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Lagos must think out of the box

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s lecture at the Justice Reform Summit 2024 was not only an impetus for sober reflection but also offers a gratifying imperative for national…

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s lecture at the Justice Reform Summit 2024 was not only an impetus for sober reflection but also offers a gratifying imperative for national discourse.

Speaking on the theme “Enhancing the Administration of Justice for Growth, Investment Protection and Security in Lagos State” in May 2024, the governor dissected some tectonic issues.

In one of his comparative reflections, Singapore, like he said, is a tiny dot on the world map; you hardly know where it is, but like he said, it is a city state that has earned its place in the world.

Lagos, by sheer coincidence, also is like a dot in the country; it’s less than 0.4 % of the size of this country. So, technically, it also can be a dot and of that 0.4 %, one third of it is water. But, by sheer coincidence, it is the commercial, economic nerve-centre of the country. Singapore holds its place too as a major economic hub worldwide today.

Whilst the jury is out on the comparative expediency of Lagos and Singapore, there is a compelling reason to believe that Lagos hasn’t exploited the best economic benefit of its landmass as a factor of production.

Whereas Lagos and Singapore are similar in size and resource paucity, they are far apart in the way scarce resources are managed.

It is given that any country or city that contends with size constraints would automatically experience a competitive pull in the taxonomy of its land-use; the value chain created from that pull will also determine the economic viability of such a nation state.

Professionals in the built industry domiciled in Lagos have been handicapped by the state’s laissez-faire treatment of the most valuable resource available to it. Land being the incubator for revenue generation and a catalyst for reducing unemployment could be better administered going forward.

Singapore’s land administration is in total contrast to what obtains in Lagos. Whilst Singapore delivers express and timeous registration to land titles, Lagos seems to be lagging behind on this investment nexus.

Registering land transactions in Lagos is a complex and tiring process that often requires multiple visits to the registry, thereby creating loopholes for extortions.

A situation where the consent of the governor on land transfer is delayed for more than three months sometimes for upward of one year is a big disincentive to investment.

A country bellyaching for foreign direct investment must put in every effort to remove bottlenecks in land administration, and Lagos State can become a reference point for a renaissance that could be replicated in other states.

Another dissonance clause in Governor Sanwo-Olu’s comparative prognosis is what Singapore does with holders of empty and undeveloped real estate.

According to a Singaporian author, Tong Hui Tang, “We already run out of land. Each piece of land in Singapore already has its intended purpose. It is just how much we want to spend to maximise each acre of land – building higher/smarter buildings, more complex transport systems – till the point where the benefits outweigh the costs.”

The above doesn’t suggest that Singapore has ever allowed unused pieces of land or landed properties to remain so in perpetuity for the owners to pass to their heirs in probationary successions at the expense of public utility.

Until the Lagos State government begins to articulate the inventory and put every piece of land to economic use, the state will continue to trail Singapore light years behind.

Good authority holds that a conservative estimate of 20 per cent of Lagos solid landmass is left undeveloped and is being held in perpetuity by land speculators, thereby encouraging investment hiatus.

This is certainly not how to build a mega city.

ESV Bukola Ajisola wrote via [email protected]

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