Protecting Lagos, Nigeria's Economic Capital From Bandits

By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni

“Lagos will, in the foreseeable future, remain the nation’s commercial capital and one of its nerve centres. But in terms of servicing the present infrastructure alone the committed amount of money and effort required will be such that Lagos State will not be ready to cope.

...It will even be unfair to expect the state to bear this heavy burden on it own. It is therefore necessary for the Federal Government to continue to sustain the substantial investment in the area… maintain a special defence and security arrangement in Lagos which will henceforth be designated a special area.”

The above were the words of Late General Murtala Mohammed during a nationwide broadcast on the 3rd Feb 1976, announcing the need to move capital to Abuja from Lagos State.

Forty years down the lane, every word in the quote regarding collaboration with the Centre of Excellence to ensure development and security remains an illusion. Lagos State had not only been abandoned, the occupiers of the new capital made it a duty even at a point to withheld allocations due to the State and still owes the State some monies used to maintain federal infrastructures within its territory.

Since moving the Federal Capital to Abuja by General Ibrahim Babangida, not many infrastructure can be pointed at to have emanated from the Federal Government, the last major project executed by the Federal Government in Lagos, have been said to be the Third Mainland Bridge of 11.8kilometre built by the General.

Even the emergence of two Head of Government with Southwest origin did not metamorphose into a collaborative development which the State often needs.

Security-wise, governing the spiralling metropolis of Lagos continues to be burdensome, thus giving a genuine platform to the call to restructure Nigeria's federal system to allow for resource control and state policing.

In recent times, there have been a rising spate of security breaches in Lagos State from unknown bandits who are desperate to hold the city by its jugular. It must be noted that these sheer criminals should not be referred to as militants but dangerous bandits, kidnappers, robbers who are only interested in criminally enriching themselves through nefarious acts. Militants on the other hand are mostly radical activists who use extreme measures to make their points.

Some of these security threats have become worrisome in the light of palpable silence by the Federal Government as led by President Muhammadu Buhari, thereby putting to question, the importance of Lagos State to this present administration despite sharing same political bloc with the federal for the first time ever.

In view of the upsurge in attacks on the beautiful and aquatic city of Lagos particularly from the waterways flanks, the Honourable member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency, Babajimi Benson, moved a motion on 14th of July 2016, calling on the Federal Government to secure riverine communities in the state.

In its prayers, the House member urged the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies particularly the Army and Navy to protect lives and properties in the State while also urging the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to carry out a fact finding mission in order to ascertain the level of damages perpetrated by the bandits and provide relief materials to the victims thereof.

But it seems the House of Representatives only blew words in the wind as there have been resurgence in attacks on Lagos State since the motion was moved with little or no proactive measures from the security establishments.

Amongst former cities disrobed of their capital status, Lagos State seems to be the only one abandoned by successive government, even though it remains the economic nerve centre of the country. A situation which is simply pathetic!

As a state, Lagos has proved to be the highest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria aside states with oil and gas. With its array of financial services, company headquarters, principal seaport, Power generating installation and cosmopolitan population, over 60% of the commercial activities in the country are carried out in Lagos. According to an erstwhile Speaker of the state's assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Lagos is the biggest entity in West Africa after Nigeria in terms of population and now, GDP.

So when one measures the capital investments in Lagos with the corresponding capital needed to protect lives, properties and investments, it will be foolhardy for any government to abandon the State to its fate.

The decision that led to the movement of Nigeria’s Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja was muted on August 9, 1975, when late General Murtala Mohammed inaugurated a committee headed by late Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda on the new Federal Capital for the country.

The committee in its 72-page report sighted congestion as a major reason to move the capital out of the city for Administrative purposes. Lagos State on December 12,1991, when it was eventually stripped of its capital role by General Ibrahim Babangida, had a population of 5,685,781 or 6.42 per cent of the national total according to the census figure. Today, Lagos has over 20 million inhabitants and remains the most populous state in Nigeria and arguably in Africa.

However, Lagos continues to be denied a special status role as former political and administrative headquarters of the kind Germany gave Bonn when the government moved to Berlin or that given to Dares Salaam, when Tanzania moved its capital to Dodoma in 1996. And many other countries that have for one reason or the other changed their administrative capitals.

About two weeks ago, the Oniba of Ibaland, a first class monarch was abducted right in his palace, after which bandits laid siege on the Igando/Iba community only to disappear into the creeks when security operatives tried engaging them.

Like a cancerous worm, the activities of these bandits in Lagos ought to wake the Federal government from its slumber. Gradually but persistently, thier activities are being allowed to fester, if Niger Delta and Northeast crisis mismanagement comes to mind, one can only imagine the catastrophic effect a Lagos State in ruins will have on the whole of Nigeria and even West Africa.

The Federal Government as a matter of urgency needs to reconsider its priorities in securing Lagos state and initiating the administrative process that will lead to granting the former capital a special status. This time is now.

Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni wrote through [email protected], tweets via @omomojeed

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