Why Lagos stood above Damascus in livability ranking

In 2005, when the same assessment was carried out in 127 cities around the world, Lagos was rated the fifth worst city to live in. The other cities in the bottom 10 like Lagos were Abidjan, Harare and Duala, all in Africa. PHOTO: Hope for Nigeria

Except for the transformational programme put by the erstwhile former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration, which continued through Fashola and the current Ambode, Lagos could have been ranked 140th out of the 140 cities surveyed and ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in its latest 2017 assessment and ranking of cities on livability index.

Lagos missed the shameful position by just one point to stay above Damascus, a war torn city in Syria. Damascus was ranked 140th, the worst city to live in, followed by Lagos, ranked at 139th position. What a disgraceful and reprehensible award to Nigeria’s economic hub and Centre of Excellence? What went wrong?

What the report is saying is that even with the destruction and disruption of normal life and economic activities in Syria, Nigeria’s primate city, in peace time, is comparable to Damascus! What an irony!

In 2005, when the same assessment was carried out in 127 cities around the world, Lagos was rated the fifth worst city to live in. The other cities in the bottom 10 like Lagos were Abidjan, Harare and Duala, all in Africa.

Surprisingly, while the other African cities recorded some improvement by moving up the ladder, Lagos descended lower from being the 5th worst city in 2005 to the 2nd worst global city among the 10 least liveable cities in 2017.

Remarkably, Abidjan exited that ignominious group while Duala and Harare moved nine and eight points higher to stand at 132nd and 133rd respectively among the 10 worst cities. What it means is that by the time the survey would be carried out again, Duala and Harare could exit the lamentable group while Lagos could go further down to displace Damascus, especially, if the war in Syria ends and reconstruction of the city commences, except there is a conscious and committed effort to reverse the trend.

The 2017 Global Liveability Report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit placed the Australian city of Melbourne on top of the 10 most livable cities, thereby displacing Vancouver in Canada that took that position in 2005. The other top ten cities behind Melbourne in that order are Vienna (Austria), Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary all in Canada, Adelaide, Perth in Australia, Auckland (New Zealand), Helsinki (Finland) and Hamburg (Germany). Australia and Canada have three cities each in this category, showing that these are countries where life is meaningful.

On the other hand, the list of the group of ten worst cities to live in descending order includes Kiev (Ukraine), Duala (Cameroun), Harare (Zimbabwe), Karachi (Pakistan), Algiers (Algeria), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Tripoli (Libya), Lagos (Nigeria) and Damascus (Syria).

Remarkably, Lagos stood between Tripoli and Damascus, the capital cities of war ravaged Libya and Syria. That means whatever Lagos is in all ramifications is comparable to those in such war torn cities around the world.

It beats imagination that what looks like transformation in Lagos in recent times in terms of infrastructure, transportation and urban sanitation does not match what is in Damascus that is almost destroyed by war. The indices are not hidden. A few examples will expose the truth.

Starting with the roads, anyone who has lived outside Nigeria would appreciate that Lagos has some of the worst roads in the world. Apart from the fact that the access roads are not many, they are dilapidated and in most cases impassable. The inner-city roads are worse. That explains why there is intractable traffic gridlock in the city.

Daily, billions are lost in incalculable man-hours wasted in traffic. The situation in the Apapa and Tin Can ports complex axis of the city is lamentable. The entire port complex has been paralysed as a result of impassable roads. The authorities left Apapa to decay. The same is the case with the roads leading to the Lagos International Airport. The politics of who owns the roads hampers effective action. The deplorable road condition is among the factors that earned Lagos the sobriquet of a jungle city.

Poor infrastructure, like the roads, is a visible eyesore in Lagos. There is poor drainage to evacuate urban storm, leading to flash floods whenever it rains. The canals that were built more than three decades ago have been abandoned and now used as garbage dump. Gutters are narrow and substandard such that they are perpetually clogged with garbage and silted up.

There is no sub-surface drainage or septic water treatment system. Lagos is perhaps, the only city I know where men get into dirty and heavily polluted gutters and manually scoop out clogged drainage channels and heap dirt on the roadside, from where, most are again washed back into the gutters as they are not evacuated. Intra-city transportation is hectic. Hundreds of rickety mini-buses dominate urban transportation in addition to tricycles and motor-cycles.

There is virtually no public water supply in a mega-city like Lagos. Over 70 per cent of the city’s 20 million people depend on hand-dug wells. Practically, every household has a well as the only dependable source of water supply. Available information shows that only about 30 per cent of the city is water reticulated. Lack of electricity, though, a national problem, compounds the water supply situation.

At this juncture, I must restate that it was the former Governor Tinubu that laid the foundation for modern Lagos. The plan to transform Lagos started in 1999 after Tinubu assumed power as governor. Prior to that, Lagos was seen as a jungle city where disorder reigns supreme. Despite serving as capital of Nigeria and Lagos State, the city was poorly maintained. Some iconic bridges and flyovers built some decades ago are not maintained as most are vandalized by miscreants. Some other iconic monuments like the National Stadium, Surulere; the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu and the National Museum, Onikan have been abandoned and are now in decrepit state.

The Tinubu administration laid a master plan that now forms the basis of new development in Lagos. It is the master plan that the Fashola administration that succeeded him implemented, which saw the rehabilitation of the Lagos Central Business District (CBD), and most major arterial highways within the metropolis.

Ironically, it is at a time when Lagos State is marking its 50th year anniversary that a damming verdict is passed on the city. Rather than demoralize the state authorities, the global liveability ranking should spur both the Lagos and Federal Government to give Lagos the needed attention to Lagos in other to boost its socio-political and economic status in Nigeria.



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