Lagos, Nigeria: What Possibilities of a Mega City

By Georges Macnobson-Idowu

Lagos, no doubt, within the short period of Governor, Babatunde Fashola's reign, has seen commendable traces of developments, if not for anything else, at least, the BRT scheme and the beautification project cannot be taken away from the State. But then, its sudden tall-dream of wanting to become a Mega City is one nightmare, if not illusion, which calls for some deep reflection, considering its obvious inadequacies. Lagos, indeed, is the oddest city in the world and its shortcomings must be addressed, if it must transforms into a mega city.

BRT operational style, as a shortcoming. BRT, no doubt, is a wonderful initiative and indeed, a positive indicator of an aspiring mega city, but then its unsystematic operational style is gradually defeating its basic objectives. True, Lagosians today can no longer do without the BRT. It has virtually become a part of them and undeniably, a life style; yet to a large extent, it has failed to achieve the ultimate goal for its creation. Aside that the BRT is designed to make one's movement in and around the metropolis faster, it is also expected to encourage private car's owners to develop the habit of leaving their cars at home and plying the BRT thru and fro their offices on a daily-basis, to reduce the number of cars on the road, as well as minimize traffic congestion in the metropolis.

This objective, one must confess, has been defeated by the indiscriminate operational style of the scheme. One of the reasons the BRT has been unable to attain this fate, is because it is not strategically concentrated or focused towards a defined set of patrons. Most private car's owners would have appreciated plying the BRT thru and fro their offices, if only it is well structured and focused. Take or leave it, the BRT today is worse than the 'Molue'. As many would say in those days, that only mad people ply the molue, the notion cannot be different with the BRT, as the level of madness in it today is certainly unquantifiable. Aside that it is always so crowded, those standing most times, out number those sitting. And it is always a battle for the fittest, when one wants to get off, as one tends to get trampled upon, rumpled, and even get abused and embarrassed, if s/he dares complain. Another thing is that the buses are obviously too dirty these days - interior and exterior - such that it makes one to wonder, if they have ever been washed. The solution to this may just be a need for a car wash center inside the BRT parks. It is sad so far, to know that the only good thing about the BRT today, aside its promptness, is that it is yet to be beclouded by gospel preachers, drugs vendors, and beggars. These are some discouraging factors and they call for a review of the BRT operations. The review however, is just a common sense application. It is a simple principle of concentrating or tagging BRT buses along professional lines. That is to separate BRT – Professionals from BRT – Artisans and BRT – Market Women, at least, to create some forms of sanity in its operations and of course, to encourage private car's owners to ply BRT-Professionals. It must also be noted that BRT Professionals should be excluded from standees.

Streets' Miscreants, commonly known as 'Area boys' or 'Agbero', as a shortfall. If truly the cabal behind the network of 'Agbero' and/or 'Area boys' is as strong as we were told, the possibility of Lagos becoming a mega city with these bane still on the streets, is rather very slim. Lagos, as it were, can be described as the only applicant for a mega city, where jobless touts invade the highway in the name of the government, to rob people of their monies and perhaps, belongings. It's a place where an average decent resident lives in utmost fear and intimidation from these so called miscreants. If not for anything, at least, the scenario that occurred recently, during the last food merchants' strike in Lagos says it all. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Taxation, Ade Ipaya had claimed that the touts and miscreants were responsible for the illegal levying of tolls on food merchants at the State border and not the State government. The question is, if the situation is this bad and out of hands, one wonders what would happen when Lagos possibly becomes a mega city. This, without any fear of contradiction, is a total denial and concession of the people to the dictates of these streets' urchins, by a State, which swears an oath to protect them. What this means again, is that the government tactically washed its hands off the problem, pretending all was well, when actually there was fire on the mountain. It follows also that, the State lacks powers to control this cabal of rascals, who have increasingly transformed themselves into an organized banditry. As the Democratic Peoples' Alliance puts it, in one of its statements, Fashola, no doubt, is a good father of bad children, who are a stigma on his good governance. However, it is heartbreaking and helpless for the common man on the street for a constituted authority like Lagos State Government, with all its law enforcement strength, to look the other side, while extortion rules its highways. This, to a considerable extent, negates the social contract and the very essence of government, which is supposed to protect the weak from the strong.

Lack of well-structured road-networks, as a deficit. True, the Lagos State Government has shown enviable practical commitments to the rehabilitation of several old roads, yet Lagos still remains the only proponent of a mega city in the world that lacks a well-structured interconnection of roads. What Lagos has are terminal access routes that only provide movable elements entrance to certain parts of the metropolis. A true road network can be described, as a set of connections and/or linkages that provide unending mutual entrance and/or connectivity for all movable elements. In other words, a road network is an arrangement of roads in an interminable manner. It's a net of lanes or tracks and/or a system with several adjoining components. To this end, one would be right to say, with just terminal access routes into most areas in Lagos, the metropolis is no doubt, still a far cry from attaining the Mega City status. After all, big urban areas like Ikorodu, Epe, Ejigbo, Iyana-Ipaja, Apapa, Ajah and even Victoria Island, in spite of their staggering inhabitants and display of an array of present-day houses, can only brag of few terminal roads. The drawback in this, is that traffic is concentrated on and restricted to few major terminal roads, while the beauty of a well articulated road network is that it provides links to any part of the metropolis from every end of the city, without been compelled to a particular one.

Insecurity, extortion, persecution and extra-judicial killings, as a deficiency. With the current federal arrangement of centralized police system, where alleged extra-judicial killings, sudden disappearance, torture, extortion, rape, persecution, and harassment of innocent citizens by the police are the order of the day, it would be an up-hill task for a state that does not have its own legally-backed police system and better still, a hold on crime other than propaganda, to metamorphose into a mega city. Police welfare and control, under a mega city, is top agenda and it is supposed to be under the purview of the Executive Governor of that state, other than the Central government. In other words, there cannot be a true mega city without a well-organized state police. Where the contrary is the case, it follows that the security situation in such a city cannot be guaranteed. Lives and properties cannot be assured, and the value for human life is relatively equivalent to that of an animal. The red signal here is that just like in the animal kingdom, total lawlessness, chaos, anarchy, and of course, disrespect for human live, becomes the order of the society.

LASTMA's officials' atrocious mentality, as a limitation. Only a madman would not salute the concept of LASTMA, even if it came into existence, as a result of the inability of the government to address the state's traffic challenges. Its importance on the road, as well as its activities, when discharged selflessly, dutifully, and in accordance with the law cannot be over emphasized. But in all of these, the impact of LASTMA's activities on the road has continued to diminish on a daily-basis, owing to a shift in it core responsibility of maintaining free-flow of traffic and enlightening motorists and car's owners on traffic rules or regulations, to coldhearted extortion, harassment and victimization of commercial bus operators, as well as private car's owners in flagrant disregard for the uniform they wear, authorities they represent and laws they swore to uphold. Sincerely, one really cannot help but to wonder, if there is any city in the world, where its law enforcement agents barbarically jump into road-users' vehicles at will, to drag the steering with them on motion. Governor, Babatunde Fashola once said, during an event of LASTMA, that the presence of LASTMA officials on the road is an indicator of civilization. One wonders, if these barbaric activities, are the indicators of the civilization he talked about. Lagosians and/or Nigerians, one must say, are truly world-most peaceful people, considering what they go through in the hands of law enforcement agents in the name of governance. One also doubts, if one tenth of happenings in Nigeria can rarely happen in other countries, before they take to the streets. Honestly, Lagosians' deserve great accolades for their patience, with law enforcement agencies, the police inclusive. They are really a pain in the neck and a huge constraint to the state's chances of becoming a mega city, if something is not done urgently.

Poor waste disposal culture, as a shortcoming. The efforts of the Lagos State Government inline with the collection of waste and converting it into energy are commendable, but then, there is the need to do more in this regard in order for it to attain the mega city status. There most be a system in place, in which all its components must get involved in the campaign on waste disposal. The efforts so far, one must say, are solely that of the state, and residents in the state tend to believe it is the government obligation to clean up their immediate environment, while they liter it. For a proponent of a mega city, this is not acceptable. This culture and/or habit on the part of the residents cannot continue. There must be a pragmatic change in attitude towards being responsive and responsible for their waste. One expects that as the government goes about to move concentrated waste away from the streets, residents in return would desist from rubbishing the environment. Residents must be made to understand the legal implications in littering the environment at will and special sanitation agents must be dispatched to the streets, especially markets places and residential areas, on a daily-basis, to possibly apprehend defaulters, as organizers of open social events like parties are also made to seek authorization, before holding such events. The state government's concept of engaging road and/or highway managers, to clean-up highways or streets, only goes to portray an average Lagosian, as an animal, who sleeps and eat, where he/she urinates and excretes. Lagosians or Nigerians are capable of abiding by laws, but most times, require a little push to get use to it.

Commercial motorcycle operators, commonly known as 'Okada', as a factor. This is also an offshoot and a shortfall of the inability of the State to fix challenges pose by traffic congestion. True, 'Okada' has really become very advantageous in a metropolis like Lagos, that is bedridden with bad roads, terminal access routes, and traffic-congestion - widely known as 'hold-up' - but, the clamor for a mega city negates this feature. Okada today, whether directly or indirectly has become a major form of transportation in Lagos, if not for any proof, at least, the government is yet to declare an outright ban on it. But then, one wonders if a government, which folds its hands and continues to watch the brightest of its population and its supposed leaders of tomorrow, get killed and deformed, by Okada, owing to its inability to provide a civilized form of transportation, is worth been a shepherd. The issue here does not call for any contention, because a brief visit to the Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital, at Onipanu, would drive home the damages Okada has done, so far. The saying that the State government is possibly running away from an outright ban on Okada, to avoid criticisms or been considered, as cruel, might not be too far from the truth, otherwise it would be insensitive for any government to permit Okada, as a means of transportation, even with its obvious widespread plagues. Hence the traditional belief by some tribes, in Nigeria that no amount of the socio-economic deprivations can make their kinsmen to descend so low to beg arms on streets, as certainly been faulted by Okada, as it has succeeded in sentencing several amputated and deformed kinsmen to the streets. But frankly, the government does not require an outright ban on Okada to get it off the streets, what it needs is a visual documentary on victims and dangers of Okada to dissuade prospective patrons from plying it. It is believed that seen is believe - when people see the damages Okada has done and the anguish its victims experience thereafter - they would be discouraged from plying Okada and the business would on it own fades out.

Real estate, housing and rentage policies, as a bane. All over the world, countries notable, as mega countries, are known for organized real estate and housing sectors. Aside that their buildings are standard, they regulate the materials, type and height of buildings, size of apartments and even locations of houses built. Rentage is also well structured, such that it is impossible for exploitation. Nigeria and/or better still, Lagos is a direct opposite of this. Houses here are built by both government and private representatives with inferior materials. The size of the apartments, type and height of the buildings, including rent are all very alarming – agreement and commission are definitely nothing to write home about. Landlords have turned themselves into tin gods from whom tenants must seek favour, otherwise they get booted out even before their tenancy expires. House rents are usually increased arbitrarily and the law has not been especially helpful, hence it is so very expensive to enforce. This situation, notwithstanding, the state government still finds it very civilized to go about the metropolis, especially areas inhabited by the downtrodden, to demolish houses belonging to the poor and then reallocate such areas to the rich - basically friends and families of those in corridors of power -to build what they call befitting edifice. Yet, this same government has over years failed to provide low-cost-housing for this set of most-hunted people, whereas as most controversial as Mammur Gaddafi of Libya is he has managed to provide housing, at the least of a 3-bedroom flat, for every of Libya's citizens and he is already building for the next generation of Libyans. Gaddafi is a madman, so they say. He has used his incurable madness to transform Libya, to an enviable position in the world; they do not want to hear. Like a popular radio presenter in Lagos would ask in Pidgin English; 'who be fool?' Na them!

Epileptic electricity supply, as a shortfall. Without beating about the bush, everyone, who lives in Lagos today, knows that there is no one single business enterprise - public and private –that is driven by electricity supply from the National grid or is it the State grid? Lagos, at night, is like a burial ground. The coinage of the phrase 'black out' is proudly Naija. It is no longer a crime in the corporate world for one to appear very rough or perhaps, in a T-Shirt and Jean in the office on a Monday morning, because the lack of power supply is a common phenomenon of the rich and poor. But then there is the really issue, the jurisdictional restriction on the generation and distribution of electricity. This power is exclusively in the Exclusive List of the constitution and can only be generated and distributed by the central government. No doubt, the center has failed the country in this respect, yet it has not relinquished the power to the State and not until this hindrance is removed States like Lagos, would only be deceiving themselves with the aspiration for a mega city. Imagine a state, that cannot account for the number of immigrants or emigrants, their destinations, their personal data, their guidance or parents data, why and what they are in the State for, to say it wants to become a mega city? It is absolutely laughable. Isn't it?

Georges Macnobson-Idowu
COOLFM, 267a Etim Inyang Crescent, Victoria Island,

Lagos. Email: [email protected] / 08055610085

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