By Bisi Olufuwa.
In spite of being cosmopolitan in outlook, Lagos has its fair share of rural communities. Approximately 12 percent of people in the State dwell in suburbs, and country sides.
It is, therefore, in an effort to ensure even and accelerated development in all parts of the State that the Ambode administration anchors its development drive on ‘all inclusive governance’. The administration’s idea of an all inclusive government is one in which “no one or segment of the society, irrespective of colour, race, faith, status, ability or disability is left behind”.
One area in which this philosophy is actually being radically reflected is in the State government’s partnership with Community Development Associations, CDAs. The establishment of a virile and vibrant system of community associations, has, over the years, enabled democratically elected government to partner with communities, sensitize them on its priorities and receive feedback on public policies. The fact that no development can take place in any society without peace and harmony further underscores the need for this corporation with CDAs, who are actually closer to the various communities than elected government.
Universally, true development is measured by the even distribution of basic amenities to both urban and rural areas. For a fact, urban dwellers enjoy the proximity of a metropolitan ambiance as well as the Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, from various corporate organizations in the areas of provision of basic amenities. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be usually the case with hinterland dwellers.
It is, indeed, the quest to bridge perceived infrastructural gap in rural communities that gave rise to what is today known as CDAs and this explains why governments not only reach out to this group in a mutually beneficial developmental partnership, but also explores ways to further solidify the relationship.
Currently, in Lagos State, conscious efforts are being made by appropriate government agencies to encourage more communal spirit as it is being exemplified by the current dispensation in Lagos State.
Before now, Lagos only boasts of 2,500 CDAs but within the last three years, the number has increased to 3,935. This is largely due to the support being given various CDAs in the State by the Ambode administration. The administration not only gives the CDAs grants, but also encourages them to oversee government projects and infrastructure within their neighborhood.
Most of these communities have embarked on many self-help projects ranging from construction of community halls, installation of street lights, transformers, building of police posts, drainage and health centres construction as a way of complementing the efforts of both State and Local Governments to engender growth and development.
In the last three years, the State government had integrated the CDAs into all its programmes such as the handover of 114 roads, as well as the management of generators powering streetlights among others.
Recently, in what could be described as unprecedented in the history of CDAs in the State and the country as a whole, the sum of Five Hundred Million Naira (N500, 000,000) was provided as empowerment grant to 275 CDAs in the State for them to complete some ongoing self-help projects within their respective localities.
Some of the CDAs that benefitted from the grant include; Sowhekoji, Badagry; Olera , Ojokoro; Alaiyabiagba , Ajeromi; Gbaga Olorunda, Ikorodu; Orile Seriki; Oko-Ito Phase 1; Jibode, Ifako-Ijaiye; and Anifowoshe, Ikeja.
Others are Onibaba, Ajeromi Ifelodun; Ogoitan Phase I, Epe; Ifelodun Surulere, Olorunda; Ofiran Phase 1, Ibeju Lekki; Equitable Estate, Igbogbo Baiyeku; Anuoluwapo, Ojota among others.
As noble as the gesture appears, Governor Ambode, at the presentation of the grant held at De Blue Roof, Ikeja remarked that it was in line with his promise of inclusion saying that making government felt at the grassroots is a major focus of his administration. He also disclosed that the gesture would be a yearly thing and that more CDAs are to benefit.
It should be stressed that in line with United Nations Initiative, the State Government on a yearly basis usually set aside a day as Community Day to recognize the developmental contributions of the various CDAs in the State. Last year edition witnessed the distribution of three vehicles to the best three CDAs, among other largesse.
This yearly celebration has been identified as a way of promoting healthy rivalry among the various CDAs with all of them striving to emerge and be recognized as the best CDA.
In the area of community electrification, some rural communities in the State that have been without light for over 13 years now enjoy power supply due to the intervention of the state government. These are Fidiso, Elepete, Alakun, Abule-Panu Gbarada, Gbetu, Agbele, Odogbonle, Government Technical College, Odomola, Lowa/Haruna, Odo-Agba/Ofin-Ile, Ajumose in Agbede, and Oke-Ibujeun. Some communities along Seme-Gbaji area of Badagry were also liberated from the perpetual darkness that had enveloped the communities for close to eighteen years
The community electrification projects were just a few of the numerous projects the current government has bequeathed on various communities in the last two years. But then, government has exemplified his inclusive mantra in different instances and diverse areas. The construction of the Aboru Link Bridge, the 114 community roads across the various council areas; construction of bridges to connect the arteries; and the latest, construction of over 20 border communities roads in Alimosho areas of the State are a few of the many initiatives being put in place to make life meaningful for rural dwellers.
In the Badagry axis, the Imeke Bridge in Olorunda LCDA has been completed while the construction of a 17km network of roads connecting Aradagun to Whispering Palms, a major tourist resort in the State is ongoing. With all these, it could be affirmed that the State government has a systematic strategy of accelerating development in Lagos rural communities. Cheerfully, government is not resting on its oars as more developmental projects are still ongoing in several parts of the State.
Undoubtedly, Lagos population is huge and there is need to curb rural-urban migration through the provision of necessary amenities for the comfort of community dwellers. This explains why CDAs will continue to be an integral part of community administration in Lagos State.
Governor Ambode has always expressed the desire of his administration to fix all roads in the State, construct more hospitals, make power supply available to homes and make residents live a comfortable life, irrespective of where they reside. But then, fulfilment of this desire is wholly dependent on available resources to the State, hence the need to methodically address these needs without necessarily leaving any sector or section behind.
On a final note, as government strives to offer CDAs the attention they duly deserve in the scheme of things in the State, they are urged not to relent in contributing their quota to the development of the State as well as taking ownership of all government projects within their domain by ensuring their preservation. It is only in doing this that the State would continue to witness accelerated growth and development.
Olufuwa is Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Local Govt. & Community Affairs