Lagos: The irony of Buhari’s visit
LAST week, President Muhammadu Buhari paid his first official visit to Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial power house. It was instructive that as he was in Lagos. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was also in the former capital. That did not come as a surprise, though. Lagos as Nigeria’s former seat of power still houses facilities to host the duo conveniently and besides, former Lagos governor, Senator Bola Tinubu was hosting a birthday colloquium in respect of his 66th birthday.
Despite the open show of friendship and the eulogies that flowed freely from Buhari, governors and stakeholders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to Tinubu, a lot more was missing.
In more than one way, the trip turned out an anti-climax, if not an irony of sorts for Muhammadu Buhari, who was making one of the very few visits to that city after his exit from power in August 1985.
Buhari apparently surprised himself by securing the endorsement of Lagosians in 2015. His “Metroline sins” among others were tied to his regime’s cancellation of the metroline project in 1984. For most of his years as president, he had kept away from Lagos and on his return, on Thursday, many expected he was coming with loaded high caliber packages. But the visit has come and gone, not much really happened to consolidate his 2015 endorsement.
In 1982, the Lateef Jakande administration in Lagos entered into a contract with a French consortium of some 19 Companies, whose promise was to deliver a Metroline project. The state was required to pay 10 per cent of the contract sum and the consortium would deliver. Upon his arrival on the scene as military head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari ordered the then Military Governor of Lagos state, Air Commodore Gbolahan Mudasiru to terminate the project, notwithstanding the initial payment already made. At the end of the day, the payment and the fines cost the state government some $100 million (about N36 billion).
In the heat of the campaigns in 2015, the question of Metroline was not properly addressed save that on one occasion, Buhari claimed he cancelled the project for fear of rising national debts.
You would think that having stayed off the city that signposted his victory lap in 2015, Buhari would return with a bang and drop a massive project that can easily dwarf his “Metroline sins.”
But the whole thing turned an irony as Buhari was only on hand to commission a bus stop, otherwise named bus terminal. How do you equate the effectiveness of a bus terminal to a metroline? If the terminal will serve 200,000 people in a day, the metroline will serve 2 million. But the leaders of Lagos reveled in that achievement and gladly shut the roads to inhabitants of the city to welcome the August visitor. That surely is a show of how low the newly admitted O’dua state appears to have sunk. It is also a signal of how low governance has sunk in this country.
Ikeja, which houses the bus terminal, happens to be part of the Western Region led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the pre-independence Nigeria. That Region built Industrial parks around Ikeja, built the tallest building of the time, Cocoa House in nearby Ibadan and created wealth for the people.
Someone told me Lagos is becoming the least accountable state in the country and I had my doubts initially. But the wasteful holiday declared for Buhari; the fact that the flagship project the president could commission was a bus station; the fact that records of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) is already showing Lagos as having a consolidated debt/net revenue of 930.96 per cent indebtedness of its earnings tend to justify that claim.
And the extent of Lagos’ indebtedness is already reflecting on its earnings. In 2017, records show that while Lagos earned N89.69 billion from the Federation Account, it lost N33.73 billion to deductions as a result of debts. This contrasts with states such as Delta, which earned N112.20 billion but had only N28 billion deducted. Akwa-Ibom with N143 billon only had N13 billion deducted. Even Oyo, which earned only N44 billion from FAAC in 2017 eventually got close to Lagos as it had only N7 billion deducted.
The other top earning states practically went home with their FAAC earnings. Records showed that Bayelsa with N105 billion had N18 billion deducted; Rivers, with N119 billion also got N18 billion deducted while Kano that earned N65 billion went home with more than Lagos as it had only N6 billion deducted for indebtedness. On the bright side, the classic case is Anambra with N41.3 billion earnings and only N1.7 billion deduction. On the dull note, you have Osun, which earned N10.44 billion but had N28.99 billion deducted in the year.
If Lagos is the fifth largest economy in Africa, which rakes in the highest Nigerian IGR, how come all it could show for the huge indebtedness is a bus terminal and some couple of road projects? Where is the fourth Mainland Bridge?