Folayinka Dania is Elevating Her Influence to New Heights

The Chief Resilience Officer of Lagos shares insights into gaining a seat at the decision-making table, overcoming capacity challenges, and safeguarding human health.

When Folayinka Dania was a medical student in Lagos, it never crossed her mind that she would work for the government, let alone become the city’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). She had always dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her appointment as a CRO was a combination of circumstances, opportunities and even coincidences that, to her, somehow felt destined.

Dr. Dania was serving in the Ministry of Health within the Department of Planning, Research and Statistics when a request arrived: “We were informed that the new resilience office of the city was being set up, and they needed a representative from the Ministry because some of the issues that they would be addressing were around health,” she remembers.

Once in the resilience team, Dr. Dania was quickly propelled from Senior Project Manager to Deputy CRO, ultimately becoming Lagos’ Chief Resilience Officer in just two years. “I take my work very seriously,” she says with a smile.

Adapting to the role of a CRO was exhilarating yet demanding. “At first, I had to immerse myself in study, as the concept of resilience was new to me,” she recalls. Despite her medical background seeming ‘different’ at a glance, it actually accelerated her learning. She quickly realized that even if her new work was not directly within the health department, it fundamentally contributed to public health. “More than 50% of health determinants lie outside the health sector. So, when addressing city challenges and building resilience, you are actually enhancing public health, whether intentionally or not,” she explains.

Her learning journey in the resilience office has taken her across various sectors. “I have gained insights that nearly make me a transport and housing management expert. Now, with the challenges we face, I am trying to become an energy expert, but for some reason, this topic is hard for me to understand,” she admits, laughing.

The resilience office was just starting from scratch when she began her tenure, presenting a unique opportunity for innovation and to genuinely impact the building of the city’s resilience strategy from the ground up. “We were thrown into the deep end—it was a swim or sink situation—there was no framework of reference to work with in Lagos.”

At that time, the resilience office was seen within the city as a program that was funded by a development partner for the state government. Over the course of five years, it has become fully institutionalized within the Lagos State Government. Dr. Dania and her team have transformed it into a government agency. “In essence, we’ve evolved into a fully-fledged institution within the government. We now have administrative and HR capabilities, finance, procurement and audit departments,” she says.

“The day we launched the strategy was, without a doubt, my proudest moment. All those months of relentless work finally paid off. We were beyond happy to get it out there, to show something concrete for all our efforts.” While various other programs have since been developed, for Dr. Dania, “putting together the strategy remains the most difficult one.”

Reaching this milestone required sacrifices, determination and hard work. The initial resilience assessment alone took a year to complete and required mobilizing multiple stakeholders. Following that, an additional five months were dedicated to developing the resilience strategy. This period was marked by immense dedication from the team, with workdays extending until midnight and weekends blending into weekdays. The team’s commitment to thoroughly collecting data for making decisions based on evidence and amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities was unwavering.

Now, the Lagos State Resilience office is involved in key decision-making conversations across the state, bringing a resilience lens to the programs and projects being developed in the city. This role helps identify priorities, gaps, and the risk landscape for interventions.

Technical capacity has been the biggest challenge, given the ambitious scope of projects the team aims to undertake. To bridge this internal gap, Dr. Dania and her team have taken proactive steps by securing funding from the state government. This strategic move has enabled them to engage consultants, ensuring that the office can continue to execute its vision without compromise.


Shortly after launching the resilience strategy, Lagos faced their first Covid-19 outbreak. “We figured it out quickly that if we didn’t have a role in that response, we would lose our relevance as an office completely,” Dr. Dania remembers.

Determined not to lose their footing, the team dove into action and innovated on the fly. They connected with other cities globally for inspiration and conducted community surveys to inform government decisions. Their survey, showing strong support for a lockdown from over 60,000 responses, guided the government’s deliberations. Although the final lockdown decision was made at the federal level, it underscored the office’s critical role in crisis response. “If we had lost that moment, we would not have achieved what we have today,” she adds.


Reflecting on Lagos’s resilience journey, Dr. Dania emphasizes the continuous nature of this learning process: “There’s still so much to learn because resilience isn’t cast in stone—there’s no textbook that can tell you how it should be done. Every city and context is different. Therefore, we must learn by doing, adapting strategies that work for our specific environment. So, even though we learnt from other peers and experiences, at the end of the day, you still have to localize whatever it is you have learned, or whatever evidence there is, to see if they actually work in your own space—without trying to reinvent the wheel.”

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