IT is worrisome that Nigeria’s former capital and still its current economic capital, Lagos, is ranked the fourth most difficult city to live in the world.
A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, a subsidiary of The Economist, ranked Lagos as 137th out of 140 cities polled.
Among cities in the bottom 10were Dhaka (Bangladesh), Tripoli (Libya) Harare (Zimbabwe) and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea), the worst of the lot. Canadian cities Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, and Australia’s Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne were in the top 10 most liveable cities on earth.
Indices taken into account included stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure. Lagos is the flagship metropolis in Nigeria, setting the pace in most critical development areas due to its history, geographical location and residual federal infrastructure and institutions from its days as the political capital of Nigeria.
The survey draws attention to Nigeria as a country, not just Lagos State. What standards do we apply in developing our cities?
How do we want our people to live? The indices used in the cities’ survey are largely covered in the 15-year Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which the United Nations launched in 2000. Nigeria largely ignored the initiative and is at the verge of not achieving any of the goals by 2015.
Best indications that Nigeria participated in the MDGs are many abandoned construction projects round the country that bear the MDGs sign boards.
The failure of the MDGs pulls more people into Lagos. People seeking opportunities they think exist in the city – the skilled, the unskilled, and criminals – come in their numbers. Everyone thinks there is something in Lagos for him. In such situations, developing infrastructure to meet the elastic needs of the city is more challenging.
The MDGs offered opportunities for Nigeria to wholesomely develop her peoples and places. The neglect of the MDGs meant that poverty kept growing without any effective initiatives to tackle it. With fewer cities offering the seeming opportunities in Lagos, it became more attractive and its infrastructure further suffered.
Again, since the relocation of the capital to Abuja in December 1992, maintenance of federal infrastructure in the city has been neglected. The impact on the city shows.
If Lagos is to be redeemed from this parlous situation, the state government must work at better partnerships, principally with the Federal Government, and the private sector to re-develop the city.
It is important too that other States adopt similar initiatives to develop their principal cities, such that the choices available to Nigerians increase.
There are better reasons to develop Lagos, and other Nigerian cities, than global rankings – Nigerians deserve to live in healthy and sustainable environments.