The Ambode Story, Two Years After


Gbolahan Akintunde

Lagos State is currently celebrating 50 years of her existence as a State created in 1967 and at the same time, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is due for a mid-term assessment having spent two years in the saddle as the 5th elected Governor of Lagos state.

In the first few weeks that Ambode assumed office in 2015, not a few Lagosians expressed doubts as to whether Ambode would be able to match the performance of his predecessor, Raji Fashola. The reason for their apprehension was obvious as everything seemed to be turning upside down in the state.

He got his baptism of fire in less than two weeks in office when about four major fire outbreaks caused by fuel tankers were recorded in different parts of Lagos State; there was upsurge in armed robbery, traffic jam in many parts of the city with attendant traffic robbery, kidnapping and other sundry crimes. As if these were not enough, there was water shortage in the state for about one month due to a major fault in the equipment of the Lagos State Water Corporation. There were complaints in almost all sectors and Ambode received bashing left and right while he was accused of ineptitude and incompetence.

Instead of being disillusioned with the hydra-headed problems and knocks he received left and right, they became his energiser and he confronted the problems headlong. He gave succour to the victims of tanker fire incidents and took steps to prevent reoccurrence. He confronted the problem of insecurity, traffic gridlock, decayed infrastructure especially roads, water, education and health infrastructures. In no time, Ambode found his bearing and gathered momentum as he set to work.

In assessing the Ambode administration in the last two years, it is important to note that Ambode keyed into the Lagos state Development plan and this he reiterated in his inaugural speech when he said, “In the spirit of continuity, I have keyed into the Development Plan of Lagos State which are grouped into four; Social Development and Security, Infrastructural Development, Economic Development and Sustainable Environment”. This is possible because of the unbroken chain of progressive civilian administrations in the state right from the Lateef Jakande era down to the Tinubu, Fasola eras which Ambode now inherited.

Under his Infrastructural Agenda, a first time visitor to Lagos today may not appreciate the transformation that has taken place in the city and its satellite towns in the last two years as somebody who visited Lagos two years ago. What will give any visitor entering Lagos from the Ibadan end through Berger bus stop an inkling of the transformation that has taken place in Lagos is the new long world class pedestrian bridge which has changed the face of that area previously known for its filth, rowdiness and traffic gridlock. Berger pedestrian bridge which is well lit, is an edifice befitting a megacity like Lagos.

There is also the Ojota Pedestrian bridge, the Ajah flyover, the Abule Egba flyover, the Aboru/ Abesan link bridge which were all constructed and commissioned by Ambode. In conjunction with the Local governments, he has executed 114 road projects covering about 600kilometres in all the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas of the Statewhile at least, construction of two new roads per LCDA are ongoing. Slip road and lay-by were constructed in Ketu-Alapere while a Segregated Bus Park was constructed in Oworonshoki. The Ajido-Imeke Link Bridge in Badagry was completed.

A drive through the streets of Lagos at night will reveal that the “Operation Light Up Lagos” is fully on stream as many areas that were hitherto in darkness have been lit up and everywhere is as bright as day. From Berger to Ikeja, Agege Motor Road, 7& 8 Bus Stop Inwards Murtala Mohammed Airport, Third Mailand Bridge, Lagos -Abeokuta Expresway, Capitol Road, CIPM Road-Alausa, College Road Ogba, Ile-Epo Inwards Ekoro-Abule Egba, Ipaja Road, Aboru/ Abesan link bridge, Abule Egba bridge, Ajah bridge and so many others are well lit. A noticeable feature of the roads constructed or rehabilitated by Ambode is that they all come with streetlights so this actually helped the light up project as this has also reduced crime and boosted night life once again.

Ambode had rehabilitated and erected streetlights in 366 locations in the state. He upgraded Tafawa Balewa Square, Tinubu Square, constructed blocks of classrooms in primary and secondary schools as well as mini-water works such as the Mosan-Okunola mini-water works to improve the level of water supply in the state. The removal of six round abouts along Lekki-Epe Expressway axis and replacing them with trafficlight alternation system has resulted in traffic flow in that area. The Construction of Bus Rapid Transport garage in Ikeja is ongoing.

In the health sector, Ambode commissioned 20 Mobile Intensive Care Units Ambulances and 26 Transport Ambulances deployed across the various General Hospitals and 24 hour primary healthcare centres in the state. While more paramedic staff and medical coordinators were recruited, the General Hospitals were upgraded with manpower and equipment with standby generators purchased for each of them.
Under his Social Development and Security agenda, Ambode re-organised the civil service for more effective service delivery by realigning some ministries and scrapping others while appointing 19 new Permanent Secretaries. He ensured that the welfare of workers and pensioners is paramount and this is evident in prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments in a country where some oil producing states owe workers and pensioners as much as 8 months salary and allowances.

To ensure the security of lives and property of Lagosians, Ambode moved boldly to purchase, launched and distributed security equipment to security agencies in the state in the month of November 2015 and May 2016. He purchased security equipment worth N6.8billion. These include, 100 4-Door Salon Cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, three (3) Helicopters, two(2) Gun Boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers, Revolving Lights, Siren and Public Address System, Vehicular Radio Communicators, Security Gadgets including Bullet Proof Vests, Helmets, Handcuffs, etc, Uniforms, Kits and Improved Insurance and Death Benefit Schemes for officers.

Aside this, more equipment worth billions of Naira, have been bought for the security agencies and this has largely helped in reducing crime rate in the state.

Recently, in order to encourage security agents to put their all in securing lives and property and if possible pay the supreme price, he presented cheques totalling N55 million to the families of officers who lost their lives in the Ishawo area of Ikorodu after an ambush by militants. Each family of the dead policemen and an army officer got N10 million each while an injured officer got N5m. Ambode’s effort and encouragement yielded immediate result as crime was reduced to the barest minimum. The Ikorodu bank robbers escaped through the waterways with a speedboat but were apprehended few weeks after the incident while the prompt and professional rescue of the abducted Ikorodu school girls six days after they were kidnapped and the arrest of the kidnappers was prompt and remarkable.
Mrs Ruth Uche, the mother of three sets of twins whose husband absconded from home was rehabilitated and reunited with her husband. Similarly, there was a lifeline for the 2015 baby of the year who was diagnosed with a heart defect and underwent surgery.

To stem the tide of sexual and domestic violence in the state, the Governor convened a meeting with the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) with a charge to intensify sensitization against the dastardly act to give a voice to the victims and also bring perpetrators to justice. The Governor approved the use of the 112 toll free line to report cases of rape, defilement, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, maltreatment and other sexual assaults. Many destitutes and mentally deranged persons were rehabilitated and some were reunited with their families.

The Economic Development agenda is the efforts of the Ambode administration in taking the state out of recession such that it has become a model for the Federal government in its bid to take Nigeria out of recession. Ambode has reflated the economy of the state by embarking on more capital projects and also created a conducive environment for small and medium scale businesses to thrive during the period of recession.

The empowerment programme of the state government through the Empowerment Trust Fund saw many beneficiaries who have since invested the fund to improve their businesses. The launch of the LAKE rice sold to Lagosians at an affordable price is a joint venture between Lagos State and Kebbi State. This shows the government is thinking outside the box. The Operation of The Single Treasury Account (TSA) has tremendously improved the internally generated revenue (IGR) in the state with the state saving N3billion naira monthly. Ambode, who retired from the civil service of the state as the Accountant General has put his experience and financial wizardry into play by employing many revenue generating methods without actually imposing tax over burden on the citizens. This has tremendously increased the monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the State to N23 billion from N20 billion generated in 2013 with a plan to hit the N30 billion mark in 2017 and N50 billion in 2018.

In his bid to attract investors to the state and make it the foremost investors’ destination, Ambode received the President of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob the second day he was sworn in, whom he had fruitful discussions with about the desirability of Lagos State as investors’ destination. Since then, the Governor had met several groups of local and foreign investors including President of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, investors from Dubai, United States of America, as well as envoys from several European and Middle East countries. The government has received approximately $43 billion investment proposition in the last one year.

Under the Sustainable Environment agenda, the efforts of the Ambode administration in ensuring a cleaner Lagos comes underfocus. The waste disposal system has been upgraded with the introduction of the new waste disposal regime aimed at ensuring a cleaner Lagos while illegal structures that constitute threat to human lives have been demolished. Water hyacinth removal equipment were purchased to make Lagos waters safe. The traffic gridlock in the state was tackled with all seriousness. The Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASMA) was overhauled and the officers re- orientated with a view to making the agency have a human face and at the same time, ensure free flow of traffic. Mobile courts were inaugurated in the state to summarily try recalcitrant drivers and this has made the traffic situation in the state better.

Ambode has transformed the State owned Higher institutions like the Lagos Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) by constructing and equipping the Intensive Care Unit, Lagos State University (LASU) where he constructed the Faculty of Science Complex, the Faculty of Law Twin Duplexes and the LASU Radio which he has commissioned; Michael Otedola College of Primary Education.

For sure, space will not allow a comprehensive data of what Ambode has achieved in two years of being in the saddle. But he has demonstrated leadership, unusual passion, more than enough capacity and unmatched pragmatism. Apart from rekindling hope in many Lagosians, he has in his words, “demystified governance”. With this, there is every reason to believe that the next two years would bring forth greater tidings.

––Akintunde, an economist, writes from Surulere, Lagos.