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(Opinion) Ambode’s Lagos global initiative, taxation and the Lagos economy

Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode
Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode

Tayo Ogunbiyi

Lagos is unique in many ways. It is, however, in the aspect of its economy that its uniqueness really comes to fore. Despite not being an oil producing state, Lagos is one of the few states in the country that is self sustaining. Its growing economy derives its strength from commercial and financial activities. Lagos accounts for 20.2 percent of Nigeria’s nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 50.7 percent of non oil GDP, and the highest level consumption in the country. Lagos is home to about 2,000 industrial complexes, 10,000 commercial ventures and 22 industrial estates. It contributes 30% to the nation’s GDP (2006 statistics) and is the leading contributor to the non-oil sector GDP (2011 statistics). It accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, over 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. It has a GDP of $131billion. 40 per

cent of telephone subscribers’ base networks are also based in the city. Aside this, Lagos consumes about 45 percent of the petroleum products in the country. Lagos is a private sector-driven economy. Growth in Lagos would have spiral effect on Nigeria as a whole. Lagos has the lowest level of unemployment in Nigeria at 7percent compared to some states that have as much as 40precent.

It is in order to effectively leverage on the potentials of the Lagos economy for optimal efficacy that the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, made the establishment of the Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment, generally known as Lagos Global, one of his earliest tasks. The Office, which was set up by the governor on his inauguration day, is to help achieve the vision of Lagos State as Africa’s Model Megacity and Global Economic and Financial Hub that is safe, secure, functional and productive. Lagos Global is designed to be a one-stop shop for foreign investors. The Office of Overseas Affairs, which drives the Lagos Global initiative, is to, among others, initiate, formulate and evaluate policies relating to the promotion of inward and outward investments, liaise with embassies, chambers of commerce, ministries and agencies on foreign relations, promote State export potentials, facilitate foreign direct investment and inter-ECOWAS/African

Union commerce and trade as well as facilitate export promotion, fairs and exhibitions to showcase the potentials of Lagos

Without a doubt, the Lagos Global initiative has been providing a boost for the investment drive as well as the general growth of the Lagos State economy within such a short spate of time. Recently, German manufacturing firm, the Knauf Group International, expressed its readiness to commence work on a N14billion manufacturing firm in the state. This came to fore when the German Ambassador, His Excellency Michael Zenner, led a group of German diplomats and investors on a courtesy visit to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja. Other local and international investors have since been signifying their interests in doing business in Lagos. In recent time, the state government has played host to investors from Dubai, United States of America, Namibia, Middle East, Europe as well as our own Dangote Group of Companies. With the state already having various investments commitment in the region of about N500billion naira from both local and foreign interests, it is safe to affirm that the Lagos economy is already moving along the right path.

However, in as much as the state government’s investment drive would, no doubt, have a great impact on the state’s economy, it is important to stress that it is in properly entrenching a culture of tax payment in the state’s socio-economic system that its economy could actually thrive better. All over the world, governments rely on taxes paid by the citizens to finance their activities. Revenue accrued from tax is used to provide jobs, upgrade public infrastructure and provide medical care among others. Taxation helps in maintaining the stability of any country’s economy.

The significance of taxation to the development of any economy cannot be over stressed as it is a major tool for socio-economic advancement. by which states can develop, and any state where there is meaningful development will be seen to take the issues of taxation seriously.

In Lagos state, it is rather regrettable that despite the efforts of previous administrations in the State to build a tax driven economy, it is only about 3million Lagos residents out of a taxable adult population of about 8million that pays their taxes. The reality of this development is that only 3million people bears the burden of over 20million Lagos residents. It is crucial to stress that, with dwindling oil revenue and its attendant effects on the national economy, the only way forward for a burgeoning mega city like Lagos, where peoples’ expectations from the government are always high, is for the people to fully embrace taxation as a way of life.

The Ambode administration, no doubt, has great plans to take Lagos state to a new level of prosperity. The recent strides of the administration readily attest to this. For instance, in order to enhance the quality of health care delivery in the state, government has provided 20 mobile care units’ ambulances and 26 transport ambulances to various General Hospitals in the state. To improve security in the state, government has also procured 100 brand new power bikes, 10 armoured tanks and a helicopter to support the State Police Command in ensuring a safer Lagos. This is in addition to the acquisition of 100 brand new squad cars for the Special Operation Service which is expected to coordinate community policing in the State. In order to provide soccour for it retirees, the state government recently released the sum of N11billion to offset pension arrears owed pensioners since 2010. To ensure

Also, poised to provide good and motorable roads with highest standards and quality across the state, the state has improved the condition of 128 roads across the state. These include Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Mongoro-Cement-Dopemu under bridge axis, Epe-Ijebu -Ode road, Odumola-Poka/College road junction axis, Ado road, Ajah, Obalende bridge descent inward NIPOST, Lekki-Epe expressway, Elemoro-Abijo axis, Billings way, Oregun, Ashabi Cole street, Alausa, Abdul Ouadri Adebiyi street, Magodo Ph II among others. The Ejigbo–Ikotun road and Ikotun-Isolo road are also currently being rehabilitated, while Brown road and Ladipo-Mushin road are also being considered for facelift.

In-spite of the current steady strides of the Ambode administration, , without a doubt, much still need to be done. Being a melting point of people from diverse parts of the world, Lagos has peculiar infrastructure needs. There is, perhaps, no other state in the country that contends with as much pressure on its infrastructure as Lagos does. This is why taxable Lagos residents must partner with the state government through prompt and willing payment of taxes in order to attain the Lagos of our collective dream. This is the path that is being towed by all the advanced democracies of the world. This is the only way for Lagos to achieve a stable and prosperous economy. This is the right thing to do.

 

Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa, Ikeja

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