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Lagos: The making of a megacity

By Jerry Asiegbu

THE need to clean up Lagos and make it worthy of its status as the seat of the government of the federation had long been stressed before Gen. Ibrahim Babanginda moved the nation’s capital to Abuja in 1992.

Such genuine efforts started with the Buhari/ldiagbon administration in 1984, when the national clean-up exercise was instituted. Every last Saturday of the month was declared a clean-up day between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.

This regime demolished so many illegal structures in Lagos to give the city a face lift. Many people including miscreants were dislodged from their places of business and hide-outs as a result of this.

The War Against Indiscipline (WAI) Brigade launched about the same time was on hand to enforce compliance. Prize was instituted for the first time for the cleanest state capital. Owerri, Imo State capital , was the first to win the Nl million prize.

However, with the overthrow of the Buhari/ldiagbon administration, government’s interest and effort to give Lagos a befitting status waned as people went back to rebuild the demolished structures, and things continued the way they were before.

But it became a mix of wailing and jubilation one early morning in 1990, when the then governor of Lagos State, Col. Raji Rasaki, rolled in the bulldozers at Maroko, a Lagos slum, and in a matter of hours, the eyesore that was Maroko was no more.

There was uncontrollable wailing because so many people lost their entire possessions in one fell swoop and had nowhere to go.

It is no exaggeration to say that there was no street in Lagos where property of former Maroko residents were not kept. In some cases, some personal effects were left on the streets to the elements. On the other hand, there was jubilation all over the city because the Maroko shame had been removed.

Again in 1996, the then Minister of Works and Housing, Major- Gen. Abdulkarim Adisa, started another round of demolition and cleaning up of Lagos. But with his removal as minister, Lagos bounced back to its “pig” status.

The plan to make Lagos a megacity was espoused during the eight years rule of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor. The present governor, Babatunde Fashola, who was then Chief of Staff to Tinubu was among the eggheads who were assembled by that administration to draw up a comprehensive masterplan to develop Lagos as a megacity in line with its mega population, though this has been a controversial issue, having been allotted a population of 10 million by the National Population Commission in the latest census against 16 million estimated by the Lagos State government.

The actual declaration of Lagos as a megacity was made by Governor Fashola in 2007 after his inauguration as governor. The President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, wasted no time in declaring Federal Government’s support for the megacity project, and not just that, included Ogun State in the project because of its nearness and influence on Lagos.

Today, the signs are obvious that the march to Lagos megacity has begun. The state government has started with the determined and sustained effort to deliver Lagos from long years of abandonment and abuse. Nearsly every drainage has been cleared and opened up.

Those who blocked the drainage with illegal structures are now licking their wounds as their structures have all been demolished.

All illegal signs posts with which the owners had messed up the Lagos environment for so long have been removed. On Sunday, January 4, the notorious Oshodi was visited by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and its task force.

In a matter of hours, Oshodi was “liberated” from “enemy forces”. Today, Oshodi is a beauty to behold: The rail lines are cleared, vehicles move freely on the roads and pedestrians walk their ways unimpeded.

All other areas in Lagos are witnessing the same physical transformation, such as Ojuelegba in Surulere, Cele bus-stop on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, Mile 2, lyana Ipaja, Mushin, Ikotun, among others.

Evil, indeed, has thrived for so long in Lagos. And when evil thrives for so long in a place, it tends to be regarded as tradition, and anyone who rises up against this long established evil will be seen as disrupting the norm.

This is the situation in Lagos now. Many residents see Gov. Fashola as their enemy because according to them, he has deprived them of their sources of livelihood, though majority are showing appreciation and great understanding.

Some residents who were recently sampled by Vanguard’s Oboh Agbonkhese for Peoples Speak page of Thursday, January 15, said it all.

Jimoh Adisa, a dealer in chemicals, said: “Governor Fashola’s activities in Lagos State are long over due. 1 have been in Lagos since 1977, so, 1 know what I am saying. People just buy land and build without plans and approval.

The result is flood and other disasters. Therefore, for those who are losing their means of livelihood, someone must make some sacrifice for changes to occur. My shop has been destroyed too. If anybody has C of O, he should go to the government for compensation”.

A petty trader, Mrs. Bhadmus, added: “Fashola is doing very well. I am with him 100 per cent. Where I earn my daily bread has been destroyed, but I know it is for the good of everybody. Besides, we voted for him and therefore, we have given him the power to do what he considers best for us.

You will agree with me that Lagos is taking on a new look. However, the government should build a new place for us to do our business. Many of us are widows who have children in schools”.

Also, Mr. Paul Onyeaku. a businessman, has this to say: “1 appreciate what Fashola is doing. If you want a megacity, the roads must be good, so he knows what he is doing. For once, we are seeing a leader who talks with action.

Those people who are losing houses and stores to the demolition squad are stubborn, for a long time, the government has been telling everyone to make preparation for such a time as this.

However, 1 plead with the government to help them with a little compensation.” But Mr. Sunny White, a trader, who felt embittered said: “Bad, very bad, Lagos State government is not treating me fairly at all.

The question the government should answer is where do these displaced PROFESSOR Omo Omoruyi, the Director of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies has suggested creation of more cities in the Niger Delta to bring development closer to the people.

Mr. Asiegbu is a staff of Vanguard Newspapers.

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