Twenty Reasons For Lagos

By Bunmi Makinwa

The conversation with my friend distracted me from paying attention to the streets as he drove away from Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. It struck me that he was not taking the usual roads. More surprising was that he seemed headed for the Oshodi area and would probably continue through Mushin. He continued and we passed through Oshodi and the usually crowded areas. No refuse heaps. No traders cluttering the streets. Traffic flow was smooth all the way through Mushin too.

 “What happened?” I exclaimed.

“This is the reason that I drove you through this roundabout way to go to Ikeja. I want you to see the new and changing Lagos,” my friend explained.

The incident above was in 2008 or 2009 during a visit to Nigeria. I saw a Lagos that I had thought was almost impossible. During two weeks in Nigeria and visits to four states, Lagos stood out in its cleanliness, orderliness and general improvement.  Governor Babatunde Fasola was in office at the time and his government was changing the city of some 14 million people at the time.

At the time, some other friends said that the changes were going on throughout Lagos State. I started from then on to pay more attention to Lagos State, where I had largely grown up and worked as a young person. By the time Fasola left office in 2015, his performance in Lagos was widely recognized as the rebirth of Lagos city and Lagos State, a continuation of a certain master plan of transformation.

Fast forward to many years later, succeeding Lagos State governments have created a state that is widely known to be ahead, despite the numerous problems that have hobbled the country as a whole.

As a public commentator and analyst on governance with the benefit of having lived in more than ten cities in various countries, it is timely and appropriate that I put on record my personal experience as a witness to the recent impressive development of Lagos State. In my opinion, there are many areas where the state has done well and continues to improve the well-being of ordinary inhabitants, under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The list below is not in any order of importance. It reflects my personal experiences and observations of situations, incidents and activities that come to mind as I watch the trajectory of growth of Lagos State and Lagos, the most populated city in Africa which is about four times the size of Johannesburg or Addis Ababa, and about three times the size of New York city.


1. There is a striking improvement of roads in many communities, including pedestrian walkways and good evacuation of flood water, although more work needs to be done to reduce flooding.

2. The improvement of educational facilities and buildings is remarkable, despite limited spaces for open and outdoor activities in certain areas.

3. Bus stops and parking spaces for commercial transportation are better in designs and usefulness, and often have seating places.

4. Pedestrian bridges are situated for ease of use, including being wheel-chair accessible in some places. Many more of safe bridges are needed and getting them used by more people is an important next step.


5. Traffic services by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) largely keep traffic flowing, despite the overwhelming crush at certain locations. The nightmarish traffic blockages that occur when LASTMA staff are not on the roads are testimony to the effectiveness of LASTMA’s efforts. Remember that traffic police used to attempt to provide the same services and the difference is clear.

 6. Waste removal and cleanliness is organized and payment systems are in place. The roads are generally clean to high standards.

 7. There is a seamless payment of land use charges online, and official, polite acknowledgment of payments made. During former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s term, the land use assessment rose astronomically and many people refused to pay the new assessment. The issue was resolved by Governor Sanwo-Olu’s government and a new, reduced assessment was done. A negotiated lump-sum payment was accepted at a further reduced amount. I found it a very modern and progressive way to negotiate a settlement that benefitted both the government and the people.

8. All payments that I make to the state are done in banks or through electronic banking services. This has eliminated the time wasted traveling to government offices, waiting in long queues and attendant under-the-table transactions with go-betweens. It should reduce the stealing of government money. There would have been a significant increase in the internally-generated revenue through this policy.

Abuses and Social Work

9. A policy or law to eliminate Omo Onile (so-called descendants of land owners) has made it doubly difficult for the “area boys” to harass or intimidate people who purchase land or embark on building. I see that the traditional area boys are less frequent and are less assertive.

10. Women abuse, child abuse, and infringement of rights of vulnerable people is no longer taken for granted as there are offices and designated institutions to handle the cases in a timely manner when they are brought forward. There is an active and well-organized civil society that beams its antennae on the issues. School authorities are less likely to shirk their responsibilities or allow abuses of their  students because of a more aware society, backed with governmental teeth.

11. I testify to quick responses to lapses or failures in adhering to official stipulations such as when buildings collapse. The quicker responses by governmental agencies to fire incidents and emergencies show a higher level of assumption of responsibility for citizens’ welfare.


12. It has been possible for aggrieved persons and regular citizens to seek audience with government officials. From very senior officials such as commissioners to local government councilors, there is a readiness to listen and act on matters that are brought for attention. In many cases, it has also been possible to hold the officials to account.

13. The governance system from grassroots to the top has been put to test in our own community residents’ association. There are regular interactions with local and state government officials. Sometimes the request for meetings, knowledge and information sharing emanates from the government.

14. One of the critical steps for Lagos State residents to have access to government as a community is the registration of a Community Development Association. Our own group of residents submitted our documents, as stipulated, and received the certificate of recognition without making any inducement to any officials or agents.

Health Care

15. One major indicator of development is the level of health care that people have. From testimonies by family members, friends and others, the health and medical care that is provided by government clinics and hospitals in Lagos State is of very high standard. On many occasions, I advised people to seek health services at government hospitals and they have had positive experiences. The costs are relatively low too, although the waiting time may be long.

16. The standards of health and medical care providers in Lagos State are high. From direct interactions with several medical and healthcare professionals who work for the state, there is no doubt that the government has done commendably well to retain them despite the serious outflow of such professionals away from Nigeria.

17. On a busy weekday in August 2022, I saw a man who suddenly fell down as he walked along Oba Akran road in Lagos. I approached him with other bystanders. As we were having a quick exchange on what to do, a siren came from the distance. Right before my very eyes, an ambulance stopped, two emergency care providers attended to the fallen man, wheeled him on a special stretcher into the ambulance and quickly ferried him away for more attention. The scene staggered me. What a delightful surprise to see emergency care operated on a Lagos street as if it was in a developed economy.

I have since the incident paid more than ordinary attention to official ambulances that are parked in some parts of Lagos. I look with renewed respect at siren-blasting ambulances that try to wiggle through the dense traffic in Lagos and urge drivers to give them passage. Until the personal experience that I had, I used to see ambulances as another Lagos vehicular nuisance and opportunists who use special lights and sirens to harass other road users.


18. In the diplomatic community in Nigeria, Lagos is one of the few places where diplomats and staff of international organizations such as the United Nations are allowed to go. Due to the security challenges of Nigeria in general, the country is not a popular destination for international meetings and conferences. However, Lagos and Abuja are easily approved for travel, although with restrictions. Many other states are absolutely no-go areas for diplomats. When, or are done briefly under severe restrictions and security support.

19. Very often, the government and police in Lagos issue security information to guide communities and the messages come through Community Development Associations.


20. In July 2021, Princeton University in the USA and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) approached some state governments and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) in Nigeria to take part in a multi-country review of government activities on the epidemic.  Lagos State COVID response was acknowledged as a gold standard. A wonderful insight to information and materials developed thanks to the special efforts of former National Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, and Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi. They organized with their colleagues in government and its agencies, leaders in the organized private sector and civil society to have high-level exchange with the Princeton study group. Of all the states contacted in Nigeria, Lagos State was the most organized, forthcoming and professionally engaging.

In my opinion, the momentum of the development of Lagos State points in the right direction under Governor Sanwo-Olu’s government.

This notwithstanding, the state is blighted with many problems; some are unique to the characters of Lagos and others come from the general array of problems that affect Nigeria.  Among others: How well are the resources of the state spent to improve the state? How can the sixth-largest economy in Africa operate effectively without a regular electricity supply? Rather than continue to increase taxes for small and large businesses, would the state do better to increase opportunities for wealth creation and spread its taxation among many more enterprises?

Why does the state allow thugs to act as a “guerilla army” on roads and public places where they forcibly collect monies from hapless citizens? Why would hoodlums be given free rein to use violence at major events and social functions to extort money? To what extent are the state contractors vetted to ensure optimum performance? Why is allegiance to the party allowed to override due diligence and obtaining results for some contracts? The Lagos name brand is not reputable internationally – what will be done to rebrand it and successfully improve its image?


Overall, the current development trend of Lagos State should continue. In a new phase for the future, regular performance analysis and evaluation is needed and changes must be made to overcome the drawbacks. At this time, I shall not take chances with the future of this important state, and I will not embark on a novel adventure which direction is unclear.

Bunmi Makinwa is the former Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership


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