THE ECONOMIST REPORT ON LAGOS
The Economist’s Intelligence Unit last Wednesday released its very controversial 2017 ‘Global Liveability Report’, and ranked Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial capital as the “second world’s least liveable city” behind Damascus, Syria; the 2016 version of the Report had placed Lagos in the third position.
The 2017 Report which was premised on the criteria of Stability, Healthcare, Culture and Environment, Education and Infrastructure gave the “overall rating” of 36%. It assigned 10% to Stability; Healthcare, 37.5%; Culture and Environment, 53.5%; Education, 33.3% and Infrastructure, 46.4%. The Report claimed Conflict and Terrorism were the major factors responsible for the cities finishing on the bottom of the survey.
We wish to express our surprise and disappointment at the obviously superficial analysis, and wonder that Lagos in spite of the obvious developmental strides of the last twenty years would be presented as being in decline in these critical areas. We especially cannot understand the assignment of “Conflict” and “Terror” to Lagos. There is no global report of any kind that supports this strange assignation. Without wanting to mention specific cities and countries, we make bold to say that the Economist’s Report is lacking in depth, is unserious and has not adequately considered the various strides Lagos as a city has made during the period and in the last couple of years. We wish to review the various parameters cited by the Economist and re-examine their applicability to the final result:
Lagos as the home to over 22 million Nigerians and expatriates has enjoyed stability for as long as anyone can remember. The city has not experienced any socio-political upheaval or disruption, terror attack, conflict etc., compared to many cities within and outside the African region. And yet all of such cities are rated higher! The World Economic Forum in its projection of the top global risks for 2016 by almost 750 experts assessed 29 separate global risks for both impact and likelihood over a 10-year time horizon. It is note worthy that Lagos did not feature in any of the red zones.
The 2016 Global Risks Report completes more than a decade of highlighting the most significant long-term risks worldwide, drawing on the perspectives of experts and global decision-makers, and is very detailed in closely identifying nations and cities with the greatest potentials for INSTABILITY, applying various criteria. In none of these did Lagos feature as a potential risk.
Lagos in the last couple of years has substantially improved on its healthcare delivery capabilities, in spite of the huge challenges and costs that providing this to over 22 million people presents. Indeed the state has continued to invest massively in both primary and other forms of healthcare delivery. It is critical to state and cite the swift response of Lagos state when the last Ebola epidemic broke across the continent. The timely and professional response and management of the potentials by Lagos stopped the spread of the dreaded killer disease in Nigeria and possibly other parts of the sub region. For this the state received global acknowledgment and praise for a job very well done. It is also on record that during the same period, Lagos State has met all global expectations from bodies like the WHO for vaccinations, inoculations and other deliverables for the management of primary and secondary diseases. Indeed, no epidemic was recorded in the state in the last couple of years.
CULTURE & ENVIRONMENT
Lagos because of the size and diversity of cultures of its population attracts a lot of global attention. The state has been a victim of global warming where water levels have risen over the years, resulting in flooding especially during the rainy seasons. While previous years of neglect have taken their toll on the environment, the state in the last few years has invested massively in cleaning up the environment by the strengthening of current flood control capabilities through its agencies and the introduction of collaborative efforts with various relevant NGOs. And as a result of these, the state has not experienced any major flooding. In addition, in the last six years, the state has embarked on a deliberate beautification of the environment where trees and flowers have been planted in an ongoing exercise across the state. The state specifically set up the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) to manage the process.
Lagos of course remains a major cultural melting point, and is perhaps the only city within the continent that boasts of an amazing cultural diversity both of Nigerians and other nationalities. The state has sustained all efforts to preserve its strong cultural history by the staging of various festivals, which have drawn extensive local and international acclaim. Of particular mention is the famous “Adamu Orisa” Festival where the Eyos (masquerades) thrill the people. Included in this band is the state’s close affinity with various religions and religious groups, resulting in a community where diverse cultures and faiths thrive without any casualty. So successful has this integration been that many non-Yoruba tribal groups easily claim Lagos as part of their cultural history.
Current and previous governments have continued to invest substantially in and encourage education for the teeming population. The state has also encouraged entrepreneurs to join hands with it in this sector by setting up private schools and other educational institutions. As of today, the state boasts of about tens of Universities of repute, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, and numerous Secondary and Primary Schools offering Nigerian, British and American curricular. And the results have been amazing with students coming out with excellent results at all levels. Today, Lagos offers one of the largest populations of educated people.
This is perhaps where Lagos state has excelled the most. In the last few years the governments of the state have made massive investments in infrastructure to support transportation, power, roads, services etc. Today, Lagos is about to complete one of the most modern rail systems to daily carry millions of people and goods within the state. The state is also investing in an ambitious water transportation infrastructure. In the last eight years, the state has invested in thousands of multi-seater buses for intercity transportation. Lagos is also developing alternative ports facilities to the main Apapa port with a view to diversifying commerce and movement via the waterways.
In partnership with industrialists like Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, Lagos is soon to have the first privately owned refinery in Nigeria. Lagos has also just concluded an agreement with the federal authorities in setting up a power plant that will deliver almost 3,000 MW of electricity. This will greatly accelerate industrial development within the state and other adjoining states.
Lagos is also spending billions of Naira on the development of a Free Trade Zone with access to water, road and in the near future air transportation. It is one of the best such efforts in Africa. Simultaneously, new roads, bridges etc., are being built, while existing ones are being upgraded.
Many, years ago, Lagos was often disturbed by the menace of armed robbery. The state set up the Lagos State Security Trust Fund in a collaborative effort with the private sector to stem this tide. Today, and after investing billions of naira, the Police have been empowered with hundreds of new vehicles, communication equipment, modern weapons, helicopters and even speedboats to manage the incidence of crime. The result has been an amazing drop in armed robbery and associated social nuisances. Inevitably as a result of the very large population and the influx of foreigners from neighbouring countries, the state has also had to manage issues of kidnapping. Happily, this is being seriously contained by direct police and intelligence efforts. Indeed just a few days ago, the state again announced that it had just spent over N4 billion (nearly $11 million) acquiring additional security equipment, vehicles, training for personnel etc., all with the sole purpose of making Lagos one of the safest mega cities in the world.
With all these and more, it is therefore inconceivable that the Economist would come out with a Report that would classify Lagos as the second least liveable city in the world. Lagos has not experienced any war; there has been no migration of people as a result of environmental challenges, even as the population continues to grow steadily, attracting more people from virtually all corners of the world.
It is our opinion that the Economist’s Report is jaundiced, lacking in adequate facts and information, not current, is one-sided, lazy and sadly stereotype in its efforts. There is no proof or indication that anyone from the Economist spoke with any official of the Lagos state; indeed there was no effort to update and upgrade records and confirm the various development works in progress.
The government of Lagos state under the leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the APC party remain committed to continuing the tradition of developing the state and its potentials and investing resources into making life comfortable for the twenty two million citizens of the state and one of the fastest growing megacities in the world. The state is also committed to supporting businesses and enterprises, attracting local and foreign investors, which continue to see the potentials that the Economist sadly has filed to see in this instance.
The government accepts that inevitably as a result of huge demands on resources and the mega challenges associated with turning Lagos into a very metropolitan city, there will sometimes be pressures on the system. The government is however firm in its resolve to anticipate and manage all such challenges with one focus in mind: delivering first class value to the people of the state and Nigeria.
LA OBSERVATORY EDITORIAL OPINION AUGUST 2017