Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State has in line with his campaign promises to make Lagos a better place has started implementing them, writes Joseph Ushigiale
Lagos, the fifth largest economy in Africa and the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, experienced giant leap in the provision of critical infrastructure in strategic sectors in two days when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on November 8 and 9, 2017, unveiled some newly completed projects and policies which were obviously designed to make life comfortable for residents and enhance the ease of doing business.
The two significant days, which were a mixture of inspection of ongoing and unveiling of completed projects, also featured the inauguration of a 45-member Community Relations Committee in Badagry aimed at forestalling any future incidence of environmental degradation, communal disputes and civil disturbances often associated with oil producing areas.
The first point of call last Wednesday was the premises of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, where Governor Ambode inaugurated a new access road designed to permanently remove difficulties associated with accessing medical care faster during emergencies. The road, which is an alternative access road, connects the premises of LASUTH from Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way and Medical Road in Ikeja.
Ambode, who also inspected the progress of work on the LASUTH Maternity Hospital popularly known as Ayinke House which started in January 2016, ordered contractors handling the project to work day and night to deliver it within the next six months.
The new road, which is 400 metres long, on the other hand, is designed with street light, drainage, median and beautification features.
Speaking while inaugurating the road, Ambode expressed delight at the completion of the project, saying it was designed to facilitate faster access to medical care, thereby saving lives. He said it was a thing of joy that after about three to four decades, another access road had been created to LASUTH, just as he directed the management of the institution to ensure proper usage of the facility.
He said: “We are very delighted to be here. We believe strongly that the major cornerstone for the growth of the economy of Lagos actually lies in the hands of all of you here because if we don’t have a healthy state, we cannot have a productive economy and that was why we decided that we would pay greater attention to the health sector.
“We realised that just one entrance into this whole complex is too dangerous. It’s been like that for almost three or four decades and we are happy to be here opening another access road and thereby saving lives. That is the way it should be because patients can come in with an ambulance but can be held up for almost thirty minutes and unable to disembark but this road will remove the tragedy that may occur through such a development and we are happy to inaugurate this project.
“We are also happy that in another five to six months, we will be back here to make the Ayinke House functional and in addition to that, there are other two projects going on here and we have received assurances also that before May 2018, those ones will be completed also,” he said.
Ambode moved to Igando where he inspected the ongoing expansion and upgrade of Alimosho General Hospital. There, the governor ordered additional projects such as lounge for families of patients and canteen, as well as Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department to be included in the project, while assuring that his desire is to ensure that the hospital is at par with LASUTH in terms of standard and facilities.
The governor also inspected the ongoing construction of Theatre Art in Badagry as well as the General Hospital in the town.
Speaking the following day while inaugurating the members of the oil exploration community relations committee, Ambode said as much as oil is a major source of revenue in the country, its exploration has created huge environmental challenges affecting health, social and economic activities, sustainable development and ecological balance due to land degradation, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation and ecosystem degradation in the oil producing communities.
“These activities amongst others have led to agitations from communities and youth groups leading to disruption of exploration activities, pipeline vandalism and in extreme cases kidnapping and violence. This has made it difficult to conduct the business of oil production smoothly and ensure that the relationships between the oil companies and their host communities remain cordial at all times. This has also affected negotiations for compensations for land acquisition, damages and spills,” he said.
Ambode, therefore, said that Lagos, being the home of Nigeria’s most critical commercial activities and now an oil producing state with the discovery of oil in the Badagry area of the state; in the Aje Oil Field, OML 113 being operated by Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company, cannot afford to have any community unrests or disruption of peace, hence the need for the committee.
“It is imperative that our oil producing companies and their host communities enjoy a very warm and mutually beneficial relationship.
“Sequel to the aforesaid and the need to create a conducive exploration environment for the oil companies as well as having host communities devoid of rancor to prevent the re-occurrence of the Niger Delta issues in Lagos State, we have constituted a Committee for the Lagos State Oil Producing Areas Relations, cutting across the Oil Producing Communities in Badagry,” the governor said.
While setting up the committee consisting of representatives of the state and local government, the host communities, women and youth, traditional rulers and other stakeholders, Ambode said the committee would among other things, interface between the host communities and the oil companies in Badagry, as well as coordinate a seamless implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) interventions planned for the Badagry oil producing areas by oil producing companies in Badagry.
He said the committee would also be saddled with the responsibility of coordinating community and development issues between host communities, government and oil producing companies operating in Badagry.
Besides, Ambode said the committee would also be expected to ensure peace and harmony between host communities and oil producing companies in Badagry.
“Our government is committed to creating a conducive environment for all to thrive especially in our budding oil industry. We will always work to protect our people and ensure their improved welfare while at the same time providing an investor-friendly environment.
“On our part, we will take proactive measures to prevent oil spill and where it happens, quickly move to clean it up according to globally accepted standards. We will also ensure the safety and security of our communities and operators at all times.”
Alluding to the fact that the Badagry area was fast becoming a major hub for oil producing activities in Nigeria, the governor expressed optimism that the upcoming Badagry Deep Sea Port will provide logistic support for the oil and gas industry and further support the expansion of the economy of the axis thereby making it more viable and livable.
While thanking members of the committee for accepting to serve and contribute to the development of Lagos, the governor charged them to bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to ensure cooperation and collaboration between the communities and the oil companies operating in Badagry.
“This is a tough assignment because it is not easy to mediate and arbitrate. I look forward to receiving the reports of your activities and the progress being made by our communities and oil companies,” he said.
Speaking while inaugurating Olusola Thomas Court House in Badagry, a new six-room court complex named after a former Chief Judge of the State, Ambode said the development was another strong representation of his commitment to the rule of law and social justice, as well as a testimony of the determination to ensure that distance or geographical location is not a barrier to citizens’ access to justice.
He recalled that prior to the construction of the facility, the entire town of Badagry including residents from the Benin Republic border all the way to Okokomaiko were served by only two courts, one for Magistrate and the other for High Court, which were grossly inadequate, a development he said necessitated the need to embark on the project.
He added that the need to construct more court rooms in the axis was also made imperative by the fact that the Badagry axis was fast evolving as a major economic hub in the state with vast potential especially in tourism and commerce.
“The ongoing transformation of Badagry through infrastructural renewal and development are meant to open up this part for investors who will take advantage of the multi-million oil exploration activity and Deep Sea Port Project, among others.
“As the prospect and prosperity begin to manifest, Badagry will continue to experience influx of people who will engage in different types of economic activities as well as making it a place of residence. The resultant increase in social and economic activities will naturally lead to a corresponding increase in dispute which will require an efficient justice system to resolve as quickly as possible,” he said.
Giving details on the features of the new complex, the governor said: “The court has been equipped with modern facilities for the comfort of not only judges and magistrates but also everyone including lawyers and members of the public.
“The court has been designed to ensure the welfare and security of personnel and members of the public who have cause to be in the chambers of justice with the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras and monitors within the various courtrooms and the entire vicinity of this complex.
“There is a well-equipped library, exhibit room and conference room facilities for the continued training and retraining of justice personnel assigned to this complex. This facility is also equipped with administrative offices that will service the six courtrooms and also accommodate the Office of Public Defender (OPD) which will continue to provide legal services and advice to the vulnerable,” he explained.
Besides, Ambode assured that the bad state of roads leading to Badagry would soon be a thing of the past, adding: “We have already concluded the contract that takes the road from Eric More to Okokomaiko which is ongoing. So, we are just looking to close the next transaction that takes that 10-lane road from Okokomaiko to Seme Border.”
To another set of projects, Ambode proceeded to Ketu where he inaugurated multiple Layby and Slip Road in Agboyi Ketu Local Council Development Area of the state as part of measures to find a lasting solution to the perennial traffic gridlock along Ikorodu Road.
The governor also launched the Intelligence Transport System (ITS), the e-ticketing for commuters using the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the Ojota BRT Depot and the new complex for the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority known as LAMATA Place.
Speaking while inaugurating the slip road and multiple lay-by in Ketu, Ambode said the project was a significant milestone in drastically reducing the traffic along the corridor, adding that its completion would no doubt impact directly on travel time as the targeted reduction of traffic along the length of the Third Mainland Bridge to the entire stretch of the axis, moving towards Old Toll Gate and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway would be accomplished.
“This project is one of the major interventions in recent time by this administration. There is the multiple lay-by at Oworonshoki, the car wash lay-by, slip road at Olopomeji, the several see through fence and the recently launched lay-by at Alapere bus stop.
“Without doubt, this administration has dedicated considerable resources to the fulfillment of its initiatives of providing basic elements of roads and transport infrastructure. This obviously is in tandem with the fact that the importance of transportation to our economy cannot be over emphasised,” he said.
The governor said as part of the Bus Reform Initiative (BRI), additional new 800 buses would be provided in the next two months, while a total of 5,000 would be provided within 24 months.
He said another multiple lay-by and slip road with car park and market with big stores would be constructed in Ikosi Isheri, while 27,500 sanitation workers employed in line with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative designed to make all parts of the state clean, would commence work in the next three weeks.
He, however, urged residents to cooperate with government, especially by not plying commercial motorcycle, popularly known as Okada in restricted routes, saying such was why the government was providing enough buses.
Speaking at Ojota while launching the e-ticketing, ITS, BRT Depot and LAMATA Place, Ambode said the move was another initiative geared to allow proper transport planning, saying that the technology had been designed to indicate where each bus is; how the driver is behaving; the arrival time of a bus and space inside, among others.
Giving details, the governor said: “This is a four-in-one package. When you look at the city generally, I get so unhappy when I see people standing in the bus stops not knowing when the next bus will arrive. The ITS is designed to solve such problem and our people can become more productive and then more comfortable in the way they commute across the city.
“We are starting this from the Ikorodu axis to CMS on the BRT lane and then we will scale it up as we get our new buses in few months away from now. In addition to that, the e-ticketing allows you to plan your little disposable income. So, if you are going to budget just N500 for transport in a week, the e-ticketing allows you rather than not being able to plan your transport movement.
“The truth is this, there are more Lagosians using buses; there are more Lagosians walking on the road than those of us that have cars and so we need to take proper care of them and that is the step we are taking here and the reforms we are doing in the transport sector ultimately to create an integrated transport management system in the city combining water, road, rail, air and those walking.”
As part of the integrated transport management system, Ambode had on November 5, 2017 inaugurated three new boats the state government designed to boost water transportation, while the state government has also commenced the channelisation of four out of the thirty commercial ferry routes already identified on the state inland waterways, in addition to the ongoing rail projects.
However, the projects did not go down without commendation from critical stakeholders who viewed them as demonstrable evidence of determination to make life easier and comfortable to the people by the Ambode administration.
Responding on behalf of the community, Oba of Ketu, HRM Isiaka Balogun commended Ambode for the massive infrastructural projects carried out in the axis so far, saying they were unprecedented.
Also, in her remarks at the launch of new courtrooms in Badagry, Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke, commended Ambode for his commitment to deliver prompt and efficient justice system.
While lauding the new court house, the CJ said it was also gratifying that the governor was in the process of building official quarters for judges and magistrates in Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry judicial divisions, as well as plans to establish commercial court house.
The Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Professor Adewale Oke, during the inauguration of the new access road, commended Ambode for his commitment to the health sector, saying several projects had been executed in the institution.
“This is a dream come true. For many years, we have had problem with movement of patients into the hospital. Sometimes, they are in the ambulance for fifteen or twenty minutes before they can get in but this road has solved that problem.
“It is going to save our patients; it’s going to make access to the hospital very easy even for the workers. To add more to it, it is very aesthetically beautiful which complement the development that is going around,” Oke said.
Also speaking, Professor Babatunde Sholagbero, Provost of Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), said the completion of the road was an eloquent evidence of promise made and promise kept.
He thanked Governor Ambode for facilitating the accreditation of Dentistry for the institution, thereby making Lagos State University (LASU) the only state university in Nigeria that offer a bachelor of Dentistry degree.
“By the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the accepted dentist to patient population in United States is 1 to 2000, but for Africa it is 1 to 150,000. So, for every dentist we produce, we will now have 150,000 Lagosians being catered for.
“Aside that, there are many other projects that the present administration has implemented in our institution and we are now a toast among the committee of medical colleges,” Solagbero said.
On his part, President of Lagos State University Medical Students Association, Bada Akintayo Akinbobola commended Ambode for his determination to scale up the health sector, saying LASUCOM is now regarded as the Harvard of Africa judging by the massive investment in the institution by the State Government.
But the projects inaugurated by Ambode were just a few out of the lot. Several others ranging from Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), blocks of classrooms and schools infrastructure as well as fibre boats to aid water transportation sector were also unveiled by representatives of the governor across the state.