17 December 2019
Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State said last week: “Thousands of people come into the city [Lagos] without plans, and we do not have any border control to mitigate this. A lot of people come into Lagos and they really don’t even have a place (to stay). They do not have a means where the next meal is going to come from; they do not know where they are going to sleep and that’s the reality”. He added: “People erect makeshift shanties but you also have NGOs that say you can’t remove them”. The reality is that the governor is blaming the victims of poor governance for the reality that they dwell in slums or are homeless. Two-thirds of the population of Lagos, a city with an estimated population of 21m, live in slums.
What the governor is trying to do is deflect attention from governance failures and pin the blame on those “non-indigenes” that left their states to come and make a living in Lagos. This tactic also plays the old divide and rule chestnut in which the xenophobia of locals is weaponised against people that are seen as “other”. It is “dog whistle” politics that has little to do with reality.
While overpopulation presents a challenge to the government of the state, the reasons for this are hardly mentioned, neither are the benefits, so there is little chance of coming up with a solution. Firstly, every Nigerian has a constitutional right to adequate shelter. Section 16(2)(d) holds that: “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens”. It doesn’t exclude citizens that “come into Lagos without plans”.
Sanwo-Olu should address what he has done to fulfil this constitutional requirement as he swore an oath to uphold the constitution when he took office in May. If he wants to claim that the government can’t possibly cater for all those that come to Lagos without a “plan”, where are his plans to provide suitable accommodation for the Lagosians that have lived there for decades? Naijiant.com has previously suggested state governments support the provision of relatively cheap and decent accommodation for people of modest means with these units that cost as little as $12,000.
But there is no plan to provide housing or any other social programmes for the people of Lagos State because much of the revenue available to the state finds its way into the pockets of the likes of the governor’s puppet-master Bola Tinubu. The billions that Tinubu has acquired from his two terms in office from 1999 and installing his puppets as governor since then, with some people tagging him as Nigeria’s longest-serving governor, should have gone a long way in reducing slum-dwelling in Lagos.
Additionally, governor Sanwo-Olu said nothing about why people from all over Nigeria tend to move to Lagos. This is mainly for historic and economic reasons. Lagos was Nigeria’s capital until 1991 and has remained the commercial capital. Most of Nigeria’s industries, businesses, financial institutions, and so on have their headquarters in Lagos. It also has Nigeria’s premier international airport and major seaports. Despite the Nigerian constitution stating in Section 16(2)(a) that “the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development”, very little has been done by successive federal governments to shift the focus of economic activity from Lagos and address this imbalance that leads to a shortage of opportunities in other states and overpopulation in Lagos. Airports such as Enugu lack the necessary infrastructure to attract international traffic, thereby reducing the reliance on Lagos and facilitating the type of economic growth in the southeast region that would help curb the influx of people into Lagos. It is a similar story with the ports in Warri, Calabar and very little progress being made with opening up inland waterways.
While the Lagos State governor may be excused for failures at federal level, it is still his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) that has been in control at that level since 2015 and has presided over – just like previous regimes – planlessness with little economic development, balance or unbalanced. This failure then manifests itself in overcrowded shanties in Lagos. The governor then ignores the causes, focuses on the effects and resorts to blaming the victims. If they came to Lagos “without plans”, it appears the governor’s only plan is to divert attention from the grand larceny that is going on in the state under his nose, coordinated by his puppet-master.