Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has hit the ground running, following his swearing-in on May 29. With the appointment of commissioners and special advisers, Lagosians expect him to increase the tempo of performance. Deputy Editor (Daily) EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the challenges before the new State Executive Council.
Much is expected from the commissioners and special advisers recently sworn-in by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The State Executive Council is inheriting many challenges. Many of these problems were highlighted by Sanwo-Olu’s predecessors, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Minister of Works and Housing, and Asiwaju Bola Tinibu, National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
At the retreat for the appointees, Fashola stressed the value of hardwork. Prayer, he said, may not be enough to achieve success. The former governor advised the commissioners and special advisers to seek knowledge, read more and work hard.
Tinubu, whose progressive administration laid the foundation for a modern Lagos in 1999, observed that the members of the new team were fortunate to have been selected in a state of almost 18 million people. He urged them to justify the confidence reposed in them. Tibunu emphasissed that they can live to expectation, if they exhibit great character. In his view, talent and endowment without character are vanity.
After the retreat, Information and Strategy Commissioner Gbenga Omotoso said the members of the council were now fully equipped to confront the challenges of respositioning Lagos.
Lagos is different from other states. It is the economic hub and commercial capital of Nigeria. The exact population is unknown. There is disparity between the Federal Government and state’s claim. But, the reality of population explosion is often acknowledged.
As the biggest state in the country, Lagos is a mini-Nigeria shouldering enormous national, sub-regional and continental responsibilities. There is no family in Nigeria that does not have a representative in Lagos.
Due to the influx of people from across the federation, there is pressure on the social infrastructure-schools, hospitals and roads. Many youths-graduates and non-graduates alike-’migrate’ to the city-state in search of real and imagined green pastures. Over 75 per cent of the total Value Added Tax (VAT) is derived from Lagos. No return is made to the state.
Despite its strategic position, and the responsibilities it shoulders, Lagos is ‘marginalised’. The clamour for special status or special economic assistance for Lagos has often fallen on deaf ears. The Federal Government is aloof to the calls.
Although Lagos has been a reference point in the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) drive, there is still gap between expectation and reality. Lagos is remarkable for tax evation by individuals, companies and institutions.
Although some have argued that the state can survived by the grace of IGR, the infrastructural challenges across the five divisions, three senatorial districts and 57 councils suggest that the state needs help.
Many Lagosians have highlighted the areas that need urgent intervention. These include security, transportation, roads, environment, education, health and social welfare.
Sanwo-Olu, an experienced administrator and former Commissioner, was sensitive to these yearnings right from the governorship campaigns when he traverssed the nooks and crannies of the state.
Thus, during his inauguration, he unfolded a problem-solving agenda: THEMES in his speech titled: “Awakening a greater Lagos. It encompasses Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, and Security and Governance.
The six pillars were derived from the famous ‘Lagos Blue Print for Development,’ which was the bedrock of the successful Tinubu and Fashola administrations.
The need to consolidate on these achievements made Sanwo-Olu to set up a cabinet of talents, reminisent of the two dispensations.
Sanwo-Olu has inherited the burden of govering a highly sensitive, diverse and cosmopolitan state, and the media headquarters of Nigeria. The onus is on the governor to always reflect the dynamism in his focus and priorities. He should be able to relate well with the stakeholders.
The governor should demonstrate courage. Many people expect him to complete the projects left behind by his predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode. He has promised to do so. Besides, the searchlight is being beamed on Lagos debt profile, with a view to reducing it to the bearest minimum. He should take action.
The critical ministries are being supervised by competent professionals who have experienced and track record of performance in their fields and public service.
Eyes are on Transport Commissioner Dr. Fredrick Oladehinde and Special Adviser Toyin Fayinka. On their palms is the ‘Roadmap for Transportation policy’, which should be implemented to resolve the traffic snarl and enhance the “ease of movement.” The last four years were remarkable for chaos in the sector. Former Transport Commissioner Kayode Opeifa described the preceeding years as a period of disaster when solutions preffered were groosly inadequate.
Many stakeholders have pleaded with the government to increase the BRT Buses plying the various routes. It is evident that Sanwo-Olu has started motivating the Lagos State Transport Agency (LASTA) to be more patriotic and efficient in the discharge of their duties. This should be sustained.
Since potholes are also responsible for the traffic snarl in many locations, it is expected that the filling of the potholes will reduce the tension on the roads.
A lawyer, Monday Ubani, said Sanwo-Olu should fight the infrastructure battle. In his view, the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Works should work together.
“The roads are terribly bad. We usually have hold-up, and it has become worsened by the day. Sometimes, you are in it for three, four hours. Lagos occupies a pivotal place in the economic life of Nigeria. Appointments are cancelled because you cannot meet them because of the terrible situation. This affects businesses.”
Ubani urged the governor to construct and rehabilitate more roads to make life easier for Lagosians. He said attention should also shift to inner roads and roads in the hinterlands outside the metropolis. In his view, Sanwo-Olu should borrow a leaf from Fashola’s style.
He said: “The roads are terribly bad. Former Governor Fashola was using private contractors to do the inner roads. Now, they are not filling it the way it should be done. Sanwo-Olu should use Fashola’s method. He used private people and let government officials supervise.”
Besides, the former Second National Vice-President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) advised the governor to “do away with the real buses and okada and shift attention to the purchase of more BRT buses and the development of alternative means of transportation, including water transportation.”
Ubani added: “Many roads are not tarred. The governor needs to do roads in the hinterland so that people can live in the ooutskirts. People can live far from their places of work, if there are good roads and effective means of transport.”
To complement the efforts of the state governemnt, other stakeholders said the local governments should be strengthened to also do minor road construction in their localities.
APC chieftain Isiaka Adekunle Ibrahim made three suggestions: “The state government should liase very well with the Federal Government to do the federal roads in Lagos. We have a hardworking governor and a Minister of Works and Housing who is from Lagos.
“Governor Sanwo-Olu should come to the aid of Ikorodu, which is suffering from poor roads. He should look at Agric-Isawo Road, Igbogbo Road, Itamaga-Ijede Road. Many people are trooping into Ikorodu.
“Also, Sanwo-Olu and Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun should cooperate and contruct the Agric, Ikorodu-Redeemed Camp Road. They both belong to APC.”
Echoing Ubani, Ibrahim, a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, said: “The governor should restore discipline to Lagos roads by banning the motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (Maruwa) from major roads.”
He added: “He may turn to other sectors like education and health. But, his achievements in the area of road construction will be too visible. The on-going and abandoned road projects should be completed.”
Another critical sector is the environment. Lagos is fortunate to have a tested administrator, Commissioner Tunji Bello, at the helm of affairs at the Ministry. He is ably supported by Comrade Joe Igbokwe, an engineer and Special Adviser on Drainages.
The heaps of refuse were the legacies of Ambode in the Centre of Excellence. Many Lagosians were taken aback by hiccup in refuse disposal, which has aggraverted the challenge of environmental sanitation.
Today, Lagos is back to the pre-1999 period. Drainages are blocked. Major roads and streets are littered with wastes. Unless these problems are urgently tackled, they may compound the problem of flooding in many parts of the state.
“Can Lagos be clean again? It was clean before. That was when Tunji Bello was commissioner. He is back to the unfinished business. Speed is required. I believe that the commissioner and Igbokwe will make impact,” said Ibrahim.
Education and health are also critical. Despite government’s efforts, there is still congestion in many public schools. The learning environment should be improved upon. New settlements require new primary and secondary schools to prevent the stress of trecking to distant schools by pupils from low socio-economic homes.
Government has tried to upgrade General Hospitals. But, investigation has revealed that Lagos needs more primary health centres, especially at the grassroots. Medical personel should demonstrate patriotism.
On security, Ubani said: “Sanwo-Olu should build on the feats of his predecessors.” Also, Ibrahim said: “If Lagos is unsafe, it will spell down for the Nigerian economy. So, the governor should continue to make security a priority.
The APC chairman, Tunde Balogun, said the party will always monitor the government to ensure compliance with the developmental agenda.
Omotoso said the new commissioners are up to the task. “Lagosians are going to see a lot of actions from this government because everything tha thas been planned will not be put into action.”
He added: “ We are fully armed and fully energised and we are going to go into action and Lagosians will see a good, better and greater Lagos, the Lagos that we all have been dreaming of, that will be the pride of everybody.