The ranking of Lagos and Abuja as some of the world’s worst cities is a wake-up call
Mercer, one of the world’s human resources consultancy firms, releases annually a quality of living index, which looks at the cities that provide the best quality of life. Unfortunately, both Abuja (the administrative capital) and Lagos (the commercial heartland) were listed among the 33 cities with the worst quality of life. That should worry the authorities.
According to the latest report which examined 450 cities in 230 countries, Lagos was ranked number 20 while Abuja was jointly ranked number 19 alongside Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Twenty of the 33 worst cities are in Africa. Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, was ranked 33 while Bangui in the Central African Republic was ranked number two, with Baghdad in Iraq the worst place to live in.
In ranking Lagos, the index said: “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,” while Abuja “suffers from high crime rates from inter-communal violence”.
The index based the overall ranking on cities on key indicators like 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).
Even though no ranking or measurement is perfect, the latest ranking was more or less in sync with previous efforts. An earlier international survey also named 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. The indices considered then were more or less the same: political and social stability, crime, education, and access to health care.
There is no doubt that in the past few years, various governments in Lagos have been trying hard to turn the fortunes of the city of about 18 million inhabitants around. But it has not been an easy task. The city is still congested – vehicular traffic is a daily nightmare. Basic services are lacking. Electricity and drinking water, like everywhere in Nigeria, are rationed. Access to health care is difficult, just as good roads are in short supply. Law enforcement is difficult, made more so by so many unruly people and the police have become a by-word for brutality.
Today, Lagos is ringed with shantytowns and slums populated by the poor and once in a short while, criminal gangs exercise a murderous grip on parts of the state. Abuja is also increasingly becoming the victim of neglect and has started acquiring some of the negative symptoms that led to its founding. The parlous state of infrastructure is becoming alarming. Most satellite communities are yet to experience any meaningful form of development. Many of the streets reek of urine as sanitation standards are poor and expenditure on health care and city services are dwindling. Crime is surging. At practically all levels, there is absence of good governance which is focused on the people, their safety and welfare. The regulatory environment for business could also be better.
Yet it makes sense to take these rankings seriously. Cities have great impact on mental and physical health and indeed the wellness of its inhabitants. They are powerful tool for economic development as they attract business and investments and boost local economies. The present shameful rankings should therefore be seen as another wake up call for more attention to our cities.