Sustaining Lagos through institutional reforms

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 4 September 2014

Sustainable development as a concept requires longevity and responsible behavior both on the part of the citizenry and that of the officials who govern the city of Lagos. Being an important city to the economy of Nigeria, sustainable development and policies become imperative for the upcoming mega-city, considering its dense area and massive population. The concept of sustainable development refers to a process of change in which resources, investments, application of technology and institutional change are exploited to enhance both existing and future potential to meet human needs. Lagos has seen various institutional changes and processes targeted towards achieving sustainable growth in recent years.

These institutional changes include improved law enforcement, better sanitation and waste management systems, budget reforms, sustainable urban planning and housing schemes, and an overhaul of the public service systems and agencies. In 2005, Lagos formulated and adopted the Lagos State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, targeted at 10 focus areas, such as health care and shelter, to encourage sustainable development. Emphasis was placed on public sector reforms through budget reforms, instituting a knowledge-based approach to planning and management to be adopted by all city ministries and parastatals, and instituting an economic summit to encourage and create framework for public–private partnerships to support continued development.

Other notable institutional reforms include the creation of agencies to drive for sustainability and compliance in areas such as transportation. This is handled by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), responsible for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems, created to lighten the burden of commuting within the city in comfort at inclusive and affordable rates. LAMATA is also responsible for the ongoing rail services development aimed at easing commute to satellite towns due to city congestion. Created in 1996, it was reformed as a semi-autonomous body by a policy act in 2002 and strengthened in 2007 to function more effectively with limited resources. Further agency reforms gave rise to the BRT in 2008.

Sectors such as urban environmental and waste management have also undergone significant reforms. Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) is responsible for services such as the collection and disposal of municipal and industrial waste, as well as the provision of commercial waste services to the State and Local Governments. Reforms have created a more efficient service, leading LAWMA to extend its work into private waste disposal, becoming responsible not just for waste management but also enforcing environmental laws, highway sanitation, creating compost and converting waste to fertilizer. Furthermore its improved efficiency has created more employment opportunities. This agency is a result of a public-private sector reform including the Ministry of Environment as a policy regulator, and the local governments by virtue of its constitutional role as coordinator working to collect, transport, and dispose of the more than 6000 metric tonnes of waste created in Lagos daily.

While these reforms might seem rudimentary, they are a large step in creating a sustainable city both for its inhabitants and for the city's natural environment. The mentioned reforms have gone a long way to improve service delivery and create an environment for inclusive and sustainable growth, but the process is definitely continuous and it can only be hoped that future reforms and policies continue to encourage sustainable agency practices and elements of inclusion.

Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

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