Lagos, a major commercial centre both in Nigeria and indeed Africa with a population of over 20 million, has often been seen as the backbone of Nigeria’s economy.
To many people, Lagos is nothing short of Africa’s wonderland as some attribute its achievement to a strong and quality political and governance system, especially since 1999 when the state elected its first governor under a democratic regime.
Lagos is the state with the highest Internally Generated Revenue in Nigeria. This feat can be traced to many factors, including the fact that Lagos was once the capital city of Nigeria until it was changed to Abuja in the year 1991.
Also, the ‘centre of excellence’, as it is sometimes called, was also the administrative base of Nigeria’s colonial master, Britain. Nigeria’s only functional port, which generates as high as N28 billion yearly, is a major reason why Lagos continues to retain its position as one of Africa’s largest centres of commerce.
But is Lagos success story a stand of complacency or its government would have to do more? A research by Global Business Cities Index, after considering different factors such as business environment, population, development and charisma, ranked Lagos as the eighth business city in Africa with a figure of 10.70.
However, one striking observation is that despite the fact that Lagos was ranked amongst the top 10 business destinations in Africa, its business indices of 10.70 is far below those of other African cities like Cairo, Algiers and Johannesburg. This might be due to its poorly managed journey to urbanisation.
According to a report by the United Nations, when not properly managed, urbanisation can increase the level of socioeconomic inequality, environmental pollution, crime rates and congestion.
Putting it more directly, the report revealed that “the uncontrolled growth of many cities has resulted in inadequate provision of public services and a failure to guarantee a minimum quality of life for all its urban residents”.
Giving a succinct description of what Lagos looks like, a report by CNN revealed that “even though many Nigerians find the city of Lagos alluring, especially due to its thriving economy, living in Lagos, the third most stressful city globally, can take a mental toll”.
Another report by the BBC described Lagos as “a congested city, which is notorious for its traffic jams which stretches over several islands and extends across to the mainland, a part of Lagos that is more affordable”.
While it is safe to say that Lagos is fast achieving its feat as a fully urbanised city in Africa, the same cannot be said of its economic development indices because developing an economy goes beyond urbanisation; real development requires a strong and visionary leadership that has the political will to invest in health, infrastructures, education, industrialisation and others.
Globally, there are different indicators of development which border on issues such as poverty and inequality reduction, adequate security, economic growth, human capital development, environmental quality, alongside good governance. In all of these key indices, it seems to be that the city of Lagos is found wanting as discussed below:
A crime index rate published by Numbeo for the year 2022 rated Lagos among the top 50 most insecure cities in the world, with a rating score of 80 .88 out of 100, while another report by the World Atlas rated Lagos as the fifth most dangerous city in Africa.
The report noted that the inhabitants of Lagos have overtime become prone to armed robberies, thuggery, burgling, rapes, kidnappings and the like. Criminals are known to target vehicle occupants; armed robbers go to the extent of climbing people’s fences by subduing armed guards, while street gangs, popularly known as ‘area boys’, continually unleash terror, the report added.
The safe cities index, a policy benchmarking tool that measures urban safety across five major pillars computed by the Economic Intelligence Unit, also ranked Lagos 56th out of a total of 60 cities considered globally.
Meanwhile, another report by The Economist described Lagos as “Nigeria’s commercial centre that conjures images of crimes, corruption and motionless traffic where even the poshest parts of towns are sometimes caught in shootouts between robbers and policemen”.
Infrastructural deficit remains one of the major challenges of most urbanised cities, and it is even more worrisome for Lagos as a result of its high population rate worsened by its small land mass.
Overtime, its dwellers have come to adopt its poor and heavily priced housing and transportation system as a way of life, while its government does not seem to be doing enough to especially address its housing challenges.
In a roundtable discussion organised by the state government in 2017, it was revealed that the population of the state, when added together, will be equal to that of 30 African countries and that by 2050, the city of Lagos will be occupied by 36 million people or more which will make it the sixth most populated city globally.
Meanwhile, as at 2017, the state had only 16,000km of road network with a daily traffic of 2.8 million cars; it also generated 2,000MW of electricity instead of 10,000MW that it really needs, while it was also revealed that it will need to build 1 million housing units yearly to fix its housing deficits and also boost its water supply to close to 800 million gallons of water per day.
Little wonder a city that dubs as Nigeria’s ‘centre of excellence’ for three consecutive times was ranked as one of the bottom five least livable cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In 2019, the Mercer quality of living city index, a global index that determines the quality of living using major indices such as infrastructures, health, socioeconomic and political environment, ranked Lagos as the 212th livable city in the world. It should be noted that in the same ranking, three of South Africa’s major cities, namely Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, were ranked amongst the top 100.