodluck Jonathan to secure Project 2015 with dollars, dollars everywhere. They told him to sack the NSA from his zone and put a candidate from the Caliphate there. The dealers in Abuja told President Jonathan 2015 would be a done deal with massive votes from Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa and Bauchi states. They are always in the palace without any portfolios. They are there now to tell President Buhari how the Lagos People, the South-West politicians led by Tinubu will not support him in 2019. They are there to demonize all the good leaders from Lagos and indeed South West. Just for not-so- enlightened selfish interest. But this is no time for geo-political arm-twisting. It is time for economics. There should be no political calculations about the need to get involved in developing Lagos. There should just be economic frame of mind for the following reasons:
The Sea Ports in Apapa;
The decrepit state of federal roads and bridges in Lagos;
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport;
Electricity distribution in Lagos.
These are the issues that should form the basis for development plans at the suggested Economic Summit on Lagos. I am persuaded that the Apapa- Oshodi Road reconstruction is too important to be left to Africa’s richest man alone. Alhaji Aliko Dangote has reportedly promised to develop the Apapa Ports area as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The authorities in Abuja should take the steam out of Dangote’s desire. It is not because it will significantly alter the balance of his account books. Rather, it is just that it will not be what the Ports environment should be made to be. Under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2008, for instance, there was a mega dream to construct ten-lane roads from the Abuja city centre to the Airport and Giri junction and another from the city centre to Madalla, the capital city’s boundary with Niger state. The Yar’Adua road projects when Senator Adamu Aliero was FCT Minister, have changed the profile of Abuja, although it is uncompleted. Why can’t the federal government construct a 10-lane road from Apapa to Ojota and from Ojota to Ibadan? That will be remarkable but too much for Dangote alone to do.
The economic reasons:
After all, in 2015, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) made N196.26 billion. And in 2016, it has projected N201. 3 billion. The bulk of this revenue comes from Lagos alone.
What is more, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) collected a total of N903 billion in 2015 out of a target of N954 billion. The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hamid Ali (Rtd) who confirmed this figure had earlier declared to the press that 75 per cent of this revenue is generated in Lagos.
In the downstream Petroleum sector National PMS supply in January this year, for instance was 806 million litres. Out of Lagos PMS Supply was the highest with 233 million litres. It will be recalled that this was not enough. Abuja the powerful nation’s capital got 100 million. This is from National Bureau of Statistics (NBC).
The FIRS reportedly collected N1.23 trillion from VAT nationwide in 2015. You know it is the same pattern: Lagos unarguably contributed about 50 per cent of the revenue. There are other issues that make Lagos the authentic Economic Capital of West Africa. But this is the point that it has been unconscionable that successive governments have been paying lip service to Lagos. The Apapa port roads that provide the biggest revenue from Customs Service and NPA are the most deadly in the state. Yet the arteries are more important than the President Yar’Adua’s ten-lane roads being constructed in Abuja for N257 billion raised from bonds.
The so-called International Airport roads are indescribable. The roads from Oshodi through Mafoluku-Ajao Estate axis are too terrible to behold. Fuel tanker farms have taken over the waterlogged bad roads. This is intolerable! The Lagos-Ibadan, Shagamu-Benin Roads are part of the Apapa-Oshodi economic routes. The electricity situation report in Lagos is also pathetic. The Economic Capital is a paradigm of what the legendary Fela Anikulapo once called “suffering and smiling”. Really, people and industries are dying in Lagos for lack of electricity. It is a city in darkness. It stands to reason that Lagos share from a mere 2,000- 4000 megawatts of electricity is a huge joke. The federal roads too have been left unmaintained for years and the portholes deserve attention of the owners at this time of change as a fundamental objective and directive principle of a governing party policy.
Therefore, I think that since all governments since the killing of General Murtala’s dream in 1976 have been guilty of neglecting Lagos, it is fitting that President Buhari whose government reportedly killed the Metroline Project in 1983 should brace up to pay attention to Lagos. He can begin with a tour of Lagos for a week. And that tour should take him to Apapa Ports during an Economic Summit on Lagos. As I noted earlier, residents of Lagos have nothing to do with politics. They are from all the states of the federation. They are as many Muslims as there are Christians and free thinkers. There are too many important residents who daily witness the mess that the Lagos has become. They are influential. They know when a government is relevant and otherwise. Lagos residents include the richest man in Africa who is a Fulani from Kano. His business head office is in Lagos, our Lagos. The conclusion of the whole matter is that the mega city is too important to be abandoned by a serious federal government. It is too much for the state to maintain. It is too undeveloped for the residents to bear. And here is the thing: It is no longer permissible to blame Abuja for political neglect. Now, both Lagos and Abuja are in the hands of the ruling Party, the APC. No more excuses and blame game. Yes, Lagos makes the money that Abuja spends. So, when is the Economic Summit on Lagos? I hope the answer is not blowing in the wind again! Welcome to Lagos, that The Economist recently summarised for us this way:
Now that the APC holds power in Abuja as well as Lagos, the city has a chance to do better still.
It could also teach politicians in the capital a thing or two. One lesson is that it helps to foster a broad tax base, instead of just relying on oil (which provides more than two-thirds of the central government’s revenues). Better tax collection would make the budget less vulnerable to wild swings in the oil price. It might also lead to more accountable governance: people who pay tax tend to demand better services in return. Another moral is that better infrastructure boosts economic growth, and if you don’t have the money to pay for it upfront, you can get private investors to do so instead: witness Lagos’s toll-roads and bridges.
For badly run countries in other parts of the world, the big lesson of Lagos is that reforms in one big city can sometimes kick-start wider change…
Let the big men in Abuja plan the Economic Summit on Lagos today. If well organized, Nigeria’s economy will not remain the same again. And General Murtala Muhammed will sleep well as his dream for Lagos 40 years ago would have come true.