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LAGOS, URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND LIVABILITY

Rasak Musbau

At the turn of the millennium, and for the first time in human history, about half of the world’s population began to live, not just in ‘cities’, but in ‘mega-cities’. In this league of cities are Tokyo, New York City, Mexico, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Delhi, Shanghai, Calcutta, Los Angeles, Karachi, and Rio de Janeiro. Lagos joined the league in 1995 when it reached population of over ten million from about 665,000 in 1963.

Observably, difficulty in waste management, scarcity of resources, air pollution, human health concerns, traffic congestions, deteriorating and aging infrastructures among others are inescapable physical and material problems in mega-cities. Lagos was caught in the web of some of these problems largely because it has developed independently of the efforts of city planners, through unstructured urbanism. The State was a good case study of everything that is wrong with Nigeria’s pseudo-federal system.

Ordinarily, large cities, towns and even small neighborhoods do not spring up overnight. They are the result of careful planning by civil and design engineers, project managers, architects, environmental planners and surveyors. The reverse was the case with Lagos State. No one foresaw or planned for the disarray and congestion caused by exponential increase in the population of the state sequel to influx of Nigerians from different geo-political zones, especially starting from period after the Nigeria’s civil war.

Before Alhaji Lateef Jakande came on board in 1979, the State had gradually become a city with reverse development as investment on the State infrastructure was far below the requirement.  The Jakande administration worked tirelessly to bridge deficit of infrastructure in education, housing, transport, environment, health and other sectors until its tenure was halted on 31st December, 1983.

From the period of military misrule until 1999, Lagos had become a slum known more for contravention of building code, traffic jam, heaps of refuse and decayed infrastructure. Nigeria itself was underdeveloped and left to be surpassed in terms of development by the likes of Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa. In other words, Military rule failed Lagos, just as it failed the entire country.

Urban sociologists and perceptive Nigerian observers who are watching what’s going on in Lagos State today would rightly agree that making Lagos a more livable city is emerging as a strategy to mitigate the problems engendered over the years. Improving on the strides of preceding administrations, especially from 1999-2015, the present government is focused on formulating policies and implementing programmes that will change the narrative of a city that has largely developed independently of the efforts of city planners.

Consequently, the current administration has adopted a proactive strategy to turn identified activity centres within the state into vibrant and organized areas through the preparation of master and model city plans. Twelve model city plans had so far been prepared. These are Lekki Comprehensive Master Plan, Badagry Master Plan, Ikoyi-Victoria Island Model City Plan, Ikeja Model City Plan, Alimosho Model City Plan, Mainland Central Model City Plan, Apapa Model City Plan and Agege-Ifako Model City Plan. Others are Epe Master Plan, Ikorodu Master Plan, Oshodi-Isolo Model City Plan and revised Ikeja Model City Plan.

Urbanization is being raised as the major thrust of government to provide a safe, secure, productive and functional State as an essential ingredient for the physical, psychological, social and economic well being of the people of Lagos State in accord with Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko (Lagos’ Progress) dictum of the current administration. The logic of Lagos urban renewal could be better understood from the new research that postulated that If Nigeria’s population continues to grow and people move to cities at the same rate as now, Lagos could become the world’s largest metropolis, home to 85 or 100 million in the next 50 years. This is why government policies are focusing on today and the future.

 

A lot is also being done in the area of building control as an inventory of abandoned buildings in the State is being undertaken. Recently the State government published the first batch of these abandoned buildings and issued a 90 days ultimatum to owners to take possession or be ready to face legal the wrath of the law. The focus of the State government is to continue to carry out this inventory and other such control mechanisms until every building constructed in Lagos State is fit for human habitation. Government is determined to ensure that no developer is allowed to put people’s lives at risk.

It is worthy of commendation that the State government is embarking on substantial projects simultaneously across the state and still lining up more to bridge huge infrastructure deficit estimated at over US$50bn. The truth is that ongoing infrastructure development, upgrade and urban renewal of the state are the impetus that could actually propel and consolidate the State in the global livability ranking.

That is the enviable story of the trends in road infrastructure development, light up Lagos, equipping the youths with technological and educational skills they can use to develop solutions to challenges, security, quest for 24 hours economy and ongoing redeveloping of about 100 slum settlements across the State to make them more habitable. Through the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA), attention is being shifted from the traditional way of tackling slum issues to a more pragmatic approach such as the introduction of tax increment financing to fund infrastructural development in slum areas.

Rightly, all encumbrances on the Right-of-Way for all infrastructure renewal projects in the State are being removed while government is insisting on compliance with layout plans to guide against and or correct haphazard developments, thereby eradicating the growth of slums and ensuring a livable environment. Government has also intensified efforts in vital areas such as Processing and Approval of Layout Plans; Preparation of Development Guide for Excised Villages; Monitoring of Existing Public and Private Estates and Determination and Establishment of Right-of-Ways (ROW). All these are necessity in a population with unstoppable growth to enhance guided development and to discourage continued growth of slums in both Public and Private Estates.

Evidently, the State government is on top of situation as far as security is concern in Lagos. In order to improve public security, the State Government re-branded the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps. The corps members were trained on proactive policing engagement instead of reactive policing. A total of 177 salon cars and vehicles equipped with necessary communication gadgets, 377 motorcycles, 377 helmets, 4,000 bicycles and metal detectors were made available to the Corps.  One might not categorically state that crime has been eradicated totally, but things have considerably improved in terms of public security.

Undoubtedly, efficient and effective planning remains the path to economic prosperity, social stability and improved quality of life of our people. This is why the Lagos State government will continue to work on the improvement, renewal and provision of sustainable planned human settlements.

Musbau is of Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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