Lagos: Mega city without mega people
This writer came to reside in Lagos more than three decades ago after serving out NYSC in Borno State, doing his primary assignment in Central Bank of Nigeria Maiduguri branch. Coming to Lagos was by the grace of United Bank for Africa (UBA) that offered me employment as special trainee banker and posted me to their head office, then located at 97/105 Broad Street Lagos.
To say the truth, I never wanted to work and settle in Lagos after listening to a record waxed by Bongos Ikwue with the title “LAGOS”. But I had no choice since UBA refused my request to report to Kano Area office as the offer was on take it or leave it basis.
In that famous Lagos song, Bongos Ikwue painted a vivid picture of life in Lagos thus: ‘Tonight I think of my home. The home where I was born. I think of my family and the farm we had. When I think of my home, the songs of the bird in the morning……Here in Lagos no one cares for none. They fight and struggle for buses, they are always on the move. Not enough accommodation and the roads are always jammed…” I also listened to Fela Ransome Kuti (before change of name) singing about traffic at Ojuelegba junction. “Motor dey come from east, motor dey come from west , Policeman at the centre wetin be that? Confusion be that ..confusion na wetin..confusion na waa…”
Confusion, congestion, accommodation problem, and traffic jam have always been the problems of metropolitan Lagos. To me, any attempt by government to make Lagos a mega city without addressing confusion, congestion, accommodation problem and traffic jam will come to nothing. These are problems that will take a long time to solve not just by Lagos State government, but the Federal Government has a role to play especially in decongesting Lagos.
It seems the Federal Government recognised they have a role to play so it set up the Justice Akinnola Aguda panel which in 1976 recommended moving Nigeria’s capital away from Lagos to a more central place in the hinterland. That was how Abuja came to be in order to end the rift between Lagos State government and Federal Government in competition for office space and accommodation for workers in Lagos. The present return of congestion in Lagos shows that the Federal Government still have work to do because the present congestion has to do with locating two sea ports in Lagos to the neglect of other seaports in the country as well as making Lagos the main airport for international travels and host of many embassies and head offices of banks, oil companies and other indigenous and multinational companies. Unless these issues are addressed with a view to creating functional seaports and international airports outside Lagos, the congestion will continue.
Attempts have been made by various Lagos State administrations to tackle the issue of accommodation shortage for government offices and accommodation for Lagos residents. Perhaps the most ambitious move was made by Alhaji Lateef Jakande who was governor between 1979 and 1983. He established residential estates all over Lagos at Oke-Afa Isolo, Mile 2 /Amuwo Odofin, Iba in Ojo, Lekki, etc etc. The Federal government was not left out with establishment of Low cost houses in Surulere in the 1960S, Festac Town , Gowon Estate at Alimosho, Shagari Estates etc. Establishment of residential estates in Lagos is ongoing by Lagos State Government and private developers but demand has always outstripped supply because of congested Lagos.
It seems the subsequent governments in Lagos are determined to build a mega city , with emphasis on infrastructure development, building modern markets, bus terminals, roads and bridges , reclaiming lands from the Lagos swamps and Lagoons to built modern houses for the medium and high income earners. All these amount to building mega city without mega people.
Yes, markets have been destroyed with traders (people) displaced and families rendered poor and unemployed. In its place, model markets are built and sold out rightly or rented/leased at exorbitant prices. Mega city without mega people.
The Lagos State government banned street trading, and motor cyclists (Okada) from plying major highways with Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade to enforce the law while setting up mobile courts for instant trial and conviction of law breakers to match. But there is another set of street traders that are enjoying government protection, if not patronage ….the touts (agberos) collecting money daily from commercial bus drivers, in all bus stops and motor parks, and along major high ways plied by mini buses and motor cyclists. Then the area boys or omoniles , another set of street traders that collect money, rather forcefully from heavy duty transporters operating at the sea ports, and those hauling goods on Lagos high ways including those carrying sand, gravel and even people moving house. Mega city without mega people.
On sanitation wa ooo. Open defecation is the order of the day along the canals, static gutters, and undeveloped plots of land. All over Lagos, people defecate into cellophane bags and throw them right on the road. What about those who throw out banana peels, plastic bottles, and other thrash onto the road from moving vehicles? Mega city without mega people.
To be continued tomorrow.
Enyinnaya is fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers.