“In 35 years, 50 percent of our population will live in our cities. Most other countries will be in a similar situation. We need to start preparing now to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live meaningful lives, and our cities are places that will allow that to happen.”― Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Whenever I hear the words “Lagos is a mega-city” I am mostly angered at the lie been uttered, you may wonder what about the words exactly anger me but the truth is that there was no time when Lagos was a “Mega-city”. What is most interesting is that the “Centre of Excellence” has been governed by very great “Plumbers” and I simply call them plumbers because they have been able to systematically and effectively cover up the amount of dysfunction been flooded into the state. Firstly, let us understand what Lagos State represents. Although the state has the smallest landmass of the whole 36 states in Nigeria, it is the economic capital of Nigeria and it comfortably boasts of having the fifth largest economy in Africa, and it’s also the most populous city in Nigeria, with a favourably geographical and economic location bordered by the Atlantic Ocean where 22% of its total landmass being wetlands (an area of land where water meets land i.e. lagoons and creeks) let me briefly add that Lagos state is also the entertainment hub of Africa. Although the name “Lagos” originated from the Portuguese, with its initial name “Eko” originating from its first settlers the “Aworis” who historically have their origins from “Ile-Ife”. Lagos served as Nigeria’s capital city until December 1991 when the capital was moved to Abuja a city in central Nigeria, but Lagos still never lost its autonomy in Nigeria. As at 2015, the population of Lagos state was reportedly estimated at 16 million. The capital of Lagos is Ikeja while Agege and Mushin represent the metropolitan area of the state, although Lagos may be divided into two major areas, the island (Lagos island or Isale Eko, Lekki, Victoria Island, Ajah, Ikoyi, Eko Atlantic) and the mainland (Surulere, Yaba, Ikeja, Ojo) other major cities include Ikorodu, Badagry and Epe. So, I think with this brief rundown of Lagos it is fair to say Lagos is a country within a country.
But then you may begin to wonder why such a state isn’t developing with the amount of human and financial resources being ejected into the state, my answer would simply be that the state administrators from previous decades to recent times live in a state of constant self-denial, they simply imitate progression with regression because they simply failed to plan as the population increased exponentially. There are several reasons why Lagos state isn’t a mega-city.
Firstly, for a state as great as Lagos it is a misfortune that there isn’t an effective transportation system or network, with constant gridlocks caused majorly by population explosion and bad roads. Lagos is famous for its traffic that it can be likened as the “Go-slow” capital of Africa and Nigeria, leaving most of its residents in a constant state of stress and sleep deprivation an average Lagosian (A person who resides in Lagos) spends most of their time in traffic than in their actual residences, this doesn’t just affect their health alone, it also impacts their private relationships and finances. Several families who live in Lagos spend a lot of time away from one another and families because of this transportation issues, and then transportation in Lagos is expensive and uncomfortable, several residents spend more than half of their monthly income on transportation and although the state government providing solutions to create other alternatives have so far proved futile, moving from one place to the another in Lagos is painstakingly difficult, but most developed cities likewise face such issues but in my honest opinion I feel more work should be done, and there is also a case of “Agebros” (thugs) also have a monopoly on the transport system, the first step in providing a sustainable solution is to remove the grip these elements have on the state with their most common insignia being the “Danfo” (Yellow) buses. And also the state of some bad roads, contribute to the traffic problems and even impair’s movement, it would be great the state government pays much attention to road construction and maintenance to ease transportation around the state and also trucks as well as containers, logistics trucks or gas tanker trucks which prove to be one of the most notorious culprits indicted in transportation issues in the state, causing accidents/loss of life and in most cases causing hours of gridlock along major highway across the state. Even with the number of traffic officers which can be found across the state, this problem is still a persistent issue. I think other transportation means should be exploited effectively such as water-ways which is still very unpopular because most of the residents don’t trust it in terms of safety, also trains can be utilised adequately. In conclusion, it is difficult to move around Lagos, thus making the state’s claim of being a mega-city laughable, unless an effective solution is deployed soon enough, I don’t think the “Mega-city” claim should be attributed to the state.
Secondly, another issue facing Lagos state is security, it is an obvious fact that the state lacks effective and adequate security, armed robbers operate even in broad daylight with so much impunity. Several cases of people entering “One-chance” buses or cabs are recorded daily, sexual harassments and assault cases rising exponentially and even cases of kidnapping and extortion by unscrupulous elements as well as security agents have also been recorded prominent examples being police corruption and bribery and the SARS menace, Lagos ranking 8th in the cities with the highest crime rates in Africa could be a population or a societal issue but that might sound like an excuse, and I have still not seen any proper frameworks to address this issue. Now, can there be a megacity where its residents aren’t secured or live in a state of constant fear? Your answer is as good as mine.
Thirdly, cost of living in Lagos is radically expensive, with housing prices top of the roof, it is commonly said that most residents of Lagos “work for their Landlords”, and barely survive on their salaries as a result. There is simply, no visible government intervention when it comes to housing, instead of more houses are built which remain unaffordable to most of the population, a few people remain homeless while others live in places under the worst kind of conditions, where there is no running water or electricity. Housing prices are not regulated and even rents are subject to the “moods” of the landowners, this housing issue doesn’t only affect residential houses alone, businesses are also affected, most businesses, go bankrupt after paying rents for their spaces they are also at the mercy of house agents which run a racket, most defrauding unsuspecting clients, they are also subjected to other expensive bills like taxes and electricity bills. Most residents provide almost all the services and amenities that are supposed to be supplied by the government and still don’t even get the little they require from the government. Residents often lament at how expensive it is to live in Lagos state, their only consolation being that all megacities are expensive, but is theirs a developed city talk less of a megacity? I think I already know the answer.
The other problems facing the state, which include, epileptic health care, ineffective public education system, lack of proper waste management (Lagos is still very much dirty and other pollution and environmental hazards present) and improper drainage which leads to recurring cases of flooding yearly especially during the raining season. And it is important to add that most public parks across the state are overrun by criminals, residents have little or no access to state-owned parks, as a result, some even in deplorable conditions, and also there is no access to the beach, for a city close to the lagoon and other aquatic aesthetics it’s frustrating that residents still need to pay exorbitant prices to gain access to the beaches, which are known to be owned by private citizens, I simply wonder how an individual or family can lay such claims to a place such as a beach, and even most of the beaches are being developed into residential or business hubs which is ecologically and environmentally wrong, leading to unforeseen future disasters. Although most of these problems are not the fault of the government, it would be great if the government doesn’t have a masonry approach to development whereby, they just cover-up problems with temporary solutions, and one-sided developments. Lagosians need and deserve a government that plans effectively and think long term providing sustainable solutions to issues. Every area of the state must feel the effect of the government instead of just an area, the lower and middle class ought to also feel the effect of their government in their environment because right now they all feel left out since the only part of Lagos getting most of the attention is the Island, which is because most of the elites and upper-class citizens reside and operate in that area.
I hope the administrators of Lagos stop obsessing over making the state a “Mega-city” and think of effective ways and means of alleviating the difficulties faced by residents of the state, through proper planning and good governmental policy implementations. A Mega-city doesn’t go around announcing what it is, instead of its results projects what it is instead. So, in summary, In terms of population Lagos could be qualified as a megacity but in terms of development, it is not.
Note: This is article remains my own private opinion, without any bias or sentiments, I would not be responsible for how you may wish to interpret it.
Photo Credit: Stephen Olatunde