Lagos is more than just another state in the Nigerian federation. As the former capital of the country for 77 years (compared to the 28 years that Abuja has been the Federal Capital Territory) Nigeria’s largest metropolis still bears the heavy brunt of being the number one home for all Nigerians.
A former Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Babatunde Adejare, once estimated the number of people that come into Lagos everyday at 6,000. Most of these people are coming to make Lagos their new home in pursuit of personal dreams due to the opportunities the city-state seemingly possesses.
Unfortunately, most of them eventually join millions of the urban poor living in subhuman conditions and adding to the misery index of the population. This is because the modest efforts of the state government to upgrade social facilities such as schools, healthcare centres, the infrastructure, security, water and sanitation do not go far enough.
There are myriads of reasons for the call for a special status for Lagos apart from the aforementioned migration factor. Lagos still harbours a huge number of federal establishments which could not be moved to Abuja. These include military cantonments and barracks, Police, Customs, Immigration, Civil Defence, Prisons, Road Safety and security/intelligence establishments.
Lagos is home to Nigeria’s most functional ports at Apapa and Tin Can Island. It is also home to our largest and busiest international airport, with huge federal road corridors and the lion’s share of bridges, causeways and flyovers. All of them need constant maintenance in order to cope with the overbearing demands of the residents of the nation’s economic capital and cultural melting pot.
Even when Lagos was only about a fifth of what it has become today some 60 years ago, a special federal ministry was dedicated to it: the Lagos Affairs Ministry, which was headed by Alhaji Musa Yar’ Adua. We are not exactly calling for a new Ministry of Lagos Affairs. We are calling for the establishment of a department for Lagos affairs in the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory, whose mandate will be to carry out the Federal Government’s counterpart responsibilities as a complement to the efforts of the Lagos State Government.
Successive Lagos State governments have unfortunately responded to the Federal Government’s neglect of the city by also generally neglecting areas of heavy federal presence such as Apapa, Kirikiri, Ojo, FESTAC, Navy and Satellite Towns. These districts suffer criminal infrastructural neglect. The Federal Government simply exploits and abandons this city. These areas are largely ungoverned, and human beings live like animals.
This is unacceptable and contrary to the overall interests of the nation. Lagos must also be further decongested, with more ports developed and rehabilitated in the Eastern zones to help eliminate the intractable Apapa traffic gridlock.