The proposed bill for a special status for Lagos to be presented to the National Assembly is long overdue. The bill, reportedly the handiwork of Senators Ganiyu Solomon, Oluremi Tinubu and Gbenga Ashafa representing Lagos West, Lagos Central and Lagos East, respectively, should be pursued to a logical conclusion.
Before the latest attempt to give the demand a legal garb, notable indigenes of the state have in the past 14 years been in the forefront of the agitation for a special status for Lagos State. Former Governor Bola Tinubu, Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN), an elder statesman and former Federal Commissioner for Works, as well as Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Oba of Lagos, have been unrelenting in their calls on this issue.
More importantly, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has shown unwavering resolve at every opportune time to demand this special status for the state. He stated unambiguously during last November’s Senate constitution review public hearing for the South-West geo-political zone at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja: “If Lagos does not prosper, prosperity will be difficult for other parts of Nigeria.”
Since 1976 when the Justice Akinola Aguda committee recommended Abuja as the future Federal Capital Territory (FCT), successive federal administrations immediately placed high premium on the new FCT, to the detriment of Lagos. By December 12, 1991 when the seat of federal power moved and Abuja officially gained its status as the capital of Nigeria, Lagos was completely abandoned by succeeding governments at the centre.
The Federal Government seems to have forgotten that Lagos will for long remain Nigeria’s economic focal point, generating a significant portion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Furthermore, most commercial and financial businesses are still carried out in the state’s Central Business Districts on the island and Ikeja, where leading banks and numerous major corporations and business concerns have their headquarters.
More interestingly, Lagos remains a repository of the nation’s diversities. The state witnesses, on a daily basis, the influx of the rich, poor, educated and un-educated, and of mostly the youths seeking greener pasture, from different parts of the country. This is because though the FCT might be the centre of gravity for policy formulations and decision making, including contract awards, the nation’s main industrial and commercial activities and the people have stayed back in Lagos because of its strategic location.
For sure, the demand for special status for Lagos is not gormless. Despite Lagos’ astronomically increasing population since the movement of the seat of power, the state’s successive administrations have been sustaining this ever-increasing population. The implication is that over time, the infrastructural facilities have become inadequate because the state government alone cannot cater to the needs of the people in the state. How can it, with Lagos remaining an attraction and host to over 85 per cent of ambitious youths; over 80 per cent of the country’s intelligentsia and above 85 per cent of the country’s critical industrial and commercial hub? There is no doubt that the state inevitably deserves the special status now more than ever before.
Therefore, the Lagos special status bill must be supported by all Nigerians who truly want the country to develop economically and industrially, irrespective of ethnic or tribal affiliations. The National Assembly members must not dilly-dally once the bill is presented before it. It is in our collective interest to get this status for Lagos.