#EndSARS: Robust support to rebuild Lagos
The decision by the Lagos State government to establish the Lagos State Rebuilding Trust Fund (LSRTF) is ingenious and pragmatic as a way to restore some of the critical infrastructure and property lost by the state following wanton destruction and looting when strange hoodlums hijacked the EndSARS protest. The move is a feasible alternative to repair Lagos, a development, which triggered a misleading uproar caused in the Senate the other day when a suggestion that the Federal Government should assist the state was raised.
The LSRTF is a fund established by the Lagos State government to reconstruct and repair Lagos, which undoubtedly, has a special status like no other city in the country, notwithstanding the invidious politics of the land. Lagos, generally regarded as the economic capital of West Africa, is home to all Nigerians. Arguably the most populous city in Africa and Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos is also a potpourri of peoples and cultures, a huge market for industries and a regional hub laden with opportunities. It is also because of these features that Lagos is a complex metropolis.
It makes sense, therefore, to think that whenever an unfortunate incident, such as the destructive aftermath of the EndSARS protest, threatens this interesting complexity that Lagos is, the same goodwill that sustains the city should be harnessed to rebuild it.
Notably, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu issued an executive order, the other day, inaugurating an eight-man Board of Trustees (BoT) for the fund. Though the team comprises highly respected Nigerians from the private sector, it is the expectation of Nigerians that their work will be free of the influences and machinations of political interests. They should be allowed to achieve the goal for which they were established.
To this end, the Lagos State Government must earn the trust of Lagosians by harnessing the efficiency of past administrations to drive this initiative. With the near anarchy and aimless destruction of public infrastructure and private properties, Lagos plummeted by 20 years in terms of social responsibility. For any leader, this is challenge of leadership. A study carried out by the Carnegie Foundation in 2014, briefly explains the challenge of leadership that has been thrust on Sanwo-Olu.
In an encouraging summary praising the political leadership of Lagos since 1999, the study states inter alia: “In fifteen years, Lagos has gone from being a symbol of urban disorder to a widely-cited example of effective African governance. The Lagos State government has succeeded in multiplying its tax revenues and using these resources to restore basic infrastructure and expand public services and law enforcement. Extensive field research indicates that reform commitment in Lagos was driven by electoral pressures as well as elite ambitions to construct an orderly and prosperous megacity.”
Notwithstanding the infamous interlude of crass irresponsibility by uncontrollable hoodlums, Lagos needs to bounce back into the orbit of a prospecting megacity.
It seems inevitable that Lagosians will feel some pain in this initiative. However, it is expected that the state government will apply human face to whatever sacrifices or obligations will be demanded of residents, bearing in mind that many people can barely meet up with the provision of their most basic needs.
While multiple taxations and other asphyxiating means of revenue generation are to be abhorred, the elite aspiration to construct an orderly and prosperous megacity should be encouraged by this government. Thus, the state government needs to embark on aggressive awareness and sensitising programmes to build the confidence of distraught Lagosians who are yet to come to terms with repercussions of the EndSARS protest.
It is important that well-meaning Nigerians support the Rebuild Lagos Trust Fund. This is also the time for insurance companies to be at the service of private and public entities that have suffered losses. Insurance companies should carry out diligent investigation on indemnity and promptly attend to claims of genuine claimants.
Given the strategic status of Lagos, it is a normal expectation that the Federal Government will contribute to this initiative, for instance, by directing that resources from the emergency fund at the Presidency be mobilised in support of the Rebuild Lagos project.
In this regard, a development plan for Lagos by Gen. Murtala Mohammed, expressed on February 3, 1976 when he proclaimed Abuja as Nigeria’s capital, should be honoured at this time too. According to the Head of State then in his national broadcast to the nation, Lagos would be provided for in the 1979 Constitution then in the works as the Commercial Capital of Nigeria. Besides, the Nigerian leader then said, Lagos would also be designated as a ‘Special Area’ and Apapa Ports would also continue to enjoy special attention and would continue to be maintained as critical national assets. That was also the time the same Head of State declared that Kaduna and Port Harcourt would be designated ‘Special Areas’ to reduce pressure on Abuja and Lagos. This promise to Lagos, Kaduna and Port Harcourt hasn’t been fulfilled more than 44 years after.
All told, Lagos should from that 1976 enjoy a special status being a former capital of the country where many national security assets are still located. As a result, the resolve to build Lagos should transcend political partisanship and ethnic posturing, for this is a time for governance rather than politicking. More important, the Lagos State government should be concerned about how to prevent a recurrence of the #EndSARS protest vandalism. Doubtless, it will take years for the state to recoup its infrastructural losses in that one incident. A repeat of such destruction obviously should never be allowed to happen. In the main, at such a time as this, Lagos deserves the support of all stakeholders including the federal authorities and the organised private sector.