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Iwelumo: Lagos has interest of private sector operators at heart

Mary Iwelumo, a partner with PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Co-Chair for Ehingbeti Summit, in this interaction with journalists, shares the vision and mission of the summit, which is slated for next month in Lagos. SUNDAY OJEME reports

What does Ehingbeti, the Lagos Economic Summit, mean to a lay man on the street?

I think Ehingbeti should be seen as a platform that symbolises that Lagos is for everybody in Lagos, of Lagos, thinking of Lagos. It is ours. Basically, the word is a reference to the core of Lagos, where commerce and exchange of goods took place – dating back to the pre-colonial days and is still there, bubbling with commercial activities. As such, Ehingbeti means vibrancy, connection, exchange and wealth.

What should Lagosians expect from this year’s Summit?

Well, this year’s summit is all about the future of Lagos. Lagosians should expect some comfort around the knowledge that the Lagos State Government and the private sector in Lagos have the best interest of Lagos and Lagosians at heart. The state government is open to receiving ideas from Lagosians and this year’s Summit will provide yet another avenue to share these ideas. We also expect that a lot of good ideas will then be translated into policies for the development of Lagos and eventually executed as programmes and initiatives in Lagos State. Lagosians should expect to get additional clarity around what Lagos will look like in 30 years and their role in making that future a reality.

What are some of the successes recorded in past Summits?

I mean, the one that comes to mind (and I guess because the commissioning is probably close at hand) are the rail lines, the light rail lines, this is a success. The blue and red lines rail project was proposed in 2008, work started in 2009 and this year at least one of the lines will be commissioned. I also know that from previous Summits, initiatives like: 1. The Ikoyi Link Bridge were birthed. It is amazing how the Ikoyi Link Bridge has become a symbol of Lagos. It does not matter the movie you are watching when you see the bridge you will just know that this is Lagos. I agree with the notion that one sign of a developed area is the ability to tie built up architecture to the area. It is a sign of success to have something like this (the Link Bridge) in Lagos. 2. The Independent Power Plants (IPPs) was conceptualized in 2000 and six IPPs were initiated in 2013. 3. The Pen Cinema bridge building started in 2017 and was commissioned in 2021. 4. The Deep Sea ports at Lekki – construction started in 2017 – is set to be fully open this year. 5. The Imota Rice Mill, built in 2021 with full production scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2022. 6. The Lagos home ownership mortgages scheme was inaugurated in 2014. 7. The State Security Trust Fund – launched in 2009 – continues to be a live example of the public- private sector coming together for the sake of Lagos. There are many more.

Who are your target audiences for this year’s Summit?

For the Summit, this year, our target audiences are people that love Lagos, anybody that loves Lagos. Lagos is where the market is. I always tease people that for the black man to succeed, Africa must succeed and for Africa to succeed, Nigeria must succeed and for Nigeria to succeed, Lagos must succeed. The average Lagosian wants to succeed and dream of a better life. This is our target audience. You know, with the pandemic, it has become the norm to adopt the hybrid mode of engagement. As such, this year, our target audience do not all have to converge physically at one place (Eko Hotel) to participate in the Summit; participants can join online and still participate from wherever they are.

211 resolutions have been implemented so far. How many resolutions are yet to be implemented and how many resolutions are we looking to have this year?

About 95 per cent of the 211 resolutions have been or are being implanted. That is over 200, I think, about 10 or 11 are yet to be implemented. I am not sure I can put a number on how many resolutions we are looking to have. This is because the conversations are typically organic and come to fruition over the Summit period. I do know that over the two days – 11th and 12th of October 2022 – there will be ideas and we would translate those ideas into resolutions. From past summits, up to 20 to 25 resolutions have been agreed. I am not sure that there is a number we are targeting, but we are sure that we would get ideas that would further propel the development of Lagos.

Who are the top dignitaries expected to grace the Summit?

Some of the movers and shakers of the Nigerian economy, a lot of the economic leaders from different sectors of the economy are expected to attend the summit ranging from the financial sector, energy sector, professional services, conglomerates, manufacturing, entertainment, public sector, development partners and many more. For example, in a few days, we would be discussing with the Chartered Institute of Bankers and expect significant participation from their members. You know I told you that the focus of the Summit this year, is long term planning; We know that the execution of the plan will be dependent on our youths. As such, a number of youth dignitaries from different industries will also be there. From where I am from,will not mention anybody’s name until I have their permission to do so, but I know that we are expecting some very important and interesting personalities to be at the Summit. Attending the Ehingbeti Summit will be a worthwhile endeavour.

Expectations from Lagosians It is simply to say let us work together and I guess it is in two parts:

• One, Lagosians are more than indigenes; there are people who just love Lagos, earn a living in Lagos, live in Lagos, go to school in Lagos…

they are Lagosians and contribute to the creating the Fut u r e Lagos •

Two, we all need to recognise the fact that we all need to work together to create our Future Lagos. For example, the blocked drainage systems, causing the flash floods as they call them, is not just the Government’s responsibility to fix; we all need to play our part and work together to get the desired drainage system.

What is next after the Ehingbeti Summit?

After the summit, some of the ideas and resolutions will be included in the 30-year plan for implementation. With deliberate steps, we would start to implement the plan. As I understand it, from this year, the work of The Economic Summit Group does not end at the end of the Summit. So, we will continue to work to keep responsible parties accountable. Ask the right questions and track the status of implementation of the Summit resolutions.

What are your projections for Lagos in the coming years?

I am old enough to remember when the seat of the Government of Nigeria was moved to Abuja and there was fear that Lagos was going to get relegated. This has not happened. Lagos has continued to be at the center of activities for individuals, businesses, governments and foreign partners – recognising that without Lagos it is a lot more difficult to succeed at almost anything – and I do not see that changing. Let me just surmise by saying that I see Lagos as the cornerstone for the success of the black race.

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