Lagos And The Revenue Generation Illusion -By Gozie Irogboli – Opinion Nigeria

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Another critical thing we should not lose sight of when discussing the so-called revenue from Lagos is the huge cost associated with maintaining the federal government facilities cluttered in Lagos. The Federal government spends a huge chunk of tax-payers money annually to service our common wealth that is domiciled in Lagos.
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Since the incipient democratic dispensation in 1999 when Obasanjo committed the inexcusable blunder of refusing initially to implement the 13% revenue derivation allocation to Niger Delta States as provided in the constitution and the Resource Control and the militancy agitation that ensued in the region, Obasanjo’s kinsmen in the South-West who had voted against the 13% provision in the build-up to the 1999 constitution, began the diversionary propaganda about Lagos being the main source of revenue with which the country is run in an attempt to diminish the contribution of the oil-rich Niger Delta to national treasury. This propaganda became more loudened after another constitutional blunder by Raji Fashola the erstwhile Lagos State governor who committed the atrocious act of arresting some Igbo people resident in Lagos, kept them in a sub-human condition in a warehouse in a Nazi-like camp that claimed the lives of some of them and surreptitiously dumped them under the Upper Iweka Bridge in Onitsha in the wee hours of the morning of Wednesday July 14, 2013 having previously deported the first batch of over a hundred people on September 18, 2012. It was in response to the outcry and the umbrage that attended Fashola’s fiendish act that heightened the misleading campaign about Lagos revenue generation narrative. Those who tried to justify Fashola’s crude way of decongesting Lagos tried to paint a bizarre and deceptive picture of benevolent-hosts-and-toxic-guests relationship between the said owners of Lagos and the non-indigenes. Again, Kemi Adeosun the former finance minister in whose tenure the economy was plunged into recession and who was deposed for certificate forgery added fillip to the Lagos revenue generation gimmick during her time when she declared that the economic model they copied at the federal level was that of Lagos that contributes more than half of Federal revenue from VAT. And now that Tinubu the former Lagos State governor emerged as the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, the spin-masters in the press have pushed out the narrative once again in order to bolster Tinubu’s electoral campaign.
But a closer look will show that the said revenue generation canard is a mirage and a ruse designed to hoodwink the people. Some concerned citizens have always asked albeit in hushed tones what contribution the South-West region makes to the national treasury given that the oil deposit in the country are in the South-East and South-South regions while the bulk of the nation’s agricultural produce come from the Northern region. So, it is also probably in answer to this silent query that informed the Lagos revenue generation chicanery.

Gozie Irogboli
Gozie Irogboli

Also, there is another dimension to the Lagos revenue generation gimmick which is intended to present the authorities in Lagos as creative leaders who have developed Lagos while presenting others especially South-East and South-South leaders as failures who refused to develop their regions; the aim being to push the blame for the criminal neglect of those two regions by the Federal Government to their leaders. On the whole, the purpose of the sponsors of the Lagos revenue generation chicanery is that they want to create in the minds of the ignorant members of the public the impression that the people inhabiting Lagos especially Ndigbo should be grateful to the so-called owners of Lagos, who have creatively developed their area, for being so benevolent and accommodating and so should always show gratitude by doing their bidding always.
Although some informed individuals know about all this misleading propaganda yet many are taken in by it. But the questions the gullible public never bothered to ask are: Who built/developed Lagos? Why are some people claiming Lagos as exclusively theirs? What are the sources of the said Lagos State revenue? How much of these revenues come from Lagos State government investment? How much comes from those who claim ownership of Lagos? Why do we have many economic entities—individual and corporate—clustered in Lagos? What has Lagos State Government put in place to attract investors? What is the budget for maintaining and upgrading Federal Government installations that are clustered all over Lagos? And of what use has Lagos put its obvious advantage over other states in uplifting the quality of lives of the residents? Clearly, finding answers to these pertinent questions will help us ascertain whether Lagos State actually generates revenue or collects rent for Federal Government or is even a drain pipe to national treasury.
The truth is that Lagos is built by the Federal Government and the generality of Nigerians and not those that lay claim to exclusive ownership of it. Being the former capital of the country, there is the preponderance of federal investments and installations in Lagos more than any other place in the country and that explains the demographic gravitation of people and businesses into Lagos. And so, people are clustered in Lagos because of the federal presence and not because those who claim to own Lagos are accommodating contrary to the misleading claim being bandied around. Those who lay claim to ownership of Lagos do not own up to 10% stake of what is in Lagos. The seaports, the international airport, the bridges, the major roads and the other facilities that make Lagos what it is are owned by the Federal Government. The so-called revenues are collected from the many individuals and corporate entities doing business in Lagos as a result of the existence of these facilities built from the national treasury. The revenues come from taxes by residents and business entities. The taxes are not collected from the “area-boys and the omoniles”. All the banks and major blue chip companies have their headquarters in Lagos and pay taxes in Lagos. Why should the oil companies drill oil in Niger Delta and operate their headquarters in Lagos and pay their taxes in Lagos? The major business proprietors and importers in Lagos are not the area-boys and “alayes” who claim ownership of Lagos but Ndigbo. The Igbo business men own over 90% stakes in Lagos International Trade Faire Complex Markets, Alaba International Market, Ladipo Market, Idumota Market, Computer Village and other major markets in Lagos. So, those making the misleading assertion that the Igbo are in Lagos because Tinubu developed Lagos or that the so-called owners are accommodating are clearly hypocritical. Nigerians are crowded in Lagos because of the existence of our common wealth therein. Because of the seaport and the international airport all the importers are clustered in Lagos and pay their taxes in Lagos. The seaports in the Niger Delta are deliberately kept non-functional while there is no functional international airport in the whole of South-East and South-South. The Enugu International Airport which Goodluck Jonathan tried to upgrade was downgraded immediately the current regime came to power in 2015 because some myopic minds feel it is against their interest to allow it function.
Another critical thing we should not lose sight of when discussing the so-called revenue from Lagos is the huge cost associated with maintaining the federal government facilities cluttered in Lagos. The Federal government spends a huge chunk of tax-payers money annually to service our common wealth that is domiciled in Lagos. All the Federal Government agencies and facilities scattered all over Lagos are maintained by the Nigerian tax-payers’ money not by those who claim ownership of Lagos. For instance, in the 2022 appropriation, the budget for Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) where the bulk of import and export are done is put at 253.47 billion naira. And for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the 2022 budget is about 188 billion naira and out of this, over 71 billion naira is earmarked for capital expenditure the bulk of which will be used to maintain airport facilities in Lagos. Has anybody bothered to ask how much is the budget for the development of the South-East and the South-South where the oil revenue come from? The budget for Niger Delta Ministry and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) put together, for 2022 is 123 billion naira which is less than one half of the budget for NPA. Why then should we expect less from him whom much is given? Is it not an aberration? As a matter of fact those who claim ownership of Lagos should be grateful to the Federal Government and to Nigerians for the facilities in Lagos and more especially to Ndigbo, the nation builders who have contributed in no small measure for the development of Lagos from their labor and creative ingenuity.

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It is therefore ridiculous for those who erroneously lay claim to ownership of Lagos to think that everything in Lagos is theirs and that the perceived visitors are their subjects that should be grateful to them for being such a wonderful host. Moreover, they are myopic and restrictive in their thinking and actions. They see Lagos as the center of their world and they want to do anything to protect it including frustrating development elsewhere. Those in the past who had attempted to put development projects outside Lagos are branded enemies of Lagos. IBB, Jonathan and Stella Oduah are examples in this regard. Innosson is still being vilified despite his ingenious inventions for having the audacity to site his car assembly plant outside of Lagos. The Federal Government assets in Lagos are our common wealth and patrimony and not the property of those who claim ownership of Lagos. It takes a huge slice from our national treasury annually to maintain those national assets. The Gwaris of Abuja have never come out to harass Abuja residents in the name of the owners of the land. So, those who lay claim to ownership of Lagos should learn to be humble and grateful for the obvious advantage they had over others.
Thus, in actuality, what comes out of Lagos when juxtaposed with what is pumped into it in terms what it costs to service our common assets that are jam-packed in Lagos is mere pittance. By my estimate, the correlation between what is pumped into Lagos in terms of costs and what comes out of it in terms of spread and development is negative. The unhealthy concentration of our national assets in Lagos to the exclusion of other regions especially the South-East and the South-South regions constitutes serious blight on the development of the nation. It has created serious regional imbalances and serious socio-political backlash that has stymied development efforts in the other regions.
On account of Federal allocation, Lagos receives the lion share but ironically, Lagos is the most heavily indebted state in the country. As at the first quarter of 2022 Lagos is riddled with the debt burden to the tune of over 780.48 billion naira according to information from Debt Management Office (DMO) and yet it has federal presence and has the worst sub-urban environment in Nigeria. Where then do the allocations go? Those who have held sway in the affairs of Lagos especially since 1999 have exhibited clear lack of tact and administrative ingenuity. Tinubu’s preferment and enthronement of the reign of area-boys and agberos during his time and Fashola’s resort to “deporting” fellow citizens as a way of decongesting Lagos and the sponsored antagonism against non-indigenes exemplifies incorrect diagnosis, lack of grasp with the situation and poor leadership conceptual skills needed to tackle the challenges of a cosmopolitan and multicultural setting like Lagos. That is why despite the head start over every other city in Nigeria and its obvious advantages and multiple streams of revenue, Lagos remains one of the worst cities to live in, in the world today. According the Global Liveability Index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit recently, Lagos is rated as one of the worst places to live in the world. Of the 172 cities rated in the world, Lagos was in the 171st position, ahead of only the Syrian war-torn capital, Damascus. Lagos residents live like hostages who never want to return to Lagos once they have the opportunity of experiencing life elsewhere. This is what those who rule Lagos gave us, a mega slum with degrading physical and social environment where social miscreants reign and where building collapse every day like raindrops from the sky. What the supposed developers of Lagos gave the nation in spite of everything which undoubtedly is a reflection of the dirty life-style and the poor cultural habits of those who claim ownership Lagos is indeed a chaotic and dirty city.
The question that should nudge our minds now is: how did we get to this point of over concentration of national assets at a fixed location? The provenance of this state of affairs is traceable to the country’s development model. The development model Nigeria bequeathed to us is the Center-periphery model which is a colonial hangover. The practice of the colonial administrators was usually to develop their places of abode usually the administrative headquarters in the colonies and neglect the other districts. At independent, Nigeria continued with center-periphery practice. The spatial/regional inequalities was worsened by the centralization of revenue allocation immediately after the war and after the consolidation of revenue following the recommendations of Aboyade Commission set up by Obasanjo in 1978 wherein the states became like mere appendages to the Federal Government and began to function as Federal Government parastatals that depend on Federal Government for revenue and development. However, it was only during the first republic, that the regions were relatively allowed to function independently and to grow at their own pace.
Nigeria’s first Development plan 1962-1968, despite the inherent weaknesses in the plan, the financial and manpower constraints, that was disrupted during the civil war, some major landmark projects were executed during that period. The key projects executed then which included the Nigerian Security and Minting Plant in Lagos, the Jebba Paper Mill, the Sugar Mill, the Niger.

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Bridge in Onitsha, the Kaingi Dam and Port Harcourt Refinery among others were spatially distributed across the country. But the military intervention in our national politics upturned our development trajectory. The second and third development plans 1970-1974 and 1975-1980 despite the jumbo budget concentrated its projects mainly in Lagos to the exclusion of other areas thereby creating acute regional imbalance. The result was demographic pull into Lagos and that was the genesis of the problem.
A cursory look at our economic history will show the devastating effects of this anti-development model on our political economy. Indeed, it was a strategic risk to have everything sited in Lagos. It is suffocating, restrictive and dangerous. It has dire political, social and economic implications. It is predatory and parasitic; it tipped our socio-economic modularity as a heterogeneous nation. In the economic sphere, it exacerbated rural to urban migration with its unsavory effects, poor investment, lack of infrastructure, pressure on existing economic infrastructure etcetera. While the model may have some positive spread effect in some places, what we have in Nigeria is the backwash effect—negative externalities—high rent, overcrowding, unemployment, high dependency burden, crime and other sociopathic behaviors. As a political tool, it is extremely dangerous. It created regional imbalance in the development of the country; making some people ubiquitous and vulnerable while giving others undue advantage and false sense of entitlement.
Evidently, warehousing all our national asset in a particular location is an unimaginable strategic risk. It is a dangerous tool in the hands of a people to control others. The suffocating presence of everybody in Lagos gives those who claim ownership Lagos the leverage to control others. That was why a traditional ruler can threaten Lagos residents with death by drowning if they fail to vote his preferred candidate in the Lagos gubernatorial election in 2015. When Fashola committed the faux pas of deporting some Igbo people from Lagos, he was criticized by Orji Uzor Kalu and in retaliation, Fashola went and sealed up Orji Uzor Kalu’s house in Lagos with the ridiculous claim that he did not pay tenement rate. Why did Fashola do that? He did that to cow Kalu and to preempt other influential propertied persons residing in Lagos from criticizing his atrocious act. The Press and flow of information and opinion in Nigeria are controlled in Lagos not because the area-boys of Lagos own the media houses but because most of the media outfits are straitened in Lagos. When the Tinubu’s certificate scandal first came up in 1999, a prominent media house with its headquarters in Lagos was forced to move its headquarters to Abuja after the area boys ostensibly on the others from above threatened to burn down its station if it continued to air the Tinubu’s Chicago-Gate scandal. In Lagos, it is possible to mobilize street hooligans to stop people from exercising their civic rights in Lagos. We saw that happen in 2015 and 2019 general elections. And recently, we have had reports of Area-boys molesting those who had thronged to INEC registration centers in Lagos for the PVCs.
Without doubt, Lagos needs to be decongested. But, decongesting Lagos would not be in the form of the crude measures by those who claim ownership of Lagos. The Federal government must make conscious effort to develop other areas and giving the citizens opportunities to choose where to reside. When people talk of decongesting the Apapa-Oshodi Express Way I wonder who they are. How can it be decongested when Apapa and Tin Can Island are the only ports functioning in the country? And when 99% of the oil tank farms in Nigeria are located in Ijora and Apapa? Lagos can only be decongested when the ports in the South-South and South-East region are functionally put to effective use. It is a great disservice to this nation to oppose development efforts in the South East because it is erroneously believe that it will diminish the status of Lagos.
Nigeria we are in the age of enlightenment. You must interrogate issues otherwise you will continue to dwell in perpetual ignorance, swallowing everything from the garbage heaps of rumor-mongers and making yourselves susceptible to manipulations. Do not allow anybody force-feed you with lies. We should not be a victim of what Chimamanda Adichie calls the “single story” syndrome. Single stories are usually inane propaganda laced with default assumptions, footless claims and spurious attributions. That is the bane of the country and that was what led to the Mistake Of 2015. Now that we in a critical period of our political history we must reject lies and say no to charlatans that want to mislead us into committing another mistake that will mortgage the future of our people. And that is my message!

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Gozie Irogboli
An economist, a novelist and public policy analyst
([email protected])

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