Why Federal government’s Lagos megacity project failed
Experts optimistic about new joint development commission
Years after the plan to transform Lagos-Ogun border towns by the federal authorities failed, experts have given reasons why the initial effort could not see the light of the day.
The former President Olusegun Obasanjo had proposed and inaugurated the Lagos Mega City Region Development Authority, headed by the Prof. Akin Mabogunje, a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, to rescue infrastructural facilities, services and utilities along the corridor through a presidential committee.
The Lagos Mega-City Region covers an area of 153,540 hectares, which is more or less the entirety of Lagos with a continuously expanding built-up area that gulps parts of Ogun State comprising at least, four local government areas of Ado-Odo/Ota, Ifo, Obafemi Owode and Sagamu.
These areas spread through an estimated area of 22, 840 hectares, comprising 15, 640 hectares for non-urban uses, such as, agriculture, conservation/preservation, forest and water supply reserves, recreation, tourism and regional parks, while urban uses in Ogun State accounted for only 7, 200 hectares.
There was plan then to draft legislation on the mega city status of Lagos so that the National Assembly could to pass it into law. Reasons given for the translation of Lagos into a mega-city, according to the Mabogunje’s committee report includes;
• The Mega-City Project came about as a result of the chaotic nature of urban development in Lagos State, which has impacted negatively on Ogun State. This singular factor has become a source of concern for international investors and first-time visitors. Recent statistics by the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), revealed that no less than 60 per cent of total economic activities in the country take place in Lagos State.
• The population pressure in the Mega-City Region has been heightened over the years by inadequate housing provision for the continuous streams of immigrants. The report pointed out that although the Mega-City occupies only 37 per cent of the land area of Lagos State, it accommodates nearly 90 per cent of the total population of the state. The average population density within the region is about 20, 000 persons per square kilometre, compared to the national average of only 1, 308 persons per square kilometre.
• The inadequacy of decent residential accommodation has resulted in the Lagos State section of the mega-city region to record 42 slum areas as at 1985. Latest count has put the number a little over 100. Neighbourhood areas such as Ota, Ibafo, Mowe, Ojodu, Akute and Ogifo were under heavy and intense pressure of physical growth with very few indicators of real infrastructural development- the roads are in the most unmotorable states with little or no drainage facilities.
Experts blamed the failure of the Federal Government driven mega-city to politics and demand for the inclusion of the mega cities in the country.
A member of the presidential committee, Ayo Adediran, a town planner, told The Guardian, “the recommendations were not implemented because of challenges bothering on constitutional provisions in the area of funding and legal status of the Authority. And then politics came in as to what happens to other mega cities in Nigeria, more so with different political parties at the States and Federal levels.”
The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Olutoyin Ayinde, also attributed the failure to politics. “At that time the governments of Lagos and Ogun operated from different political parties, and the Ogun State governor then, didn’t flow with the drive that Lagos had for the project.
“Constitutionally, there was no provision that made such joint initiative possible, so it couldn’t be appropriated for. Then, some people began to argue that Lagos was not the only Megacity and other cities like Kano and Port Harcourt. The idea got drowned in the middle of all the shenanigans.”
Ayinde explained, “Realising the urban continuum of Lagos and its relative influence on Ogun State, President Obasanjo wanted Ogun State to take advantage of that, although it would have been mutually beneficial to both states.
“Already in the Lagos Metropolitan Master Plan of 1980-2000, parts of Ogun State like Sango Otta had been captured as catchment areas. The Lagos Mega City Region comprised Lagos State and extending in the West as far as Ifo and in the East as far as Mowe in Ogun State.
“In principle, it was a laudable idea, which had three participating entities in Federal Government, Lagos State government and Ogun State government with equity contribution of 40:40:20, respectively. The project would have facilitated distribution of population accompanied by efficient public transportation and other infrastructure and services to make the region sustainable.”
MEANWHILE, a new alliance that will accelerate integration of physical and socio-economic developments of both Lagos and Ogun states is in the offing, with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Commission by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Governor Dapo Abiodun.
They agreed to a new beginning in bilateral relationship between the neighbouring states on seven key areas of mutual interests, which are expected to boost security, commerce, urbanisation, infrastructure and also solve boundary disputes.
The MoU, Sanwo-Olu said, would enable the two states to mutually tackle issues prevalent in key economic sectors, including transportation, the environment, housing, health, infrastructure and security.
He said: The MoU being signed “is a game changer that will transform the urban agglomeration that exists between Lagos and Ogun States. We are driven by the desire to stimulate socio-economic growth, bridge development gaps and ensure that Lagos’ megacity status is complemented by pervasive infrastructural development even in boundary towns.
“It has become obvious that the best way to accelerate socio-economic development in both states is by embracing a more collaborative approach for growth, development and urban sustainability. Regardless of the challenges, we are determined to build more livable and stable cities. Our goal is to build sustainable urban cities, where the residents of the both states will have a sense of belonging, embrace participatory governance, and recognise their role in achieving solid urban economies.”
The joint commission, Sanwo-Olu pointed out, is a sustainable development agenda under which Lagos and Ogun will combine resources to meet the socio-economic needs of the people and prepare for the future.
He listed areas of partnership to include infrastructural development in boundary cities, revenue and taxation remittances, trade and investment, resolution of boundary disputes; security intelligence sharing, environmental and physical planning, emergency and disaster management, inland waterways management, traffic management and food security.
After signing the MoU, the governor said next step was to establish a joint committee that would implement the terms of the agreement and formally send Bills to Houses of Assembly in both states to generate statutory support for the establishment of the economic integration commission.
Governor Abiodun, on his part, stressed that the initiative will be a success as it is the first time Lagos and Ogun are having a formal, structured framework of bilateral engagement that would be backed by legislation.
The governor said the MoU took cognisance of the development envisioned by the Mabogunje Committee on Redeployment of Lagos Megacity Region Plan submitted to the Federal Government in 2006.
He said the development imperatives needed to be streamlined for the two States to be focused on sustaining common goals and future growth.
Ayinde said: “A joint commission of both states is the way to go and this is in line with world’s best practices. It would help to take care of issues that have to do with peri-urban development. I will be looking forward to some of the projects like the rail system that supports move of people, goods and services as well as management of solid wastes.
“It is also important to identifying the growth poles as stated in the region and see how this can develop to meet contemporary needs and limit unnecessary trips, thus producing a more efficient environment. What is needed to ensure the commission doesn’t fail is commitment. There should be ways of formalising, legalising and institutionalising this initiative, so that it may become a going-concern.”