Monday, 8 February 2016

MAKING LAGOS, THE COMMERCIAL NERVE CENTRE, CIVILIZED, FUNCTIONAL AND HABITABLE

Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos State Governor
The desire to upgrade infrastructure within Lagos metropolis apparently informed the recent decision by the State to review the Ikeja Model City Plan for the purposes of a functional and growing city. Ikeja, one of the elite suburbs of Lagos and, indeed, the state capital, certainly requires improved infrastructural facilities, and the planned review is, therefore, desirable. Hopefully, the Ikeja plan would be part of a complete Lagos City/State Master Plan to make for an integrated urban re-development framework.

The State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, the other day, disclosed plans to review the Ikeja Model City Plan, which became operational in 2010, as part of efforts to create a better environment, with adequate infrastructure that meets the standard of the city. The review is expected to help to ascertain the level of compliance with the provisions of the plan and improve on the gains already recorded.

The exercise will involve the evaluation of the level of performance in the area of infrastructural provision, conflict of land uses, transportation, sanitation, security, housing population, recreation and tourism, among others. The government then appealed to traditional heads, community leaders, residents, traders, corporate organisations and civil societies in and around Ikeja, to cooperate with the government officials and other personnel that would be involved in the review exercise.

Technically, after five years of implementation, it is necessary to review the plan to evaluate whether the objectives are being met. A holistic approach is, however, hereby advocated for the intended upgrade of Lagos. Adopting a segmented approach, as the Ikeja Model City Plan portends, raises some questions. Lagos is known to have a Master Plan, or at least, there should be a regional Master Plan of Lagos State that not only addresses the infrastructural inadequacies of the metropolis but also extends development to the outskirts as a way of decongesting the city centre. No doubt, the last couple of years have witnessed deliberate policy thrusts aimed at improving the functionality of Lagos. Roads have been expanded, markets demolished while street trading that blighted Lagos has drastically reduced.

But a lot still needs to be done. The endemic traffic gridlock shows the fundamental defects inherent in the city’s transportation system. Dilapidated inner city roads in particular, lack of effective mass transit system in form of rail and water transportation, and other deficiencies, have contributed to making movement in Lagos a nightmare. There should be order in the approval of development of residential houses and businesses just as there are too many commercial points. A situation where petrol stations are located in the middle of residential estates is totally inexplicable as this not only creates traffic bottleneck but also poses great danger to the entire neighbourhood.

Development, of course, should not be concentrated within the metropolis but should be extended to Epe and Badagry linked with good roads, light rail and efficient water transportation system. Lagos needs an outer ring road to re-direct traffic away from the city centre and there should be weigh-bridges to protect the highways from the over-weight of heavy-duty trucks.

As a matter of policy, the cadastral plans need to be reviewed and modified where necessary. Except there is a conscious effort to re-order the city/state for functionality, there would be more chaos all over, especially with the position of Lagos as the economic nerve centre of the nation. Meanwhile, the Federal Government collects all the revenues from the airport and sea ports while neglecting the infrastructural development in Lagos, an aberration, which happens only in Nigeria! Worldwide, the convention is that both the city and local government authorities have interest in the ports in their domain. Lagos should be a major stakeholder in the ports, but this is not the case in Nigeria’s warped federation.

It is noteworthy that insecurity has forced residents in different parts of Lagos to mount street gates to curb armed robbery and other criminal activities. Now that the authorities want the barricades opened, what has been done to provide adequate security?

Finally, the issue of holding social functions in public schools should not be a problem, given the absence of parks and the fact that Lagos is one built-up concrete jungle. School premises are so used over the weekends as there are very few community halls for such functions and privately-owned event centres are not affordable. It may now be necessary to concentrate effort at preventing such functions from holding right on the roads thereby compounding the traffic gridlock and nuisance to city residents.

Lagos must be saved from disorderliness, no doubt. And that would happen with the right laws and appropriate investments which, the government should be willing to make. (Guardian)