By Niyi Anibaba
That Nigeria’s economy is not healthy is no longer news. However, the effect of the economic downturn is fast manifesting across the country. While some states can no longer paying workers’ salaries regularly, some are forced to visit Abuja with cap in hand, hoping for bail out from the government at the centre.
But despite the economic challenges, Lagos State seems to be surmounting the odds and breaking new grounds.
With a population of over 22 million people, the state has continued to witness an influx of Nigerians from other states and citizens from neighbouring countries on daily basis, stretching its infrastructure.
Economic experts attribute Lagos ability to remain buoyant in the midst of the economic uncertainties to the dexterity of the man at the helm of affairs, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
Since assuming office on May 29, 2015, Ambode has proved his financial acumen in many ways than one, which has, among other things, led to the growth of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
The governor is not oblivious of the fact that Lagosians expect nothing less from him, but to build on the legacies of his predecessors, hence his economic policy is focused on exploring new ventures to shove up its IGR to N30billion by 2017 and N50billion by 2018.
At every opportunity, he does not hesitate to tell anyone who cares to listen about the potentials of Lagos emerging as Africa’s biggest economic hub in no distant future.
To achieve this, Ambode is mapping out strategies to complete some landmark projects under construction, while plans are also in top gear to embark on new ones.This was the focus when he recently embarked on a tour of the Eko Atlantic City (EAC) Project.
The EAC is a multi-billion dollar project sitting on over 10million square metres and is expected to accommodate over 150,000 people who would reside there and another 250,000 who would work and commute within the city on daily basis.
So far, out of the over 10 million square meters of the project, about six million square meters have been reclaimed, while there are 15 bridges and two tunnels designed with the project.
To Ambode, the EAC, on completion, would go a long way to, not only boost the economy of Lagos but also increase its IGR. Accompanied on the tour by members of the State Executive Council, the governor pledged the total commitment of his administration towards the success of the project, saying it would go a long way to facilitate the quest to grow the potentials of the state economy.
His words, “I would like to express the total support of this government to this project because, at the end of the day, we need to grow the economy of Lagos and this, obviously, is going to have multiplier effect on our IGR. We promise that we are going to grow our IGR to N30bn by 2017 and N50bn by 2018 and this project is a sure outlet in achieving that goal.”
Satisfied with the infrastructure in place at the EAC, the governor said it now behoves on investors to take advantage of the massive opportunities, while commending the promoters of the EAC for their confidence in committing huge resources to the Nigerian economy, which, according to him, was a positive sign that Nigeria remains the investment hub in Africa.
Ambode also took time to inspect the 8.5km long shoreline wall, otherwise known as the ‘Great Wall of Lagos’, built to protect the EAC, saying it was gratifying that the project will not only protect the new city, but also protect the whole of Victoria Island against any ocean surge.
He continued: “This is a new and a bigger version of Victoria Island. We are going to have an Energy City here, a financial hub that is more or less going to run under a Free Trade Zone and so on.
“Basically, all these put together turns Lagos to that leader that we want it to be in Africa and the quality of infrastructure that has been put here is also encouraging.
“I just want to encourage other investors and other people who had taken one step or the other in respect of the Eko Atlantic City that the time is now because in another one and half years, this place will be something else”.
Chairman of Eko Atlantic City, Mr. Ronald Chagoury, said one of the first two residential buildings in the new city will be completed by the end of August, while the second will be ready before the end of the year, adding that the first office block will be ready between September and October, 2016.
Chagoury described the project as an impressive financial district which upon completion, would compare with the financial district in Paris, France and the 5th Avenue in New York, United States.
He added that the ‘Great Wall of Lagos’ was designed to withstand ocean surge and that it was built to last for 1,000 years.
Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, whose bank is the major partner with the promoters of the EAC and Lagos State government, said aside the fact that adequate arrangement had been made to protect the city, the project was all about saving the state and creating a new tomorrow for people to live in Lagos.
He added that with the project, the land that was lost over time to Bar Beach had been reclaimed, adding that investors and interested people need not entertain any fear as to the safety of the city.
Meanwhile, Ambode has his eyes on seeing the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) take off.
Prior to his visit to the EAC, the governor had accompanied Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the LFTZ to inspect the level of work on the projects being carried out by the Dangote Group.
The Zone, which has the capacity to shoot Lagos to global economic reckoning, among other budding industries and multinational companies, is host to Dangote Group, developers of an $11 billion world class refinery with a processing capacity of 650,000 barrels of oil per day.
Dangote Group is also embarking on a fertilizer plant and a gas plant, all in one location. Speaking to journalists after a tour of the projects which lasted about two hours, he governor said projects being undertaken by Dangote at the Zone would significantly boost the economy of Lagos and have multiplier effects on the nation’s economy.
He said the projects would also be critical to the economic growth of Lagos East and West Senatorial Districts, which according to him, will be open to massive investment opportunities on completion.
Ambode said the decision of the Vice President to lead the inspection visit to the projects was a signpost to the benefits inherent not just for the state but also the nation, while pledging to provide support to ensure that the projects are completed within schedule.
The governor is excited that, apart from the 135,000 direct jobs that will be created from the projects, another 100,000 indirect jobs would be generated while income accruable to the Federal Government.