How Ogun State Mismanages the Advantage of Proximity to Lagos

How Ogun State Mismanages the Advantage of Proximity to Lagos

By Azuka Onwuka

Ogun State does not seem to realise the benefits of being the only Nigerian state sharing borders with Lagos State. Unlike a state like Kaduna which has as many as seven states plus Abuja the Federal Capital Territory as neighbours, Lagos is the only Nigerian state that shares borders with only one state in Nigeria. The closest is Sokoto which shares borders with two states: Kebbi and Zamfara. Other Nigerian states have a minimum of three states as neighbours.

The implication is that only Ogun State has the opportunity to reap the benefits of the proximity to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre. Ogun State covers Lagos right from the eastern side, all through the northern side and almost all through the western side, except for the Badagry area where Lagos State meets Benin Republic. Therefore, from whichever side one wants to leave Lagos or come into Lagos through any part of Nigeria via land, one must pass through Ogun State. Consequently, Ogun State calls itself “the Gateway State” – the gateway to Lagos.

Given that Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, living beside it should have huge advantages. But is Ogun State exploiting these advantages? That is doubtful. The only aspect through which Ogun State seems to be taking advantage of that proximity is the rise in its internally generated revenue, which stood at N74,835,979,000.51  at the end of 2017, making it number three in Nigeria after Lagos State and Rivers State. Some years ago, Ogun State did something really smart by beginning a media campaign of letting people know that their personal income tax should be paid to their state of residence, rather than to the state where they work. Ogun State realised that many people who work in Lagos live in Ogun State.

Because of the high cost of property in Lagos State, the lack of large expanse of land, the clutter, noise and perennial traffic, many individuals and organisations have moved to Ogun State. Ogun State took advantage of that some decades ago to create the Agbara Industrial Estate which attracted mainly companies which operate in Lagos State. In fact, many of the companies which have factories in Agbara use Lagos as their head office or corporate headquarters.

That trend has continued on a larger scale in recent times. For example, most of the Lagos-based churches like the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mountain of Fire and Miracles, Deeper Life Church, Living Faith Church Worldwide (aka Winners’ Chapel) moved to Ogun State to acquire large expanse of land for their large religious activities, especially those which attract a large crowd. Islamic groups like Nasul-l-lahi Fatih Society (NASFAT) did the same thing. Ogun State has also become the state with the highest number of private universities because most institutions and individuals who want to found universities take advantage of its proximity to Lagos and the availability of large expanse of land at a cheaper rate. A media group like Punch Nigeria Limited, which started as a Lagos-based organisation, took advantage of the proximity of Ogun State to Lagos by having its new head office in Ogun State.

On a daily basis, residential estates are springing up in Ogun State. The inhabitants are mainly people who used to live in Lagos. Most of them still work in Lagos. These are usually people who bought a plot of land close to Lagos State. Interestingly, when such people travel to other parts of the South-west or to the South-east, South-south or the North and want to return to their base, they don’t usually say that they are returning to Ogun State.  Rather they say that they are returning to Lagos State.

Therefore, most people who chose to live on the border towns of Ogun State or site their organisations in the border towns of Ogun State did so out of necessity, not because they intentionally preferred Ogun State to Lagos State. So Ogun State’s gain is Lagos State’s loss.

Given this scenario, one wonders what Ogun State is doing to consciously attract people from Lagos State into Ogun State. Regrettably, it is not much. From the boundary between Lagos State and Ogun State on the Lagos Ibadan-Expressway through communities like Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Aseese, Orimerunmu, Mowe, to Shagamu, one can hardly see a tarred road running into any of the communities on both sides of the road. Residents have to construct their road and maintain it to gain access to their homes. They have to contribute money to get electricity into their communities. They have to sink their own boreholes to get water. They have to engage security people to safeguard their communities. On other areas where Lagos meets Ogun like in the Ota, Akute and Agbara areas, the story is not different.

If Ogun State government were thinking proactively, it would take it upon itself to make the border towns with Lagos so attractive that people will be gladly drawn out of Lagos to live in Ogun or work there. However, it seems the Ogun State Government is more concerned about its capital Abeokuta. It seems to think that there is no need to pay attention to “these Lagos people who live in our state out of necessity.”

It is, therefore, surprising that even though there is threat of flooding in the Lekki–Ajah axis of Lagos and the perennial traffic jam there, people prefer to live there than to live in the border towns of Ogun State. Unlike the border towns of Ogun State, which have firm earth where people do not need to spend huge amounts of money on piling before constructing their houses and where people can easily get potable water from the ground, the Lekki-Ajah axis of Lagos have many challenges. Yet it is more attractive to people in the upper middle class and the upper class than the border towns of Ogun State. That is a slap on the face of Ogun State Government.

A government that is visionary would have created a Government Reservation Area (GRA) between Berger and Shagamu to attract highbrow residents. That would lift up the perception of that axis. And by massively constructing roads that go into communities on both sides of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and embarking on massive electrification of those communities, the Ogun State Government would have changed the narrative about those areas.

Another action would have been to create one or two markets in that axis. In addition, Ogun State can create a tourist centre in that axis. It is also important to create overhead pedestrian bridges along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, for ease of crossing from one side of the road to the other, even though the Federal Government is still reconstructing the road.

The plan should be to create amenities and the perception that will make many people see Ogun State as preferable to Lagos State, thereby making them leave Lagos State to live in Ogun State and even work in it. Ogun State has the advantage of having fresher air and cooler environment than Lagos. So the impression that should be created in the minds of people should be: “If you want to live in a cosy environment that is clean and cool and feels like home, come over to Ogun State.”

Sadly, Ogun State Government does not seem to be thinking in this direction.

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