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Before they forget Lagos again

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[FILE PHOTO] Tinubu

As the battle for 2019 mandate retention shifts from the elections collation centres to the courts for final determination, it is a time to migrate from politricks to governance and economics at this time. I mean this is a time to get our political leaders to shun meretricious congratulatory messages and visits all over the place for some sense of urgency about development of this country. Specifically, this country deserves some serious attention after what I once called, ‘three years of excuses and 19 years of anomie’ on this page (May 27, 2018).

It is not a time for blame game. It is a time for introspection and compunction about the role we all played in making the rains that have been beating us. It is a time for our leaders at all levels to know that it is not enough to relax too much on the rebasing data that once made us the largest economy in Africa.

Despite the rebasing consequences, we should reflect deeply on why Nigeria is still not a permanent member of the Group of 20 also called the G-20, a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 of the world’s largest economies and the European Union. The G-20 was formed in 1999 as a forum for member nations to discuss key global economic issues. We need to stop junketing about, as we need to think seriously about our place in the world and why we are also not a member of the other powerful G-5 – called BRICS – an acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The point we all need to note here is that South Africa is a member of both the G-20 and BRICS but Nigeria is not, despite the historic rebasing and other vaunting we celebrate as the most populous black nation on earth.

That is why I am persuaded that we need to get cracking about the economy. The public intellectuals and the power elite need to get serious about some consensus on how to talk less of politics and talk more about the economics of even election management.

In other words, I think we are running out of excuses about how much we could have saved if we had deployed social technologies for  transmission and collation of the inconclusive elections we are still smarting from. We need our state actors to stop blaming their predecessors about the state of the economy and corruption in the land. It is a time for proper development planning and discipline of execution to tackle economic matters this time.

In a specific manner, our state actors should be remorseful about the debacle called NNPC, which President Muhammadu Buhari promised to reform while campaigning in 2015. Now as the governing party is rounding off its 2015-2019 mandate, it is a reproach that Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) is going into hibernation mode again – as a stillborn bill in the next session of the National Assembly. What is worse, the ‘principalities and powers’ in NNPC are waxing stronger in their kingdom of loss management, even when the president is the minister of petroleum resources.

I hope the Saraki-Dogara 8th session of the National Assembly too would deem it fit to apologise to the people that they failed the nation again about the PIGB their poor leadership also stalled. Behold, they will be called soon to commission the Dangote modern refinery, while the NNPC keeps celebrating their regular multi-million dollar scam called Turn Around Maintenance (TAM).

Recognising LAGOS and the Economy
As I noted here in 2016, there is too much politicking and a great deal of arm-twisting in Abuja about project sites in Nigeria. That is why it is expedient to appeal again to the Buhari government to shun reactionary political talks about the need to pay attention to Lagos where one of the pillars of the governing Party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu  hails from. At this time of value allocation after elections, there will be too much arm-twisting. Politricks has really begun on the quantum of votes Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his southwest politicians actually contributed to the presidential election result. There have been dark hints about how Asiwaju who was said to have nominated the Vice President in 2015, would again be sidelined in the value allocation mix this time. But that kind of politricks should not affect presidential and indeed the governing party’s attention to Lagos state as Nigeria’s Economic Capital, as General Murtala designated it 43 years ago – in a broadcast to the nation that created Abuja as the nation’s capital.

As I was saying, in Abuja at this time, political gunmen are bound to emerge and ask phantom 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 walls in the North East and
Niger Delta.

These authors of confusion are always in the State House, Abuja. They are there now to tell President Buhari how the Lagos People, the South West politicians led by Tinubu did not support him wholeheartedly in 2019. They are there to demonise all the leaders from Lagos and indeed South West.

But this is no time for geo-political arm-twisting. It is time for economics for development. 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 transmission and distribution in Lagos.

These are the issues that should form the basis for development plans at an Economic Summit once suggested about Lagos. I am persuaded again that the Apapa- Oshodi Road reconstruction is too important to be left to Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote alone. I mean here that there should be some sense of urgency about how to get the construction firms handling the roads from Apapa Ports to the city centre to accelerate works – through prompt payment. Then there should be accelerated development of Ports in the Niger Delta areas – Port Harcourt, Warri, Sapele, Uyo, Calabar and even Ondo area. That will help in decongesting Lagos.
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, now nearing completion, have changed the profile of Abuja. Why can’t the federal government construct a 10-lane road from Apapa to Ojota and from Ojota to Ibadan?

The economic reasons for suggesting special attention to Lagos are not too far to seek:
After all, as I noted in 2016, in 2015, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) made N196.26 billion. And in 2016, it projected N201. 3 billion. According to available statistics, the revenue generated from January to July 2018 by the Customs Service was higher than what was generated in the seven months of 2017: It was N652 billion However, the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, generated N118 billion from January to July 2018 as against N113 billion generated in 2017 (as recorded by October 2018). The bulk of this revenue comes from Lagos alone.

Besides, 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 was generated in Lagos.

The FIRS reportedly collected N1.23 trillion from VAT nationwide in 2015. The FIRS boss, Dr. Tunde Fowler in January this year said the N5.32 trillion realised in 2018 was the highest in the history of the firm compared to the N4.03 trillion in 2017. Fowler added that non-oil contribution in 2018 stood at 52.62 per cent against 62.25 per cent achieved in 2017 and 64.99 per cent in 2016. The FIRS chief said oil and gas contribution stood at 46.38 per cent in 2018 in contrast with the 37.75 per cent recorded in 2017 and 35.01 per cent in 2016.

It is the same pattern: Lagos unarguably contributed more than 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 have been the most deadly economic routes in the country. From Obasanjo in 1999 through Yar’Adua and Jonathan 2007-2015, to Buhari, there has been curious executive neglect of Apapa Ports and their roads, which have triggered chaotic traffic everywhere you go in Lagos area.  Yet the arteries are more important than the President Yar’Adua’s ten-lane roads constructed in Abuja for more than N257 billion raised from bonds.

The International Airport road from Ajao Estate is wearing a new look but the roads from Oshodi to Ajao Estate axis are still too terrible to behold. Fuel tankers and  trailers have taken over most roads inside Lagos. This is intolerable! The Lagos-Ibadan, Shagamu-Benin Roads are part of the Apapa-Oshodi economic routes. There were reports (before the elections) that the contracts for the arteries had been awarded but they are not on priority lists when it comes to contracts execution.
The electricity situation report in Lagos has also been 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. 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’s policy.

Therefore, I think that since all governments since the assassination 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, investment in Lagos should not be linked to politics of quantum of votes. Attention to Lagos should be seen within the context of economic development of the country.


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