By Tayo Ogunbiyi
The population of Lagos is presently in excess of 18 million. A mega city status is conferred by the United Nations on cities with a population of 10 million and above. Building and preserving a model mega city comes with great challenges. Providing a sufficient amount of infrastructure and other life’s necessities that would accommodate the needs of over 18 million people is no child’s play.
A mega city requires a stronger financial base. The sheer size of funding required in sustaining a mega city is beyond what a government could provide on its own. This is where creativity comes in as other sources of revenue must be sought in order to finance government’s expenditure. These other sources include borrowing, both internally and externally, grants, bonds, Public Private Partnerships and others. In Lagos State, for instance, despite the progressive increase in the monthly Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the state from a meagre N500 million in 1999 to about N20 billion currently, the state government still has to invent options to fund its projects.
Presently, the state government is embarking on audacious infrastructure renewal projects that are capital intensive. The successful execution of on-going projects such as the light rail scheme from Orile to Mile 2, the redevelopment of the Lagos-Badagry expressway into ten lanes incorporating BRT lanes and light rails, on-going reconstruction of the Mile 12-Ikotrodu road incorporating BRT lanes, the recently commissioned Ejigbo- Ajao Estate link bridge, recovery and redevelopment of loops hitherto used by criminals as hide-outs among others could only become feasible with a sustained system of funding.
Planned urban improvement and slum renewal is a major challenge in an emerging model city like Lagos. Before democracy was restored in 1999, Lagos used to be referred as a jungle of various emerging slums. However, a systematic urban development and slum renewal programme, in partnership with several development agencies, has since been put in place to reverse the trend. Consequently, the Ikeja Model Plan, Victoria Island/Ikoyi Model City Plan, Lekki Comprehensive Land Use and Infrastructure Master Plan have been completed while Mainland Central Model City Plan, Badagry Draft Master Plan and Alimosho Master Plan are at various stages of execution. In order to give the urban renewal programme a legal backing, the Lagos State Model City Development Law was enacted in 2009 while the State Urban and Regional Planning Law were signed on 7 July, 2010.
A viable public transportation system is equally pivotal to sustaining a model mega city. Before now, the transportation sector in Lagos was in a chaotic state. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) initiative was envisioned to create a more organised public transport system for the state. The on-going reconstruction of the Lagos-Badagry road to a 10 lane express way with light rail public transport on the median and a BRT lane is part of on-going effort to transform the transport sector. When completed, the light train can move 40,000 passengers an hour on two lanes!
The condition of the environment also constitutes a major challenge to the Lagos model city. Lagos, for instance, generates 10,000 tonnes of waste daily, almost three times higher than what the whole of Ghana generates daily. Also, the kind of industrial pollution experienced in Lagos is second to none in the country. The peculiar Lagos traffic situation also poses serious threat to the Lagos environment. Many houses in areas such as Ajegunle in Ikorodu, Amukoko, Orile-Iganmu, Ijora Badia, Ajegunle in Ajeromi and Idi Araba in Mushin are lacking toilet facilities. In some houses, septic tanks are channelled directly into the drain! The government is, therefore, challenged to invest heavily in the protection of the environment in order to avert environmental abuse and its consequences.
Maintenance of law and order is another major challenge of the Lagos mega city. The Lagos State Security Trust Fund was established as a creative measure to effectively fund the security needs of the state on a sustainable basis. This was accompanied by the re-organisation and strengthening of the state’s anti-crime outfit, the Rapid Response Squad, through the infusion of additional men, acquisition of new telecommunication equipment, bullet proof vests and uniforms, introduction of new allowances to boost the morale of security personnel and provision of additional patrol vehicles to enhance performance. In addition, provision of crime fighting helicopter and installation of CCTV equipment has not only served as deterrent but has actually reduced crime in the state.
Provision of qualitative health care delivery is also vital in building a mega city and this why the government is investing heavily in the rehabilitation of hospitals and construction of new ones. Currently, all the General Hospitals in the state have been rehabilitated. To tackle maternal death, the state government has built and handed over eight Maternal and Childcare Centres planned for the state. It is important to stress that government now lays more emphasis on preventive healthcare as against curative to reduce the number of citizens needing to attend hospitals.
Improved access to potable water is one other vital challenge of the Lagos mega city. To tackle this challenge, the state government evolved the Lagos State Water Supply Project as the arrowhead of a 15-year expansion programme with the aim of increasing the access of the population to public water supply, improving the efficiency of water supply and strengthening of the Lagos Water Corporation [LSWC]. The project entails expanding water supply facilities, transmission and distribution systems, rehabilitation of existing one, improved administrative infrastructure and institutional support. The first phase involves the construction of 15 mini micro water works that have the capacity of producing 30 million gallons per day across various parts of the state to improve accessibility.
Perhaps more importantly, the Lagos experience has shown that building a mega city requires astute and visionary leadership. Despite the relative success of the Fashola administration, it is not resting on its oars. The State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, recently assured Lagosians of continued prompt response to their needs with the assurance that his administration would serve the people with creativity and vigour till its last day on May 29, next year. He declared: “For me it is work in progress. It could always be better. We are not relenting in our efforts. We are not relenting in our commitment. We are going to push it right to the wire.” To basically drive the message home, unlike in other places, the tempo of governance in the state has continued to wax stronger.
Though a mega city status is conferred on a city as a result of population growth, building and sustaining a model mega city is not a tea party as reflected in the Lagos experience. In the case of Lagos, a major challenge, however, is how to cope with the ever increasing population of Lagos with its attendant consequences on infrastructure. Nevertheless, the success story of past years in Lagos has revealed that as a people, we have the capacity to chart a better course for ourselves. This, of course, is the spirit of the new Lagos.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.