Opinion: Ambode’s quest to secure future of Lagos

What Nigeria’s economy is not healthy is no longer news, however, the effects of the dwindling economic situation is fast manifesting across the country. While some states can no longer cope with the obligations of paying workers’ salaries regularly, some are hanging in the balance, forcing them to visit Abuja with cap in hand, hoping for some bail out from the government at the centre.

Observers had even argued that without the bailouts, many of the state would by now be insolvent. But despite the economic challenges, Lagos State seems to be daring the odds and breaking new grounds.

With an increasing population of over 22 million people, the state has continued to witness an influx of Nigerians from other states and citizens from neighbouring countries on a daily basis, stretching its inadequate infrastructure.

Economic experts readily attribute the state’s ability to remain buoyant in the midst of the economic uncertainties to the dexterity of the man at the helm of affairs, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

Since assuming office Ambode has proved his financial acumen in many ways than one, which has among other things, led to the growth of the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

Governor Ambode is not oblivious of the fact that Lagosians expect nothing less from him, but to build on the legacies of his predecessors, hence his economic policy is focused on exploring new ventures to shore up its IGR to N30billion by 2017 and N50billion by 2018.

At every given opportunity, Governor Ambode does not hesitate to tell anyone who cares to listen about the potentials of Lagos emerging as Africa’s biggest economic hub in no distant future.

To achieve this, the governor is already mapping out strategies to complete some landmark projects already under construction, while plans are also in top gear to embark on new ones. This was the focus when he recently embarked on an extensive tour of the Eko Atlantic City (EAC) Project.

The Eko Atlantic City Project is a multi-billion dollar project sitting on over 10million square metres and is expected to accommodate over 150,000 people who would reside there and another 250,000 who would work and commute within the city on a daily basis.

So far, out of the over 10 million square meters of the project, about six million square meters have been reclaimed, while there are 15 bridges and two tunnels designed with the project.

For Ambode, the EAC Project, on completion would go a long way, to not only boost the economy of the State, but also increase its IGR. Accompanied on the tour by members of the State Executive Council, the Governor pledged the total commitment of his administration towards the success of the project, saying that it would go a long way to facilitate the quest to grow potentials of the state’s economy.

Satisfied with the infrastructure already in place at the EAC, the Governor said it now behooves on investors to take advantage of the massive opportunities, while commending the promoters of the EAC Project for their confidence in committing huge resources to the Nigerian economy, which according to him, was a positive sign that Nigeria remains the investment hub in Africa.

“Notwithstanding the economic recession that has befallen the country right now we have come to also show that outside the recession, there is a whole lot of progress going on in the investment climate in Lagos State. We are very happy that the signs are looking very good for investment in Lagos,” Ambode said.

The Governor also took time to inspect the 8.5km long shoreline wall, otherwise known as the ‘Great Wall of Lagos’, built to protect the EAC, saying it was gratifying that the project will not only protect the new city, but also protect the whole of Victoria Island against any ocean surge, which was one of the primary reasons for the project.

He continued: “This is a new and a bigger version of Victoria Island. We are going to have an Energy City here, a financial hub that is more or less going to run under a Free Trade Zone and so on. Basically, all these put together turns Lagos to that leader that we want it to be in Africa and the quality of infrastructure that has been put here is also encouraging.”

Chairman of Eko Atlantic City, Mr. Ronald Chagoury said one of the first two residential buildings in the new city will be completed by the end of August, while the second will be ready before the end of the year, adding that the first office block will be ready between September and October, 2016.

Chagoury described the project as an impressive financial district which upon completion, would compare with the financial district in Paris, France and the 5th Avenue in New York, United States.

He added that the Great wall of Lagos was scientifically designed to withstand any ocean surge and that it was built to last for 1,000 years.

Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, whose bank is the major partner with the promoters of the EAC project and the Lagos State Government, said aside the fact that adequate arrangement had been made to protect the City, the project was all about saving the State and creating a new tomorrow for people to live in Lagos.

In similar corollary, Governor Ambode has set his eyes on seeing the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) take flight. Prior to his visit to the EAC, the Governor had accompanied the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to the LFTZ to inspect the level of work on the projects being carried out by the Dangote Group.

The Zone which has the capacity to shoot the State to global economic reckoning, among other budding industries and multinational companies is host to Dangote Group, developers of an $11 billion world class refinery with a processing capacity of 650,000 barrels of oil per day.

Aside the refinery, the Dangote Group is also embarking on a Fertilizer Plant and a Gas plant, all in one location. Speaking to journalists after a tour of the projects which lasted about two hours, Ambode said projects being undertaken by Dangote at the Zone would significantly boost the economy of Lagos and have great multiplier effects on the nation’s economy.

He said the projects would also be critical to the economic growth of the Lagos East and West Senatorial Districts, which according to him, will be open to massive investment opportunities on completion.

“The coming of the Vice President to inspect this project is instructive and a sign post that the Federal Government is in support of what is going on us and the truth is this, we might not be able to show you all that is going on here but in another few weeks, we will do an aerial view of this project and also do a documentary because for the very first time we are going to have a Petrochemical project that is coming on stream by December 2017; a Refinery that is coming on stream by the first quarter of 2019 and also the Gas project that is coming on stream by 2018. You can just imagine or visualize what that means to the economy of Lagos,” Governor Ambode said.

The governor is also excited that apart from the 135,000 direct jobs that will be created from the projects, another 100,000 indirect jobs would be generated while income accruable to the Federal Government would be in the region of over $500millionin three years.

Only last week, the President of Togo, Mr. Faure Gnassingbe was the latest visitor to the Zone. His interest as expected was the Dangote Projects.

The governor seized the occasion to inform the visitor that the Dangote project was another confirmation that Lagos is a prime investment destination, expressing optimism that the project, one of the biggest in the African region, will positively change the face of oil and gas business in the West African region.

He maintained that Lagos is home to all nations, races and creeds, including substantial Togolese population, adding: “I’m positive that we are providing them with the opportunities to get ahead in their endeavours.”

While inviting Togolese investors to take advantage of the positive investment climate in Lagos, Ambode said the State is open for businesses, and that his administration, in a bid to encourage investment, had massively invested in infrastructure and security of lives and property.

For Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the decision to site the massive projects in Lagos was not a difficult one to make. He said the decision was due to the investment friendly climate in the state.

Aside the Eko Atlantic City Project and the Lekki Free Trade Zone, the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Badagry Deep Sea Port, Oshodi Regeneration Project and the historic 4th Mainland Bridge are other landmark projects the Ambode administration looks poised to bring to fruition.

For sure, with the above multi-billion dollars projects coming into fruition within the next two to three years, it is not too difficult to discern that the projected N50b IGR would be achievable. And as the governor has severally said, despite the uncertain economic climate, the future of Lagos is secured.

By Niyi Anibaba

Culled from The Nation

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