From a rather wobbly start, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is now on track, writes Shola Oyeyipo
One year in the saddle as the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has not only finally taken off from where former governor and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola handed over, he is doing so at a speed that has seen his administration achieve so much within its first year in office.
Though as most other states, the administration faced challenges at the early stage such as upsurge in violent armed robbery attacks and the return of chaotic traffic conditions, Governor Ambode, who must have evaluated the situation to understand that governing a state as Lagos was not a 100-metres sprint and that the administration needed to implement carefully thought-out and well-coordinated policies targeted at actualising his campaign promises was quick to arresting the situation.
During his inaugural speech, Ambode assured the people of Lagos that his administration would be committed to the State Development Plan (2012-2025) which entails social development and security, infrastructural development, economic development and sustainable environment, all of which are succinctly captured in a tripod of security, job opportunities and infrastructure.
The second day after his swearing-in, precisely on Saturday, May 30, the governor convened a meeting with Permanent Secretaries in the civil service to share his vision to reposition the civil service to be more efficient and service-oriented organisation, which will involve streamlining some ministries, departments and agencies to cut cost of governance, as well as creation of new offices to cater for the emerging needs of the people in the next four years with them.
Thus, to achieve efficiency and at the same time cut cost of governance, Governor Ambode realigned the Ministry of Rural Development, Parastatals Monitoring Office as well as Political and Legislative Powers Bureau. He also announced the establishment of the Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (Lagos Global), Office of Civic Engagement as well Ministry of Wealth Creation. He scrapped the Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, Debt Management Office and merged the office of Works and Office of Infrastructure; Office of Drainage Services and Office of Environmental Service.
Not oblivious of the importance of security to Lagosians and businesses, Ambode immediately addressed the issue of insecurity by rebranding the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Nigerian Police, and immediately donated equipment worth N4.765bn to Lagos police.
According to the Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), the Lagos State initiative is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria and a sign of seriousness about the premium the state government under Ambode places on the security of lives and property of residents.
Some of the items donated included 100 four-door salon cars, 55 Ford Ranger pick-ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser pick-ups, 15 BMW power bikes, 100 power bikes, Isuzu trucks, three helicopters, two gun boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers (ACPC), revolving lights, siren and public address system, vehicular radio communicators, security gadgets including bullet proof vests, drones, helmets, handcuffs, uniforms, kits and improved insurance and death benefit schemes for officers and so on.
The government further donated 48 patrol vans, 385 walkie-talkies, 11 base and repeater stations, 1,150 Uniforms, 570 handcuffs, 1,150 belts, berets and boots to boost the operation of the Neighbourhood Watchers so as to complement the police in keeping all the communities free from crimes.
The investment paid off because since the loads of equipment were given out, the spate of robberies have reduced drastically. Not only that, it has also aided in recovering vehicles stolen at gun point and in securing lives and property of residents in the state.
To ensure that the fight against crime is taken to another level, the government has embarked on criminal justice reform and plans are currently underway to establish the first ever high-powered DNA Forensic Laboratory in Nigeria, which will take off within the next six to twelve months. The laboratory, which would be called the Lagos State DNA Forensics Centre (LSDFC), when fully operational would fulfill an unmet need for DNA profiling which is a unique forensic technique that is now being used all over the world. Earlier this month, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with ITSI Biosciences LCC for the commencement of the establishment of the Centre.
Also, as part of security, Ambode’s ‘Light up Lagos’ project inaugurated to fulfill the promise of lighting up every nook and cranny of the state has resulted in major highways in Lagos being lit up, improving driving experience for motorists at night and at the same time reducing criminal activities at night.
As at today, there are street lights from Berger to Lekki, Third Mainland Bridge, Iyana Ipaja, Ikorodu to Lagos Island, the entire Ikeja axis, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and many other parts of the state.
In April, the governor commissioned a 36km stretch of street lights from Ile-Zik to Sango Toll Gate, while the entire stretch of Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road has also been lit up. Ambode has also affirmed that the project will extend to other areas of the state in due course.
A total number of 49 transformers were donated to communities that were hitherto in total darkness and they are now fully lit up, while 67 communities in Ibeju-Lekki starting from Eleko to Ode-Omi that had been in total darkness for five years were connected to the National Grid. 34 communities in Badagry are also expected to be connected to the National Grid by September of this year. What’s more, Ambode already approved new 500KVA transformers for three communities in Palmgroove Estate, Ijegun and Alapere areas after merely reading about their plight on the pages of newspapers.
With what is on the ground, Ambode has shown a desire for drastic improvement in the area of road rehabilitation and reconstruction. Within a few days in office, he had reassured the people that his administration would rehabilitate the roads that were completely deplorable. Some of the roads where Ambode’s administration has intervened include the completion of Ago Palace Way, Capitol Road, Ajasa Command Road, Ejigbo Ikotun Road, Okota Road, Isolo, Metal Box Road, Ogba, Daleko Road, Mushin, Brown Street and Oshodi, among others.
Most of these roads were not captured in the 2015 fiscal year, and some federal roads were also rehabilitated including Lagos Abeokuta and Lagos Badagry Expressway. At the last count, over 500 roads have been rehabilitated while another 189 have been earmarked for the next phase.
At the beginning of 2016, Ambode in fulfillment of one of his campaign promises to ensure rehabilitation of inner roads, approved the construction of two roads each across the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) totaling 114 roads. A six-month time frame was given for the completion of the road projects which is expected to elapse by the end of June.
The ongoing construction of flyover bridges in Abule Egba junction and Ajah round about, two of the state’s high-density traffic zones approved by the state executive council is another laudable project being commended by residence of these areas.
Just as government is investing in massive road rehabilitation across the state, it is also boosting public transportation with the injection of 434 new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses for the Ikorodu corridor during the commissioning of the Mile 12-Ikorodu BRT extension project. There was also a re-launch of the Blue Line Rail Project by the governor. The project, when completed would see over 500,000 passengers conveyed daily between Marina and Okokomaiko.
In what many consider a major step towards addressing the problem of transportation in Lagos, Ambode recently announced plans by his administration to embark on the construction of the fourth Mainland Bridge. It has already signed the MoU with investors to kick-start the project. If government achieves this feat, it would have earned its place in the history books of not just Lagos, but Nigeria. The project, which would be built under a Public Private Partnership initiative, will run from Ajah to Ikorodu to Isawo and berth at Ojodu, Ikeja back to the Ibadan expressway.
In the health sector, Ambode has commissioned 20 Mobile Care Units Ambulances and 26 Transport Ambulances expected to be deployed across the various General Hospitals and 24 hour primary healthcare centres in the state. He also approved the purchase of generators and x-ray machines to all general hospitals in the state to provide 24 hour power supply.
In the first few months of his administration, Ambode was also able to resolve outstanding issues relating to welfare of doctors, thereby improving healthcare delivery in the state and stabilising the sector for effective performance. He also approved the recruitment of more paramedic staff and special medical coordinators to ensure 24 hours service to the citizenry and he has also announced a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative for the construction of a Medical Park in Ikoyi area of the state, at a cost of N49billion.
The project has already been awarded to MEDIPARK International Limited Consortium which comprises of MEDIPARK International Limited, Cleveland Clinics Ohio, USA; St. Barnabas Healthcare System, New Jersey; and American Hospital Management Company, Washington DC and it is expected to be completed within 20 months from when the project takes off.
The educational sector has not been left out as well. In a move to permanently resolve the protracted crisis at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ambode came up with an Executive Bill proposing a five-year single tenure for the institution’s Vice Chancellor and signed same into law after passage by the House of Assembly.
The new law pegs the retirement age for professors at 70 years and makes the institution a residential campus. Top of the efforts towards ensuring lasting peace in the state’s higher institution of learning was the appointment and inauguration of Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun as the eighth substantive Vice Chancellor and he has since been functioning in that capacity.
At the primary school level, Ambode has approved the recruitment of 1300 qualified teachers to teach in the public primary schools across the state and he earmarked over N1billion for the renovation and supply of furniture and education materials across all secondary schools in the state.
With the eventual launch of the N25bn Employment Trust Fund, Ambode is working to drastically transform employment creation in the state, especially by providing soft loans with very little interest to entrepreneurs. He showed his commitment to the initiative, when he signed the Bill into law after passage by the Lagos State House of Assembly, and also appointed seasoned and respected professionals to manage the fund. In February, he inaugurated the Board to manage the fund with a charge to them to ensure that Lagosians, who need the fund benefit from it.
While his administration works to ensure food security by entering into a deal with the Kebbi State government for the development of commodity value chain rice production, make Lagos a hub of entertainment in Africa and ultimately attract investment, Ambode is seen to be building on the blueprint put in place by former Governor Bola Tinubu, built upon by Mr. Fashola amidst high expectations from Lagosians, who don’t settle for less.
In what many consider a major step towards addressing the problem of transportation in Lagos, Ambode recently announced plans by his administration to embark on the construction of the fourth Mainland Bridge. It has already signed the MoU with investors to kick-start the project. If government achieves this feat, it would have earned its place in the history books of not just Lagos, but Nigeria