BY GEORGE OKOJIE, Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari , the newly elected Director-General of the World Trade Organization, (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the President, African Development Bank, (AFDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina on Tuesday expressed the urgent need for massive investments in Lagos State to boost its economic potential as one of the world’s fastest growing mega cities.
The trio spoke virtually at the first day of ongoing three-day economic summit in Lagos tagged, “Eghingbeti Lagos Economic Summit 2021” with the theme “Setting the tone for a greater Lagos” at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The President in his goodwill message said his administration recognizes Lagos as central to the economic fortunes of Nigeria and has in the last few years demonstrated commitment to supporting it unleash its full socio-economic potential.
”One of the significant ways in which our support has manifested to Lagos State is in the special federal funding that we approved in 2020 in acknowledgement of the State being an epicentre of the Coronavirus pandemic.
‘The challenges of Lagos must therefore be very clearly seen as part of the challenges of Nigeria, and the Federal Government will support Lagos to overcome its challenges and to thrive socially and economically.
”The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) is investing in the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, while the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway is a flagship project of our Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, also known as Executive Order 7 of 2019.
”It was also this administration which granted approval to the Lagos State Government to rebuild the International Airport Road, a major road that links the busiest airport in Sub-Saharan Africa to the continent’s fifth largest economy.
”The Federal Government is today completing the Standard Gauge Railway Line that will link Lagos to Ibadan in the first instance, and from there connect to Abuja and Kano, and bring ease and efficiency to what is Nigeria’s busiest transportation corridor.
”Just last month, this new Rail Line achieved a milestone extension into the Port Complex in Apapa, setting the stage for a long overdue decongestion in that area,” he said.
Harping on the investment plan to revamp the National Theatre, the President told the 8th Economic Summit that his government had granted approval for the temporary transfer of the iconic federal asset on the Lagos landscape, to the Bankers Committee, which will invest in upgrading it and developing it into a world-class creative hub.
President Buhari expressed confidence that enterprising young people in Lagos will be the biggest beneficiaries of the National Theatre, when fully upgraded into a world-class hub.
”Speaking of young people, we are aware of just how central they are to the Lagos economy, and to Nigeria as a whole.
”In the creative arts, culture and technology sectors, we are determined to continue to open up opportunities by which they can achieve their dreams and aspirations; as well as thrive in a safe, secure and increasingly prosperous country,” he said.
The President highlighted various other initiatives of the Federal Government being implemented in Lagos, including the National Social Investment Programme, the Energizing Economies Programme, the Economic Sustainability Plan, among others.
Commending the Lagos State Government for its partnership and collaboration with the Federal Government on the human development programmes, President Buhari stressed the importance of understanding between national and subnational governments.
”Let me also acknowledge and salute the fact that we have a forward-looking administration in Lagos that is focused on infrastructure and improving the ease of doing business and the overall quality of life of Lagosians.
”The theme of this year’s Lagos Economic Summit invites us all to share our aspirations for a Megacity that boldly occupies its place in the global standing of Megacities.
”A Lagos that can keep up with its growing population in terms of housing, education, healthcare, security and jobs. A Lagos that is innovative and productive, and that ensures that its economic prosperity leaves no one behind.
”I enjoin all speakers and participants to go all out in the course of the next few days to think and contribute along these lines, and to come up with a practical masterplan for achieving this Lagos of our dreams,” he said.
In a virtual questions and answers with Governor Sanwo-Olu, Dr. Okonjo Iweala said apart from construction of roads, Lagos should invest in technology such as broadband for every household, embrace artificial Intelligence and Digital economy, ensure steady and sustainable supply of electricity and renewable energy/Green to remain competitive in the next decade.
She added the state should harness the youths by providing employment, saying the state should move from importing raw materials but exporting primary raw products to industrialize Africa.
In his contributions, Dr. Akinwunmi of African Development Bank said the youths are the asset for the state and should be given a chance to show their potential.
He said the state should also invest in education by turning tertiary institutions in the state to world class.
“Youths are not the problem of Lagos, they are the asset. The slogan should not be the young shall grow, but the youths has arrived. Youths do not need empowerment or handouts, what they need is investment.
‘’The poverty level in Lagos has reduced from 30.3 per cent in 2009 to 4.5 per cent in 2019. 20 per cent lives in slum. A prosperous Lagos will bring a healthier Lagos. A lot need to be done in tertiary education especially in science. We must turn tertiary institutions in Lagos to world class.
‘’The climate situation in Lagos should be attended to urgently. There is slow need to invest more in transport system,” he said.
“He further said:” Private sector need to be mobilised to support the new Lagos. The taxes collected in the state belong to the people. There must be accountability for taxes collected. I see a greater Lagos , a Lagos where visions are turned into reality and where women and youths thrives.”
Earlier in his address, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, ‘’Our growing youth population are disillusioned, their future and prospects for jobs are in question. We must all be distressed by this state of affairs, living as people with no hope or inspiration should never be an option for our young people.’’
He affirmed that in the midst of every adversity lies an abundance of opportunities, saying it all depends on how the people choose to view things.
‘’We are emerging from the most significant act of economic destruction that Lagos has witnessed in decades, combined with the effects of being the national epicenter of a stubborn pandemic.
‘’Yet Lagos has always been a beacon of hope in Nigeria, the sheer tenacity and audacity of the Lagosian spirit has over the centuries created vast opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation. The challenge for us is to ensure we never forget our indomitable spirit to emerge out of adversity better and stronger. We must continue to maintain and nurture our audacious hope, and the intention to always bounce back from adversity and build back better and boldly.
‘’The theme for this year looks out over the next decade, the 2020s. But to properly understand the Lagos of the future, we must look back at the past, and trace the journey we have made to where we are today.
‘’Today’s Lagos has seen so many revolutionary changes to usher in a new era of prosperity; reflected in improved infrastructure, economy, and security. We are still confronted with many challenges, no doubt, but it is also important to identify the progress so we can guard it jealously and build on it.
‘’Let me seize this opportunity to quickly remind us of what makes Lagos tick; the very essence of that greatness we are gathered to discuss at this conference: We are the largest city in Nigeria and the 7th fastest growing city in the world, and the gold factor that sets us above the rest is of course Our human capital: their entrepreneurial energy, optimism and ability to pull together.’’