Lagos now has a Resilience Office (LASRO), inaugurated on 2nd April 2019 as part of activities marking the first edition of Resilient Lagos Week (RLW).
With a population nudging 25 million and battling coastal erosion, Lagos is one of Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program, launched in 2013 and “dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century”.
At the RLW, heads and representatives of relevant government agencies, architects, engineers, urban planning professionals, not-for-profit organisations and residents discussed current developmental challenges and inadequacies of Lagos; a distinguished lineup of speakers presented an impressive array of ongoing projects aimed at tackling these challenges, while also proferring multi-dimensional solutions to accommodate the present deficiencies.
The conversations centred around: drainage and flood defence; physical planning and urban development; water supply and sanitation; solid waste management; drainage and open defecation; Lagos underground spaces and natural resources.
What came out clearly in all of the talks is that the city of Lagos is terribly underserved for the 24.6mn people who live in it. Cases in point: there are only 20 general hospitals, three major waterworks (and 48 mini ones), and just about 7400 private waste treatment plants.
Experts said these are a consequence of inconsistent government policies and outright neglect, invariably putting pressure on existing infrastructure, producing slum dwelling and an army of informal service providers.
“It is what I describe as the gentrification conundrum,” says Simon Gusah, head of LASRO in a remark. “If you bring this solution, you will definitely make life worse for some people. If we solve the water problem, what do we do with the water vendors? It’s a big problem and it is everywhere.”
These shortcomings aside, it was also clear that the various arms of the state government, while trying to address these problems, do so almost unilaterally, hardly consulting one another. As a consequence, almost every ministry is pursuing the design of a self-enclosed master plan, when efforts ought to be all-encompassing.
“There are too many silos,” said Toyin Ayinde, a former commissioner of physical planning, warning of the consequences of this approach. “There must be harmony of agencies.”
Dr Chichi Anialogu Okoye (WaterAid Nigeria) commended the state government for being quite engaged even though the challenges are huge. “But there is a need for greater collaboration between the MDAs, NGOs and clearer pathways for collaboration for the private sector and CSOs,” she said. “These are things that can be done without financing and very quickly. ”
It is perhaps why a Resilient Lagos Office has become necessary. On Day Three of proceedings, participants were asked to identify what they consider priority for Lagos as it looks to plan with years 2030, 2050 and 2070 in view.
The options included: (1) Water Resources; (2) Electricity; (3) Water Supply; (4) Sanitation; (5) Drainage; (6) Flood Defence. After multiple voting sessions, Electricity came tops with participants favouring the adoption of renewable energy sources (i.e. solar, wind and hydro) with the introduction of additional Independent Power Plants (IPPs).
Drainage/ Solid Waste Management and Sanitation (with a preference more de-centralised sewerage) came second and third in these considerations.