Tuesday, May 25, 2021 10:54 am
On Monday, 24 May, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Commission. That was at the Presidential Lodge in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. It was, for the two states, a historic day. Governor Sanwo-Olu llisted areas of partnership to include infrastructural development in boundary cities, revenue and taxation remittances, trade and investment, resolution of boundary disputes; security intelligence sharing, environmental and physical planning, emergency and disaster management, inland waterways management, traffic management and food security.
A similar commission was set up in the past but it scattered like nine pins. Below is a story on how to not make this noble effort go the same way:
The Proposed Ogun, Lagos Joint Development Commission, Pitfalls to Avoid
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
Prince Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun state Governor-elect, held a strategic meeting with the state chapter of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and other members of the Organised Private Sector at the factory of the Flour Mills in Agbara, Ado-Odo-Otta local government of the state on Friday 12 April, 2019. That day, he revealed that his administration and that of his counterpart in Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo – Olu, had plans to establish a “Joint Development Commission” to drive the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of both states.
Residents of the communities on the borders of the two states (Magboro, Akute, Olambe, Matogun, Ope Ilu, Ota, Sango, Agbara, Arepo, Mowe, Ibafo, Ofada and others) received the promise with eclat. They set the social media aglow with optimism. Thank God it was a Friday. That revelation culminated in the puff of cigarette smokes, demolished squadrons of pepper soup bowls and felling of battalions of beer bottles at different watering holes in those communities. They had every reason to be happy. The two governors that followed each other, Gbenga Daniel and Ibukunle Amosun, did not touch the areas in terms of development. The roads, especially, looked as if some dragons from the pit of hell chewed them into pieces. Motorists who gnash their teeth every day as they drive to work curse people in high places who subjected them to slum condition. Thus, the communities have remained terra incognita till today.
The only trouble, however, is that Abiodun’s revelation, after the beer cleared from the brains of those who had traveled to cloud nine, gave rise to a sense of deja vu, because, it happened during the tenure of Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State and Bola Tinubu (and later Babatunde Raji Fasola) of Lagos. That time, the body, called Lagos Mega-City Development Authority, headed by the great geographer, Professor Akin Mabogunje, fizzled into oblivion with the speed of its arrival. This made Victor Oriola, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief at newsnowonline.com.ng to say: “I agree with TheNEWS, the same way Ondo/Ogun bungled the Olokola free trade zone because of ego and politics. That singular project would have provide thousand of jobs and industrialized the states. Talk is cheap. I hope Dapo Abiodun , the initiator of the program, will be able to pursue it to the logical conclusion.”
The idea was initiated by former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and for any major infrastructural development like water, land fill sites and so on, the federal government, as Mabogunje revealed in his 19 May 2015 interview with Thisday, would contribute 45 per cent, Lagos 40 per cent and Ogun state 16 per cent.
What, therefore, went wrong? Mabogunje revealed: “These were understandings which never materialised because once Fashola came in, the situation changed. We worked together very well during the administration of Bola Tinubu and I must say that Lagos got a lot of advantages from that working, a part of which, of course, became more difficult when Lagos backed-out of the whole arrangement and one of which has to do with the improvement in the rail movement of people in Lagos. It has been agreed that the rail from Marina to Iddo to Agbado should be constructed along the right of ways of the rail from Lagos-Kano, but once the arrangement between the two governments broke down, the federal government has not been excited about allowing Lagos state to go on with it. We have done other things, like, developing the landfill sites which would have involved both Lagos and Ogun states but since Lagos backed-out, the federal government also blocked its interest.”
The Professor went further:
“It was not exactly a negotiation, it was an agreement in which ministers of the federal government, commissioners of Lagos and Ogun states formed the development authority. So when there was problem, Lagos state, for instance, the third axial bridge was having problem, Lagos state raised it at the meeting and we had to do something about it. The same thing when there were problems of environmental pollution, because many of the pipes of the NNPC had become exposed, so we had to get the federal government to prevail on the NNPC to come and fix it. There were a number of things like that but when the government now says, my commissioners would not attend the meeting, that’s the end, that’s what happened.”
When asked why a governor should stop a commissioner from attending a meeting that would be beneficial to the state, Mabogunje replied: “I have no idea, you have to ask the governor. It must be political, I won’t want to x-ray an opinion but while it lasted, it was something that was benefitting the state. The mega-city report that we wrote, was written by the three bodies, Federal, Lagos and Ogun states and some of the issues that were raised, particularly transportation, were issues that would have eased and facilitated the movement of people in Lagos. Today, that right of way which we approved in 2007 is still to be approved, like I said, because Lagos state backed out.”
A former Lagos Commissioner for Physical Planning, Mr. Hakeem Gbajabiamila, in a 2014 interview, accused the Lagos State Government of straying from the original mega-city plan. In his words: “A mega-city is meant to have a mass transit facility. There is supposed to be a triangular corridor that was designed and should be from Ifo to Iddo to Okokomaiko and back to Ifo. That triangle should have been in place but that has not happened till now. We are grappling with trying to look for taxes to be able to fund such projects”
The pitfalls to avoid, therefore, are:
• Politicisation of a laudable project like this
• Not keeping one’s end of a counterpart funding arrangement
• Personality clashes, especially when Gbenga Daniel came in as Ogun governor
The good news is that Professor Mabogunje is still alive and he can be begged to start the process from where he stopped. With this, the two states will develop rapidly.
True. As Dapo Abiodun said during his meeting with MAN, as reported by The Nation, the proposal is geared towards enhancing rapid development and transformation of border communities of the two neighbouring states and that improved security and upgrading of infrastructures would form parts of the major thrust of his government in the Gateway state. In his words: “I have known the governor-elect in Lagos state, Babatunde Sanwo Olu for a long time and we have both agreed to set up a Joint Development Commission to enhance transformation at our border areas and also to enhance the IGR of the state.
There have been certain areas of collaboration between Lagos and Ogun. For example, the Lagos State Water Corporation giant reservoirs/tanks and pig farm (the largest in West Africa) are situated on Ogun State soil at Oke Aro and Agbado. In fact, Col Buba Marwa, a former military administrator of Lagos told TheNEWS in a past interview that his government constructed a road from Toyin in Lagos to Oke Aro, to link these two facilities. Also, the OPIC Plaza, is on Lagos soil, close to the Sheraton Hotels and Towers.
Many people who work in Lagos live in Ogun, a situation that made the two states to work out an arrangement for taxes of such workers to be remitted to Ogun as stipulated by law. In other words, where a man lives is where his taxe should be paid.
The Governor – elect was accompanied to the meeting by the Deputy Governor-elect, Engr. Noimot Oyedele – Salako, Otunba Rotimi Paseda, ex – Deputy governor in the state, Prince Segun Adesegun, immediate past Youth and Sports Commissioner, Mr Afolabi Afuape, Senator Gbenga Obadara and Hon. Babatunde Olaotan among others.
The chairman of the state branch of MAN, who is also the Managing Director, Rite foods Limited, Mr Saleem Adegunwa, said MAN would work “hand-in-hand” with the government to construct Atan -Agbara carriage road. “We are really excited about the presence of the. It is when there is enabling environment that we can be able to generate more funds for the government.”
*Ademola Adegbamigbe, Editor of TheNEWS (08055002056), first wrote this on Saturday 13 April 2019 on this platform