Vanguard (Lagos)

21 June 2014

Nigeria: How Under-Development Affects Economic Growth

The desire for Nigeria to catch-up with the developed world is high among Nigerians. Notably Nigeria has a long way to go in catching-up with the world in terms of infrastructure and urban development. These two elements are very crucial in attracting businesses and investors.

Urban development in Nigeria took the front burner during former President of Nigeria tenure, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, whose patriotic zeal lead to the appointment of Nair El-Rufai, then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to take on violators of the capital territory's master plan in combatant style.

This was a brave decision as many beautiful houses were pulled down and many toes stepped on in the bid to get housing and other urban development to conform to the original master-plan of the Abuja FCT. Interestingly, El-Rufai demonstrated enough courage in attempting to stick to the development plans laid down before the administration that appointed him came to power.

This saw many houses, shanties erected in violation of the FCT's master-plan pulled down. Even government officials were not spared, the bulldozers under El-Rufai's command. Nigerians loved this action Minister for enthroning the laws over men, no matter how highly placed.

It has to be said that while the El-Rufai reign lasted, the pain was severe but well meaning Nigerians commended the strength, character and vision shown by him.

Sadly enough, less than 10 years after the exit of Obasanjo, the FCT is gradually becoming defaced with no Minister showing strong enough resolve to follow the foot print of the then minister of FCT. Environmentalists are now taking solace in the drive by the Gov Babatunde Raji Fashola administration to position Lagos as a megacity.

This drive is commendable because it has seen the visionary governor set up professional agencies like the Lagos State New Towns Development Agency to ensure the vision is achieved. El-Rufai and Fashola share the common character of championing the supremacy of the law over men, irrespective of social, religious, political or economic status.

This has seen Lagos State become a reference point on discipline and rule of law in Nigeria's democracy. The strong leadership disposition of Gov Fashola has seen opinion leaders from other states call on their governments to take a cue from him leadership.

This good reputation has come under several tests that Gov Fashola had passed. There is another test, though with news filtering out that few residents of Lekki Phase 1 estate have beaten their chests that the master-plan of the estate will not stand. Nigerians are wondering, who's responsibility it is to plan estates.

The late Moshood Abiola with all he represented and represents in Nigeria did not champion any class system that killed businesses or confined other citizens behind the walls or to a safe distance from his residence. He lived in a people's area of Ikeja and all manners of businesses, so long as they were legal, existed close to his residence. His cherished and well respected family still lives there with common people and businesses as neighbours!

There is inherent danger in having a state government under Gov Fashola order the stoppage of certain commercial developments at Lekki Phase 1 estate upon the complaint of people who can boast of having the ears of those that matter!

This could lead to impudence and decadence. Laws are made for men and when men feel they are above the law, it spells anarchy, mostly if they carry on as such. The drift of society towards anarchy is often gradual and Lagosians must watch out for those minded towards possessing the State under any guise as this might derail the ship of state.

If claims that some powerful individuals are using every means possible to stop businesses from going on with developments provided for in the master-plan of elite estates like the Lekki Phase 1 are true, it leads to a certain kind of fear that must be guarded against if the opinion of common people like my humble self is to be addressed to avoid setting an avoidable dangerous precedence.

Should this handful of people succeed in altering the master-plan laid out by the LSNDA, it makes a statement that whoever does not like the master-plan of the estate of his/her residence can follow the footsteps of these fellows and alter it to suit personal motives. This is clearly avoidable.

The issue that comes to mind on this is: 'Should the government bow to this pressure, stop the commercial developments at the Lekki Phase 1 estate, understood to include a filling station designed to international standards altering the master-plan in the process.

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