Lagos and Ogun States have always been like Siamese Twins. They share boundaries in so many places that it is difficult to tell where one State’s boundaries end and the other’s begin. In fact, there are some residential locations where houses on one side of the street are in Lagos State while houses on the other side are in Ogun State.
In addition, some citizens live in Ogun State and work in Lagos and verse versa. There have been instances where you only learn of the location of the land you have bought after paying for it, because you thought you were in Lagos while the property is actually in Ogun. Several universities and other educational institutions, religious and corporate bodies that were granted licenses for Lagos have found themselves in Ogun State, which now seems like an extension of Lagos.
Historically, the citizens are also linked in terms of tribe and language. You will not be right if you think the Ijebus are only in Ogun State because there are a substantial number of Ijebu people in Lagos. It is also the same with the Aworis. Of course the major language spoken in the two States is Yoruba.
Geographically, Lagos is bordered on the north and east by Ogun State which is the only Nigerian entity it shares boundaries with. Its western border is shared with Republic of Benin while its southern borders are with the Atlantic Ocean.
With all these similarities, yesterday’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the establishment of the Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Commission was long expected.
In signing the MOU, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Ogun State Counterpart Dapo Abiodun basically concretized the thinking of many who felt that the two states ought to take advantage of their closeness in more ways than have been felt.
Following on the signing of the MOU, the next step is to establish a joint committee that would implement the terms of the agreement and formally send Bills to Houses of Assembly in both States to generate statutory support for the establishment of the commission.
Once the bills for the MOU are passed by the two Houses of Assembly, it would enable the States to collaborate for integration of physical and socio-economic development, mutual growth of business activities, infrastructure, and boundary dispute resolution.
The MOU should be seen as the beginning in bilateral relationship between the neighbouring States, because apart from sharing socio-cultural backgrounds, they will be able to work on other key areas of mutual interests to boost security, commerce and urbanization.
The feelers have been there that a joint commission would have to be considered because of the need to maximise socio-economic benefits for citizens of the States based on comparative advantages and shared interests.
Specific areas to be covered by the partnership include:
- Infrastructural development in boundary cities
- Revenue and taxation remittances
- Trade and investment
- Resolution of boundary disputes
- Security intelligence sharing
- Environmental and physical planning
- Emergency and disaster management
- Inland waterways management
- Traffic management, and
- Food security
Lagos Governor Sanwo-Olu described the two States as Siamese twins connected by geography, commerce and cultural affinities, saying the synergy was to explore common development issues to stimulate growth.
The MOU will therefore enable them to mutually tackle issues prevalent in key economic sectors, including transportation, the environment, housing, health, infrastructure and security.
Sanwo-Olu said the agreement was, “A game changer that will transform the urban agglomeration that exists between Lagos and Ogun States. We are driven by the desire to stimulate socio-economic growth, bridge development gaps and ensure that Lagos’ megacity status is complemented by pervasive infrastructural development even in boundary towns”.
He noted that the best way to accelerate socio-economic development in both States is by embracing a more collaborative approach for growth, development and urban sustainability.
“Regardless of the challenges, we are determined to build more livable and stable cities. Our goal is to build sustainable urban cities, where the residents of the both States will have a sense of belonging, embrace participatory governance, and recognise their role in achieving solid urban economies”, he explained.
The joint commission, Sanwo-Olu pointed out, is a sustainable development agenda under which Lagos and Ogun will combine resources to meet the socio-economic needs of the people and prepare for the future.
He said: “The common goal is to provide good governance and make life more meaningful for the electorate, and that is our driving force. We must never forget that, as Nigerians, we are all interconnected in one way or the other, and the fastest way to accelerate socio-economic growth and create an equitable society is by uniting to combat our challenges.”
In his own comments, Governor Abiodun said the MOU was the resolve and deliberate efforts of two “forward-thinking” States, stressing that the initiative would be a success as it was the first time Lagos and Ogun would have a formal, structured framework of bilateral engagement that would be backed by legislation.
He stated that the agreement took cognizance of the development envisioned by the Prof. Akin Mabogunje Committee on Redeployment of Lagos Megacity Region Plan submitted to the Federal Government in 2006, explaining that the development imperatives needed to be streamlined for the two States to be focused on sustaining common goals and future growth.
Governor Abiodun said that, “The MOU we are signing is a culmination of various efforts by State and non-state actors who have seen beyond the geographical delineation of our States. We are cognizant of the fact that Ogun State is the only neighbour that Lagos has and that we are a natural overflow of Lagos. There is no way development in Lagos would not have a spiral effect in Ogun or vice versa. Ogun and Lagos States are like two rivers flowing onto each other. It is very difficult to identify which of the rivers is actually flowing onto the other. Institutions, such as the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Customs Service and others have already recognised the Siamese relationship between our two States and have always grouped Lagos and Ogun as one zone under their respective High Commands.”
A lot of words have been used to describe the convenience and advantages inherent in the proposed Lagos-Ogun Joint Commission.
Many citizens of both States have especially been victims of double taxation and other government levies that both sides have not been able to resolve for many years. This and other issues should be on the top burner when the Commission comes on stream. The Houses of Assembly of both States will do well to speed up action on the bills from the executive arms when presented so that action can begin.
Other contiguous States in Nigeria may do well to emulate this strategy being put together by Lagos and Ogun States to jointly develop their areas and give their citizens higher standard of living. Twin States like Edo and Delta have a Siamese nature and closeness, from belonging to the same geographical entity – Midwest Region and Bendel State – in the past. Same goes for Cross and Akwa Ibom, as well as Rivers and Bayelsa. Somehow, the past ‘twinning’ relationship of the past does not seem to have made some of these States closer. In fact, the enmity between some of the erstwhile same States is so deep that they do not recruit staff from their neighbours into their civil service and other agencies like the judiciary.
Lagos and Ogun States, that cannot be said to be close because of past political or geographical linkage only, have set the tone of how neighbours can become closer, even if they are diverse in some ways, by setting up the machinery that will bring their citizens more economic and social development. If they can make this work, it will be a good story to tell and imitate.
WELCOME TO THE LAGOS-OGUN JOINT DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION.
IMAGE CREDIT: LASG
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.