Lagos derived its name from a Portuguese explorer, Rui de Sequeira, as a result of its many lagoons. Until the abolition of slave trade, Lagos played host to the exportation of millions of slaves, thus making it a beehive of trading activities. With the abolition of slave trade by the British government, Lagos eventually became a massive economic centre as well as an entry/ exit point for British political and trading exploits in Nigeria. In spite of its small size, Lagos became the source of modern civilization in Nigeria. Moreover, the return of freed slaves who came from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Brazil, West Indies and other parts of the world marked the beginning of modern day commerce in Lagos. The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos contributed to its rapid growth in terms of economy and political influence.
The event leading to the creation of Lagos State among 12 other states of the federation on May 27, 1967 was preceded by the outbreak of civil war which marks the commencement of the transformation of Lagos. Until then, Lagos enjoyed huge infrastructure benefits by virtue of being the then federal capital of the country. Economic opportunities that are available in Lagos have ripple effects on steady growth of investments in the densely populated city. The location of both sea ports of entry, local and international airports have been a formidable factor in economic buoyancy of Lagos in relation to international trade.
Till date, Lagos remains the economic and commercial hub of Nigeria and, indeed, the entire West African sub-region. It generates 26.7% of significant portion of the nation’s Gross Domestic Products, besides over 50% of non-oil sector to her credit. Most of these come from taxes, levies, dues and rates paid on commercial transactions that daily take place in the Central Business District of Lagos Island. More importantly, most of the country’s corporate business headquarters, multinational companies and investment organizations are located in Lagos.
The demands of the increasing population that migrate from other parts of the country have a compelling influence on the development of infrastructure and social amenities in the area of housing, hospitality and transportation. All these are investment opportunities which have expanded the scope of entrepreneurship in the commercial nerve centre of Lagos.
Over the years, Lagos State has been blessed with visionary leaders who have committed themselves to exploring to the maximum the economic and commercial potentials of the state. On a daily basis, diverse people from different parts of the world come into Lagos to explore her numerous economic and commercial potentials. This has paved way for progressive increase in the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the state as well as in her ability to meet critical financial obligations. Today, Lagos targets to hit N50billion as IGR by the end of the current year.
In a bid to further enhance the economic fortunes of the state and expand the frontiers of the ever growing mega city, Lekki Free Trade Zone, LFTZ, was conceived in partnership with China-Africa Lekki Investment Company. An initiative of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, the Zone sits on over 3000 hectares of land along the coastal corridor. The blueprint, over the years, has manifested into physical infrastructural development along the Lekki corridor.
It was launched in 2004 as a vehicle to fully utilize the investment and tourism potential of the State. The Zone is a multi-use facility with zones for industry, manufacturing, residential and tourism. The development is being built over three phases with the first, being the development of infrastructure which has been achievable through a partnership between the Lagos State government and a consortium of Chinese companies. The rest of the Zone is opened to other investors. Investors have the incentive to retain 100% ownership and capital, profit and dividends can be repatriated. Tax holidays, licence waivers and various other concessions and advantages apply to investors in the Lekki Free Trade Zone [LFTZ].
Towards the full realization of the Lekki Free Trade Zone initiative, the Ambode administration have committed over N2 billion in partnership with the Dangote group as a major stakeholder in the construction of a deep sea port that is valued at about N4billion in the zone. The idea is to turn the Lekki corridor into a thriving industrial, commercial and economic hub. As a one stop business community with its full complements, the zone is being equipped with capacity to generate its own electricity. The construction of over 36 kilometers of inner roads have been completed for the benefits of subscribers. Meanwhile, proper security arrangement has been put in place to ensure that lives and properties are well secured in the zone. A police station has been completed in this regard.
Presently, over116 investors have registered with Lekki Free Trade Zone, out of which 16 have commenced full operations while another 100 have signified their intention to register and situate their business within the zone. Against bureaucratic delay involved in clearing goods/raw materials, with its attendant cost implications at the nation’s ports of entry, investors who operate at the zone are exempted from paying import duties on raw materials imported for production/ excise duties for final products if not sold to local market. As part of method of operation, duties will only be paid only on products that are sold into local market.
As against the over-dependence of many states in the country on federal allocation as a major source of revenue, Lagos is practically extending her frontiers of wealth creation by providing basic infrastructure, capable of driving Lekki Free Trade Zone to generate further wealth for the state and, indeed, the country as a whole. Without a doubt, by the time current efforts of the state government and her partners to transform the Lekki Free Zone into a huge economically thriving focal point start yielding results, the state and its residents would be the better for it.
In all of these, as the process of birthing new investment community continues along the Lekki coastal corridor, with its value chain effect on the fortune of the nation, it behooves Lagosians, most especially residents of affected communities to give maximum support to investors so that full benefits of the initiative could be optimally realized.
Odumade writes from Alausa, Ike