Making Lagos liveable and safe
The spate of disasters that seems to be defining Lagos by the day and in recent times is not unconnected to the abject state of the city which the state government, led by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, must begin to address holistically. Otherwise, with the existing weak regulation and poor implementation, worsening economy, continuing breakdown of social order coupled with the penchant of the people to cut corners, the situation can only get worse. As it were, it is troubling and distressing that within days of the collapse of the 21-storey Gerrard Road, Ikoyi building in which about 46 people died, two more buildings collapsed, the latest being the two-storey under construction in Badagry, which gave way three days ago, killing four and leaving many more persons badly injured. Just 48 or so hours before then in the same week, five other persons had their lives brutally cut short, following an industrial gas explosion accident in Papa Ajao, Mushin.
The disasters that have taken place over the past four months certainly have aggravated the state’s disquieting statistics on gruesome accidents and disorderliness. Indeed, Lagos State recorded 822 disasters in six months, precisely, from January 1 to June 20, 2021, according to the state government. For a city seeking a mega-city status; and with over 20 million inhabitants who daily have to go through the apprehension of getting involved one way or the other in these calamities, it is not just frightening but also unacceptable. Governor Sanwo-Olu and his crew must come out of any notion that the state is safe.
The chaotic state of Lagos is further epitomised by traffic logjams, flooding at the slightest hint of rainfall, dirty, stinking environment and heaps of refuse taking over large parts of the state, menace of motorcycle or okada riders who have entrenched themselves fully and uncontrollably on Lagos roads despite state enactments against their operations; unfettered operations of traffic robbers who violently attack hapless motorists caught in traffic snarl. This particular phenomenon has become regular and, no matter how long an attack lasts, there is no respite from any law enforcement agents. The government itself seems to be clueless on how to discourage the criminal, and appears content to allow the governor’s security convoy arrest the robbers on rare occasions that the governor ran into them. These cannot be the hallmark of a megacity.
General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, while flagging off a three-day meeting of the Technical Working Group in Lekki area of the city, identified other incidents including Baruwa gas explosion, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway oil tanker explosion, Ijora-Badia tank farm fire and Iddo warehouse disaster as some of the notable cases. Equally worrisome is the falling of containers from long trucks, often smashing into other vehicles and people, resulting in high casualties. A situation where the airport link bridge is left unrepaired for over nine months because of one pillar that got burnt following an accident is unacceptable; and even though it is dubbed as a responsibility of the Federal Government, the governor should have been more concerned because the people suffering from the lapse are mostly Lagosians.
The governor should be ready to step on toes in order to bring sanity to Lagos and make it competitive among the world’s modern sprawling cities. The state’s reputation now is uninspiring as, despite being the former federal capital and the country’s industrial and commercial nerve centre, the city has not received commensurate attention regarding livability. Rather, it has remained dysfunctional and overcrowded, spiked with dilapidated roads and bridges, traffic gridlock, filthy environment, etc, making life unbearable for residents. Not surprisingly, the Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU), in its liveable city survey ranked Lagos as the second worst city to live in the world today. Lagos was ranked 139 out of 140 in the list of most liveable cities in the world in the first quarter of 2021; with only Damascus, Syria as the worst.
While Lagos government is working hard to provide roads infrastructure and improve the state, the way ahead is long and windy, paling the efforts substantially. It needs to work much harder, particularly on inner roads that can endure, not ones that undergo repairs perpetually. Oke-Osanyintolu had harped on some proactive measures being adopted by LASEMA, and the need for emergency responders to work in harmony. Similarly, Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, explained that it is imperative for LASEMA as the coordinator of emergency and disaster management in Lagos to meet and device new ways to combat emerging threats, given that Lagos is a fast growing city with a large population and intense economic activities. The state’s Technical Working Group should come up with plans and strategies, tasks and deadlines to boost safety in the state.
For instance, the chaos surrounding Lagos ports is a huge embarrassment. And without a mass transit system, millions of commuters are perpetually on the road with consequent killer traffic gridlock. Lagos is perhaps the only mega-city in the world without a functional mass transit system. Sadly, the metro line system that could have brought relief to residents was allowed to fail, with huge contractual default payment incurred by government.
Government must act to redress a situation where traffic flows in all directions without order, commercial motorcyclists (okada) and tricycles swarm the city in what looks like an invasion, traffic rules are not observed, everywhere is a market, street trading is commonplace, housing unwholesome and the general scenario is nauseating.
There is need for concerted effort on Lagos to make it liveable. The Federal, state and local government authorities should join hands to re-build Lagos. The Federal Government should not abdicate its role on Lagos, which was billed to have a special status following the transfer of the federal capital to Abuja. The international community largely perceives Nigeria from its understanding of Lagos. And government needs to adopt tougher measures against unruly attitude of most Lagosians. Law enforcement should therefore be stepped up. But the infrastructure should be rebuilt in a more massive and focused scale. Lagos needs a leadership that is more active and responsive than presently obtainable.