A global human resources consultancy firm, Mercer, annually releases a quality of living index, which looks at the cities that provide the best quality of life.
The ranking is one of the most comprehensive of its kind and is carried out annually to help multinational companies and other employers to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.
Unfortunately, both the Federal Capital Territory Abuja and the nation’s commercial nerve centre Lagos were listed among the 33 cities of the world with the worst quality of life.
Mercer’s latest report, which examined 450 cities in 230 countries, ranked Lagos number 20 while Abuja was jointly ranked 19 alongside Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
20 of the world’s 33 worst cities are in Africa with Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania ranked the 33rd worst while Bangui in the Central African Republic was ranked second worst.
With “severe infrastructural damage from several wars and continual on the ground violence”, Baghdad, Iraq was rated the worst city in the world. The city also “continues to face threats from ISIS”, according to the report.
“The country’s largest city battles environmental threats such as riptides annually. Citizens are also under continual threats to their personal safety, including the kidnapping of students and murder,” the Mercer report stated with regards to Lagos even as it stated that the nation’s capital, Abuja “suffers from high crime rates from inter-communal violence”.
The index based the overall ranking on cities on key indicators such as the political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement); economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services); socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom); medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution); and schools and education (standards and availability of international schools).
Other indices considered were public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion); recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure); consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars); housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services); and natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).
Lagos in particular suffers from stretched public infrastructure as a result of its huge population, which is estimated at about 18 million. The city, with its adjoining conurbation, is the largest in Nigeria, as well as on the African continent. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and also one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world.
Lagos is a major financial centre in Africa; the mega city has the highest GDP, and also houses one of the largest and busiest seaports on the continent.
Lagos accounts for about 60 % of economic growth in Nigeria. About 80 % of the nation’s industry is based in this state, which is also the main financial centre of West Africa. But Lagos is not only a centre of gravity for professionals; it also has a vibrant and even aggressive informal economic sector.
Given the multiple pressures, the public investments in social infrastructure by the state government seem like a drop in the ocean. The condition of the roads is appalling, public schools are congested and health centres are grossly inadequate. Thousands are jobless and homeless. All too often, violent crime becomes an option for frustrated minds and idle hands.
The rapid population growth in Lagos Metropolis results in shortages of housing and growth of slums, lack of housing finance and failure of the urban community as a whole to adapt to changing conditions.
Institutions and social services are not coping with the influx of migrants. The population increase has a direct impact on land use; it results in the demand for more land. Industry has occupied a significant proportion of the metropolis, and this has given rise to even more problems such as heavy traffic, noise pollution and industrial pollution.
Like the Mercer report, there have been other global surveys which also rated Lagos as one of the worst cities to live in, describing its infrastructure as “intolerable, undesirable and uncomfortable” and placed it in the same league with Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
While successive governments in the state must be commended for trying hard to turn the fortunes of the megacity around, it is time to consider granting Lagos State a special status and making more revenue from the centre available to it to address the challenges of being Nigeria’s commercial hub and economic capital.
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