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Socialist Democracy April-May 2018


29 March 2018

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LAGOS: Is Ambode Truly Transforming Lagos?

By Lexan Ali

The 3 years of the Akinwumi Ambode's administration in Lagos can best be described as anything but transformative. This is because all of the steps taken, programmes being put in place and policies implemented by the led APC government in its purported quest to transform Lagos State, no matter how laudable and ambitious they may appear, are plagued with contradictions on all sides.

Yes, a number of roads have been built and repaired. At least over 100 roads were reportedly tarred in all LGAs last year. New bridges/flyovers are being built, Berger area has received a facelift with new pedestrian bridges that has relatively improved traffic. Similar projects are being undertaken at Agege Pencinema, reconstruction of Oshodi International Airport 10-lane road etc. But these projects are being carried out under the most undemocratic and corrupt conditions imaginable. But the bourgeois controlled media and APC sycophants who cannot see beyond their nose would want us to believe otherwise, as they continue to uncritically shower heap of praises on the state government over road projects.

But an analysis of what the state governor is doing to transform Lagos will leave you asking more questions than the government can provide answers for.

MEGA CITY FOR THE MEGA RICH

Take, for instance, one of the state government celebrated achievements is the state's Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which increased from N312.820 billion in 2016 to N503.7 billion in 2017. Record shows the Lagos State government since 1999 has had the highest IGR till date compared to other states but this has not translated into much in terms of real development projects that really impacts the lives and living conditions of the working people and poor masses in the state.

For example, the so-called development projects going on in some parts of the state are projects that at best are reduced to construction of overhead bridges, roads and beautification projects, through which huge public funds and resources are being diverted into private profits and pockets through Inflated Contract System and Concessioning. Despite being very expensive projects, most of the workers hired are casuals who are paid miserable wage.

But what is not being said however is that the massive IGR being generated by the state is being sustained on the basis of brutal exploitation of workers, traders, artisans, okada riders, bus drivers and other poor citizens of Lagos through multiple taxation. Meanwhile, the rich do not pay their fair share of tax. According to ActionAid Nigeria "the poor in Nigeria pay more in taxes than multinational oil and energy companies. "It is estimated that US$15 billion was lost to illegal financial flows each year, most of which is a result of harmful tax practices". At the moment, not only has Lekki Toll gate fee been increased, the state government has also introduced a huge percentage increase in land use charge. If this is not challenged, landlords will simply pass the cost to tenants which means rent and property prices will rise to the detriment of the working class and the poor.

Also these projects are largely concentrated on major roads while abandoning the terrible state of roads in the community. Where some of these developmental projects are going on, it has come at great cost to the residents whose houses or business properties were demolished by the state government or its agents without providing alternatives or paying compensation to victims. Examples include Igbogbo at Ikorodu, Oshodi, Pen Cinema and Owutu etc. In addition, these projects from the Tinubu, Fashola, down to the present regime are such that are awarded to cronies through the fraudulent contract system. As a result, they have become veritable means through which sections of the ruling party leadership and elite get corruptly enriched.

Worse still, in one of the instances in Otodo Gbame a waterfront community in the Lekki area of the state, despite protests and a court order that the state government suspends its planned demolition of shanties along creeks and waterways in the state, the residents were still forcefully evicted from their homes by the state government. At least half a dozen residents drowned during the process. These and more, are some of the horrors hidden behind the Lagos State transformation facade by the Ambode led APC government in the state.

DIRTIER LAGOS

Waste management is another big business opportunity for the state government and its big business partners in the private sector to exploit Lagosians while providing very poor services. Thus, despite introduction of the Private Sector Participation (PSP) in waste management by previous regime, at some point, street sides, roads, gutters and cart pushers increasingly became the places and means through which people dispose of their waste because of totally inadequate services provided by the operators . The adoption, unfortunately, of yet the same scheme, framed up as a "new" initiative called Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) and managed by a new private company known as Visionscape will make little or no difference from the norm. They are only in business to make profit and not for service delivery.

Already several workers of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) who were promised by the state government of absorption into the Cleaner Lagos initiative have been made redundant. This shows the rapidly pro-profit and anti-worker character of big business. But instead of making things better, the coming on board of Visionscape has worsened the situation. Today, many places in Lagos have become dumpsites with heaps of refuse dotting the landscape. Just as it happened with electricity privatization, what we are witnessing in Lagos is the incapacity and inability of the private sector to drive society's development. A pro-masses government would ensure an organized and thoroughly efficient waste disposal and management system through investment of huge public resources into the state public waste management service and its democratic control by committees made of up of representatives of workers and communities which would engage more hands not only in refuse disposal but in recycling of waste for alternative uses and generating energy.

BUILDING CASTLE IN THE SKY

The state government claim of creating jobs through the establishment of a Job Registration/Labour Exchange Centres across the state to register unemployed graduates for skill acquisition through the setting up of a N25 billion Employment Trust Fund is commendable. But going by the claim of the Akinwumi Ambode government for having so far empowered 5,500 people with the sum of N4.5 billion; given the state's population of over 18 million, with a teeming population of millions of unemployed youths, it shows how inadequate, insincere and unrealistic these measures are.

Rather, the failure of the ruling capitalist government since 1999 to the present regime of the "change mantra" of the APC in tackling the rapidly growing rate of unemployment amongst the graduate and youth population in Lagos and across country, has given way to the rising social tensions and growing youth restiveness in the state, manifested in rising cases of drugs and alcoholic abuse, cultism, growing crime rate and gang rivalry and killings amongst youths in the state.

Hence, the clean bill of health given on security matters in the state by the state government a mere propaganda stunt. Despite having spent more than N4.765 billion to procure series of security equipment and vehicles for effective and efficient policing, this has only given a leeway in encouraging police brutality and police robbery through illegal raids, arrest and detention of innocent citizens in communities across Lagos.

WHICH WAY FORWARD

Only a socialist economic programme of putting into public ownership and democratic management the key sectors of the economy as well as open and democratic control of revenue and projects by the working people can permit real and massive investment in public works programmes to develop and modernise public infrastructures and society as a whole. Neither the APC nor PDP stands for this kind of a program, only the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), a party that stands for the interest of workers, youths and the poor masses with a democratic socialist programme can come to the rescue.