By Babajide Komolafe
Since 2000, Nigeria’s commercial capital and Africa’s sixth largest economy, Lagos State, has been going through landmark policy and infrastructural transformation to a modern city.
Driving this transformation is the Lagos Economic Summit, a private sector-led participatory forum, also known as ‘Ehingbeti’.
Notwithstanding the absence of Ehingbeti between 2015 and 2019, the significance of the Lagos Economic Summit is evident across the State.
Even though the private sector-led conversation continues with the 2021edition holding this week, implementation of some of the consensus reached at pre-2015 summits, also demonstrated that Ehingbeti is an unending dialogue in the quest for socio-economic and infrastructural development in Lagos State.
From the beautiful bus terminals across the State to hundreds of Mass Transit Buses procured to partly tackle the transportation challenges, it was clear that Lagos was beginning to embrace the realities of its megacity status expressed by representatives of the UN Habitat at one of the planning sessions that heralded the inaugural edition of Ehingbeti.
Lagos before 2000 was awfully chaotic. Aside from the throbbing of infrastructural deficit, the population was growing at a riotous rate. This was the beginning of the 4th republic, after 16 years of military rule. Democracy ushered in relief, and citizens began to aspire to a decent life after a long era of repression.
The new aspiration put Lagos under pressure because it was the only State in Nigeria, with the possibility of restoration. So, the State became a point of attraction to everyone seeking survival and prosperity, when its newly democratically elected government was struggling with extremely lean resources to start the business of governance, for which it was voted by the people.
Evidence of the decade-long abandonment and halted development was visible in every corner of the State. The indicators that would justify the transition to civil rule were in the urgent need to address infrastructural deficit, poor transportation system, fix bad roads, improve health services, abate growing insecurity improve the socio-economic climate for general habitability in the State.
Lagos offered a glimpse of hope to the people because of its status as a former capital, but the threatening twinkles of expectation had made the need for the State to ‘take-off’ really necessary, less the State denigrated into total commotion.
The Beginning of Ehigbeti
Worried about the consequences of inaction, the crop of technocrats and egg-heads pulled to government by the allure of democracy and Governor’s believability got to work on social services development and planning. The visual mess had to go, and disintegrating infrastructure needed to serve the people, while scaling-up became a major item on the State government agenda.
“The state of things was scary. We had to keep late nights at Akodo resort, brainstorming on how to get tonnes of wastes off the streets of Lagos. The disorderliness intensified by the transportation system then was an eyesore. Every day in Lagos was a new heartbreak for everyone in government”, said Mr. Yemi Cardoso, Chairman, Citibank Nigeria, who was Lagos State Commissioner for Economic and Budget Planning in 1999.
“The need to create a functional State, with great infrastructure was undeniable. At the Cabinet level, we saw that things needed to transform rapidly, even though our reality was that the transformation can only be gradual. With an enduring commitment, the leadership of the State encouraged and supported a rigorous planning process, propelled by a clear vision about the projected development, with tangible milestones”, he added.
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“The nights of sweats and toils in the bush of Akodo did not only have the Governor and his cabinet wandering for solutions to the socio-economic and infrastructural challenges of Lagos State, most of the leading lights in the private sector in Lagos State were also on the hunt for ideas that would not only make Lagos habitable, but also prosperous, in the Akodo bush.
The fading signs of squalour of the era and sprouting of modern architectures brightened by increasing presence of street lights in the state are testaments to the effectiveness of collaboration between the private and public sector. In fact, Ehingbeti has proven that tough and sincere conversations are paths to building an enduring relationship and an engendering atmosphere of mutual trust.
There was a gust of ideas from the different Working Groups, requiring discipline of purpose to translate into executable projects, but more important at the stage was taking the idea to the market. And this required committed partnership, which only a shared vision could deliver.
“In the last two decades, Ehingbeti has played a pivotal role in the transformation of Lagos State, with useful inputs into Lagos State Development Plans (LSDP)” said Sam Egube, the current Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, who is also a Co-chair of the Steering Committee said.
“Our realities from 2000 when the first Ehingbeti held, exactly 20 years ago, have significantly changed. As a state, we now have to cater to the infrastructural needs of more than 22million population and ensure that Lagos remains on the path of continuous growth”
“These considerations are the groundwork of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration THEMES Agenda, but translating the agenda to benefits for our people will require collaborations amongst stakeholders, and a determination to deepen the foundation for sustainable development and growth of our society. So, Ehingbeti 2020 offers us a platform to address all these”, concluded Egube. “It is clear that private sector setting an implementable agenda for government and championing the process of implementation has pushed Lagos far ahead of States in Nigeria and countries in the African sub-region” submitted Sam Egube, Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State, “but development of the State is not a destination, but a journey. We need to continue to work at as a government and people”.
This view reflects the government’s thinking towards development in the State. It is safe to infer that the government is keen on stretching its collaboration with the private sector to improve infrastructure, echoing Professor Utomi’s thought that as successful Lagos may be in terms of infrastructural development “the room for improvement exists with the utilization of a portent economic planning tool like Ehingbeti”.
With the theme ‘For a Greater Lagos: Setting The Tone For The Next Decade’, this edition of Ehingbeti will certainly rekindle the conversations that will enable optimization of the inherent opportunities in Africa’s 6th largest economy and offer perspectives on how to manage the peculiar socio-economic landscape of the State in the coming decade.
The Lagos Economic Summit Group (LESG), with this edition of Ehingbeti, is strengthening the existing relationship between government, and emphasizing that greater private sector participation in governance is a prerequisite for a functional state.
Since the inaugural summit in 2000, Ehingbeti has gained useful insights from innumerable business and political leaders, renowned economists, notable development experts and outstanding scholars, who have participated from different parts of the world.
Ehingbeti is the first institutionalized economic forum by any state in Nigeria and is an ingenuous socio-economic apparatus that has contributed significantly to the evolution of Lagos State into a major economy in sub-Saharan, with expanding potentials.
The summit, hosted by successive governments in Lagos State since the beginning of the 4th republic, has consistently redefined the dynamics of public-private sector collaborations for development across social and economic indices in the Lagos State.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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