By Adekunle Adekoya
A fortnight ago discourse began in this column on the above subject matter. I could not continue last week due to space constraints; the serial of Chris Uwaje’s column, which dwelt on a similar subject matter as it concerns air transport infrastructure took precedence. I now return to the issue.
According to Caragliu et al (2009), quoted in Wikipedia, “a city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement.”
Also, the smart city concept was forwarded as the next stage of urbanization, and organizations such as the European Union have devoted resources towards its actualization.
Right now, Lagos has the status of a mega city, which is generally accepted to be a city with a population in excess of 10 million people. It is however projected that by 2015, a mere two years away, the population of Lagos will hit the 25 million mark. That will be an increase of 16 million from the 9,113,605 recorded for Lagos in the 2006 census, in just nine years! Incredible, but that is not a matter for today.
Back to Lagos as a smart city, and the definition quoted above. Everyday experience indicates that we are very far from a smart city. Though there have been huge investments in the last decade in infrastructure, especially roads in the city, they have had a limited impact as roads are being built by only the state government. The major arteries in the city belong to the Federal Government, which only recently woke up to its responsibilities in the state.
The local governments that should complement efforts of the state government by building and repairing feeder roads are out of the picture as a result of financial strangulation. Worse, there is no metro, while the Railways (another federal body) is as good as not being there. The only line into and out of Lagos is still the one bequeathed by the colonial government; the Railways has seen no improvement in more than 50 years.
Water transportation as an option is also not available. As a result, everybody who must move are on the roads, which are choked and crack repeatedly.
The most negative thing that has happened to road transportation has been a total lack of regulation. This abominable vacuum has been filled by the transport unions and their overlords, resulting in perhaps the most unfriendly transport system in the world. LAMATA’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) started out as a viable alternative; franchisees operating various bus services are just the old “molue system”dressed in new robes. A major problem of the public transport system is what I see as deliberate refusal of drivers (danfo, molue, etc) to obey traffic rules. They drive as if they are the only road users, caring not a hoot for others.
The first movement towards being a smart city, in my book, therefore should begin with development and integration of all available means of transport. Lagos State Government, with its huge resources cannot do it alone; massive private sector investment must be in play for any appreciable result to be achieved in a decade.