By Patrick Dele Cole
THERE is the concept of land grants for specific purposes. The land reverts back to the owners at the end of such use. 1861 Lagos became a Crown colony with a Governor, and an advisory legislative council. 1866, Lagos became part of the West African colonies with capital in Freetown. 1872 West African colonies were divided into two colonies, Sierra Leone and Gold Coast colonies. Lagos was placed under the Gold Coast colony. In 1886,
Lagos regained its status as a separate colony. In 1906, Lagos became part of Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and its capital remained in Lagos. 1914 the Northern and Southern Protectorate of Nigeria was created while Lagos remained its capital. In 1960, Lagos was chosen as Federal capital. However, from as early as the 1950s agitation for a separate Lagos state had begun and this was granted in 1967, when General Gowon granted in a 12 state structure of Nigeria.
In 1976, the Federal Government made Nigeria 19 States country. In the same exercise of this creation of States, Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Port Harcourt were made special areas, although no Government has done anything for these towns to warrant such appellation. But that should not stop us from holding the Government to account for its promises.
1967, the 12 States structure was aimed at isolating the Ibo. Could they have worked on restructuring them and perhaps avoid the war? Gowon after years in the office, after the great debate of diarchy, in 1974 declared that the politicians had not learnt their lessons and therefore the military and himself would not honour the promise to hand over to civilians in 1976. He was deposed in 1975 having rejected a Nine-point Political programme that was provided. Taking over, General Mohammed Murtala who announced the programme which included the creation of states, the building of a new Federal capital, setting up political parties, electoral reform, forming a new constitution, Local Government reform, etc. I was secretary of the creation of states panel, chaired by Justice Ayo Irekefe and therefore somewhat responsible for the special status on Lagos. Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Enugu. What does it mean?
Lagos State was created in 1967 but it continued to serve as the Federal Capital. It was clear to us that this dual capacity had to be compensated somewhat, as the Federal Government poised to choose a new capital. If so more responsibility would devolve on Lagos which would continue to remain the commercial capital of Nigeria: therefore more responsibility would be demanded of Lagos. Kaduna and Enugu were former regional capitals of the North and the East respectively. These cities would also bear considerable burdens with the exodus of goods, personnel and services to other newly created state capitals. Port Harcourt had suffered considerably during the civil war and needed a special status to meet its anticipated special needs. The panel did not think that Ibadan needed any special status as it was in fact more advanced than all the other towns mentioned in the special category list.
Lagos culture had to revitalise its culture which is now cosmopolitan. Old Lagos should also be revitalised as had been done in Bahia in Brazil, draining the whole of the area round the National Theatre, and the swamp behind the National Stadium, Brickfield road – into the lagoon and thus reclaiming acres of land for public recreation, entertainment and sports and urban renewal.
Lagos Ports and Airports should belong to all three levels of Government – Federal, State and Local Government with requisite funding and ability to raise funds through bonds, etc. This might well encourage greater transparency and less Government control in the form of the dozen or so Government organisations and agencies whose activities in these areas have been synonymous with inefficiency and graft. On the airports, before anything is done, a full inquiry should be undertaken to ascertain just what remains in Government hands and what had been sold, stolen or encroached upon over the years: what is owed to the Chinese etc. The approach roads to the airports to be beautified and widened and should lead to the airport and nowhere else. The travesty of having toll gates from local to international flights would have to be reviewed. The same structure should be applied to Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Enugu. Other recreational activities and beautification schemes would also be undertaken.
Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Enugu could do with urban renewal schemes, better management of open spaces, gardens, swimming pools and the building of iconic buildings and monuments in these cities. Incidentally, Abuja should be developed along the same lines – not something entirely left to the Federal Government to do. Admittedly one is advocating a rather cumbersome administrative set up where facilities are jointly owned and operated by the Federal State and Local Governments. As mentioned earlier this is not unique. New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Rotterdam are run along similar lines.
I am certain that if Lagos State, Apapa and Ikeja councils had a hand in the running of the Ports and Airports, they would be able to solve many menaces especially the congestion of trailers and petrol tankers that choke the airport and Sea port to death today