By Hassan Sulaimon
Eight years after surviving the outbreak of Ebola endemic disease which was brought to its knees, Lagos, again, on February 24th contracted the spread of Corona virus, otherwise known as COVID -19. According to reports, an Italian arrived Nigeria on a Turkish Airline Flight that had a connection in Istanbul. After spending the night in a hotel near the airport, he arrived Ogun State on February 25thand resumed at his place of work. He stayed there until he developed a fever and body ache on the afternoon of February 26th. Health specialists and officers in his firm then contacted appropriate authorities, who subsequently transferred him to a curtailment facility in Yaba, Lagos.
Since 2012 till date, Lagos has become the worst hit of disease just because it serves as a viable entry into Nigeria. Almost every group in Nigeria and perhaps, West Africa is adequately represented in Lagos. Ethnic groups like Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Urhobo, Ijebu, Ebira, Ishan, Itsekiri, Ijaw and even those of West Africa sub region, especially Burkinabes, Togolese, Beninois, Senegalese, and even Nigerians. This makes Lagos an heterogeneous city and a socio-cultural hub attracting Nigerians, Africans and other Foreigners.
As the former capital of Nigeria, Lagos serves as the beehive of all residences of many foreign missions, representing different countries of the world which invariably contributes to the cultural diversity and cosmopolitan status of the city. Despite the allocation of about 10 billion grant by the federal government of Nigeria to Lagos to increase its capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot still need to be done. The statistics of people coming into Lagos and its population has also proved beyond doubt that Lagos is due for special status as recommended by Akinola Aguda Commission report of 1975.
In 1975, the military government in power set up a 7 man committee which included Justice Akinola Aguda as Chairman, Dr Tai Solarin, member, Col Monsignor Pedro Martins, member, Alhaji Muhammed Musa Isma, member, Chief Owen Feiban, member, Dr Ajato Gandonu, member, and Professor O.K Ogan with a view to arrive at blue print for the relocation of the federal capital and decongest Lagos. The committee which was set up by the late Murtala- Obasanjo regime submitted its report on December 10, 1975 earlier than its deadline of December 31, 1975. Part of the recommendations of the committee report was that certain percentage of successive governments’ budget should be given to Lagos to maintain existing federal government structure after the relocation of the federal capital from Lagos and also that Lagos should be awarded a special status.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Lagos has witnessed a lot of travelers who had to pass through the Muritala Muhammed Airport in Lagos and thus make Lagos to become the worse hit. While the pandemic continue rear its ugly head, the Chief of Staff to the President opted to be treated in Lagos. This option taken by the Chief of Staff to the president further revealed how strategic Lagos is to the overall growth of Nigeria. Still, the Lagos State House of Assembly has equally passed a bill aimed at curtailing the virus among Lagos residents. The law passed by the state house of Assembly further legalized any reactive measures put in place by the state government.
A look around most of the facilities left by the federal government since December 12, 1991 when it relocated to Abuja reveals deplorable condition. The old federal secretariat at Ikoyi is presently in a dilapidated condition with the compound full of outgrown weeds. Similarly, offices of Ministry of works, Housing, Trade and Commerce, Information, Physical planning and Urban Development all along Broad Street leading to CMS road are in a sorry state. Lagos is pivotal in Nigeria economy. It generates around 10% of the Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Lagos is the major information communication and Telecommunication hub of West Africa and potentially, the biggest ICT market in West Africa sub region. The port of Lagos is Nigeria’s leading port and one of the largest and busiest in Nigeria. The Nigeria ports are coordinated by the Nigeria Port Authority and it is split into main sections: Lagos port, in the main channel next to Lagos Island, Apapa Port (site of the container terminal) and Tincan Port, both located in Badagry Greek, which flows into Lagos Harbour from the West. There are also many tank farms in Apapa where oil reservoir is kept. Unfortunately, Apapa has become congested with containers and articulate Lorries as well as heavy duty vehicles competing with residents in the use of available spaces.
Lagos is also the home of music, motion pictures and films. Idumota market on the Lagos Island is the primary distribution centre for Nigerian films. Many films are shot in the Festac area of Lagos, where the World Festival of Black Arts was held. Iganmu is home to the epic centre for performing art. According to report, Paul Marcarthy recorded his fifth album, Band on The Run, in an Emi studio in Lagos in September 1973. Other artistes that have performed in Nigeria include: Sean Paul, Snoop Dogg, Usher, Shaggy, 50 Cent, R.Kelly, T Pain, Brian McKnight, Jayz, Man J Blige, Beyonce, Brandy, Clara, keri, Hilsom and Lauryn Hill among others.
A visit to Badagry through the Lagos – Badagry Expressway further exposes the degrading conditions in which Lagosians in this axis live with. The condition of the expressway, though under construction leaves much to be desired. There are lots of potholes, gullies and craters on this way. The Okokomaiko end of the way leading to Ajara are in terrible state during rainy season as it is often waterlogged. Motorists plying these routes spend long hours before getting to their destinations. More worrisome is the menace of Okada riders in this axis. Most of these Okada men who could possibly be from Chad, Niger , Togo and even Sudan drive recklessly without complying with the ban placed on them by the Lagos State Government . There is also the problem of noise pollution. The axis could be likened to a Banana Republic where anything and everything goes. There is also the problem of street beggars, miscreants, madmen and women roaming around daily in nudity.
I am of the candid opinion that all legislators representing Lagos at both House of Representatives and the Senate should embark on lobbying other legislators in the south- west, south- east, south- south, north west, north-east and north- west with a view to getting the special status for Lagos. There is no other time than now.
Hassan Suleiman is of the Dept of Journalism, School of Communication,