• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Lagos masterplan: The canal, right of way, and the politics in between

Lagos masterplan: The canal, right of way, and the politics in between

Lagos, as we know it today, is a mega-city state that is home to all tribes and races in Nigeria. And so the administration of the Lagos Master Plan is a complex interplay of infrastructural development, environmental stewardship, and political manoeuvring. At the heart of this intricate narrative are what we know as “the canals”—crucial for flood management—and the “right of way” policies that govern land use around the canals, other water bodies like the Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean, high-tension power lines, roads, and rail tracks in the city-state.

I will be focusing more on the politics of right of way for the Canal system, as that’s the one that has been on the front burner of issues affecting the politics of Lagos today and has brought out the issue of ethnic profiling. The enforcement of this right of way has brought up the case of one ethnic group claiming they are a target for decimation in Lagos.

The canals: A drainage dilemma

Now back to the crux of the matter: Lagos’ canals are the city’s lifeline, designed to channel stormwater and prevent flooding. Yet, these essential waterways are often clogged and misused, leading to severe drainage issues. The current Lagos State Government has taken proactive steps to enforce ‘right of way’ in most flood-prone areas like Lekki, Ikota, Agungi, Mende, Arowojobe, Sholuyi, Ogudu, and other areas, aiming to reclaim and rehabilitate the canals in these areas and also build bridges around some, like the System 1 Canal (Odo Iya Alaro). These proactive measures of reclaiming the land that surrounded the canals are needed if the state will need to create a flood-free environment in case of the monster floods predicted for the state and in view of the current El- Nino effects that have been felt across the globe in places you never expected flooding, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate.

Right of way: A pathway to progress or a roadblock?

The ‘right of way’ is a legal framework that ensures infrastructure projects have the necessary space to operate safely and efficiently. In Lagos, this means maintaining clearances around electric power networks, water bodies, and drainage channels. However, the enforcement of these regulations often leads to the demolition of structures and extensions our people built on these setbacks, sparking controversy and debate among property owners, developers, government officials, and the general public.

And the government must enforce these laws if we are to have decent megacities and not slums masquerading as components of a growing city.

The politics surrounding Lagos’ master plan are as complex as the city itself. The government’s push for a more organised and flood-resilient city is often met with resistance from residents and developers affected by ‘right of way’ regulations. The balance between development and regulation is delicate, requiring careful navigation through the socio-political landscape of a mega-city like Lagos.

A vision for the future

For Lagos to thrive, a forward-thinking approach to information management is essential. The Lagos masterplan and GIS must be put online to checkmate issues of information asymmetries, fraud, and outright deceit against unsuspecting investors and developers. This E-GIS will show you what each land in Lagos is for, and the areas marked as setbacks for public infrastructure are highlighted, and areas for residential development are also highlighted. This will guide potential investors and other people on where to build and not build to minimise the issue of demolition and removal of structures on different right of way that have been created and encroached.

Also, there are urgent needs for canal right-of-way re-establishment and construction of concrete lining to determine where the right-of-way setbacks will be so it will be clear to all recalcitrant developers, ethnic Jingoists, and others of their wrongs. These two will lay the groundwork for the sustainable future development of the state.

Then developers too must be ready to follow due process and not be thinking of their profits alone; we should all stay clear of all public setbacks in our developments. All setbacks should be followed at all times, and the approved building should be the one built, not the “two drawings, one approval” that most developers engage in.

The master plan for Lagos is more than a blueprint for physical development; it’s a roadmap for the city’s socio-economic evolution. The interplay between the canals, the ‘right of way,’ and the politics in between is a narrative that will determine the city’s destiny. As Lagos continues to navigate these waters, the hope is that it will emerge not just as a city of architectural marvels but as a beacon of balanced and inclusive urban development. The journey is fraught with challenges, but with a clear vision and collaborative effort, Lagos can chart a course towards a resilient and prosperous future.

Olu Showunmi of Magna Prima Development Company Limited, the developers of the Lagos Condos Project, aims to bring affordable housing development to home buyers and tenants in Lagos.