The audaciousness of pillage of the resources of Lagos State from 1999 to date is only matched by the shameful and deafening silence of those of us who consider ourselves proud Lagosians.
Lagosians are peaceable, sociable, accommodating, highly educated, proud, and sophisticated; cowardice is not a trait of Lagosians. We have resisted the might of the British Empire. We have faced down the French aggressors, but now, we are cowed into submission by the current crop of plunderers in our midst. To make matters worse, some of us worship these plunderers and hail them as brilliance strategists. Our heroes, past and present must be bewildered by our silence and ashamed of our platitudes at the altar of our plunderers.
Lagos is a State every other State in Nigeria envy, considering the size of its internal revenue relative to its centrally collected revenue. It is the most industrialised. It is the nation’s economic capital and home to a booming port system. So why are we not seeing the benefits?
Lagos accounts for over 32% of the total internally generated revenue of all the States of the Federation including FCT. It is home to 65% of Nigeria’s businesses (NBS), with a presence of over 2,000 manufacturing companies, 200 financial institutions and the largest collection of small and medium enterprises in Africa. Two of the nation’s largest seaports – Apapa and Tin-Can Ports are located in Lagos State. Lagos is also Nigeria’s aviation hub. Lagos State alone accounts for over 30% of the nation’s GDP (NBS). So why are we carrying an unsustainable debt burden?
If Lagos State were a country, it will be the 6th largest economy in Africa, which places it above Kenya, Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania to mention just a few. Its per capita income would make it the 14th richest country in Africa, above countries such as Angola, Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia. So why do we feel so poor?
Unfortunately, this is where the good news end, as the riches of the State are not evident from what we see on the ground. We feel poorer now than during the Jakande administration, despite the fact that our revenue has grown by more than 200% over the same period (BudgIT). Why?
Despite its huge revenue uptake, Lagos is still some way away from achieving crucial public infrastructure schemes. The condition of our schools and hospitals are appalling. Lagos State does not have a world class public hospital to boast of. Kenya has two, Swaziland and Madagascar have one each. It has no modern light rail or tramway system to boast of. Ethiopia, Morocco and Tunisia (all ranked below Lagos in terms of GDP) by contrast, have had extensive network of light rail and tramway systems for many years. Our State University is conspicuously absent from the top 100 universities in Africa. South Africa has 16, Egypt 14, Ghana 2 and Uganda 3, even the basket case of Africa, Zimbabwe has 1. So, where is all the money going?
On the human capacity development level, the story has been one of abject failure. The internationally accepted measure of quality of life in any country is the Human Development Index. This is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: such as long and healthy life, education and a decent standard of living. It is a standard means of measuring well-being. It is used to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life. Applying this index, Lagos would rank 24/53, below countries such as Ghana, Libya, Tunisia, Kenya, Zambia, Angola, etc, all countries whose per capita income is far less than that of Lagos. Considering that Lagos (if it were a country) would have been the 14th riches country in Africa, it has no business being 24th on the HDI. Still, we hail the same set of plunderers who have besieged Lagos since 1999 and brought us to his imbroglio as brilliant strategists and administrators. Since 1999, the financial growth of Lagos State has been inversely proportional to the decrease in the standard of living of Lagosians. Why so?
You then ask yourself, where is the money going? It is important to note at this point that details of Lagos’ financial statements are notoriously kept opaque, with scant useful information. The State does not publish its detailed budget, budget implementation reports, audited statements and other critical documents needed for holistic, independent assessment, which in our mind, has been deliberate and contrived.
Give credit where one is due, plunderers have greatly improved the revenue generation capacity of the state, unfortunately, very few of the inhabitants of the State are benefiting from the riches of the State.
What has evidently improved over this period is the bank balances of the plunderers. The financial growth of the State has been directly proportional to the growth in the wealth of the cabal.
Lagos State is the crown jewel of Nigeria and unless Lagos State takes its rightful place as driver of development, Nigeria will continue to wallow in abject failure.
Unfortunately, the State has been effectively captured by a cabal whose allegiance is not to the State or its people, but to their own selfish agenda.
Liberation of Lagos from this cabal is not a fight by Lagosians alone, but one that all Nigerians must engage in, as a free and prosperous Lagos is essential to the development of Nigeria. The failed infrastructure of Lagos can be traced directly to the activities of this same cabal. The poor living condition of Lagosians is the result of the activities of the same cabal.
It is time we regain our collective sanity and voices and call a halt to the continued pillage of our great beloved State.
Let us lift the siege on our State. Iya yi to l’Eko
House of Representative Surulere 2 Aspirant.
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