At a time when many thought they had seen the height of credible governance in Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode, in the last two years, has succeeded in raising the bar, writes Segun James
Politics in Nigeria means many things to different people. For some, the platform presents an opportunity to meet the expectations of the people who have given them the mandate to serve. But for others, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get their share of the national cake.
Certainly, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, falls in the first category. His track record since inauguration into office 24 months ago has become a reference point in good governance in Nigeria.
Not many would recall his perceived slow start in the first three months of his administration. There was a general feeling among many Lagosians that the shoes left behind by his predecessor, perhaps seemed too big to fill. But the governor explained that the slow start, was to enable him understand the terrain and tailor out his strategies to change the face of Lagos forever.
For him, the task of governing Lagos was not a 100-metres dash that required hasty decision making, but a four-year journey that would require careful, thorough and coordinated policy and decision making as well as careful execution.
It did not take too long before he began to exhibit his leadership acumen and a man who was not occupying an office by chance. Hence, six months into his administration, the travails of the first few weeks in office, became a thing of the past.
In the last two years, the story has become even better. Determined to better his first term scorecard, the governor wasted no time in setting the ball rolling in his second term.
One sector which Ambode’s administration has become synonymous with is the area of security. For him, the huge investment in providing equipment and adequate welfare for security agencies was worth the while and his administration therefore would stop at nothing to ensure the state remains safe and secured for residents and investors.
An issue that was a recurring menace in the state was the case of land grabbers, popularly known as ‘OmoOnile’ who for long had posed a huge security threat to land owners and property developers in the state and the present administration was determined to stop them in their tracks.
This was core reason that made the governor sign the Lagos State Properties Protection Law, otherwise known as the Anti-Land Grabbing Law in August 2016, which for many represents a crucial and commendable step in the efforts to deter what has become the state’s biggest threat to land development. Still in an effort to improve on security in the state especially in the communities, Ambode same day, signed the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law.
On March 27, 2017, the corps was officially inaugurated by the governor at the Agege Stadium with a total of 177 cars and vehicles equipped with necessary communication gadgets, 377 motorcycles, 377 helmets, 4,000 bicycles, metal detectors for ensuring that illegal weapons are not smuggled into public places, among other operational equipment handed over to the corps for effective community policing. The governor’s commitment to security did not go unnoticed. In South Africa, the ever-efficient Rapid Response Squad (RRS), was awarded the Best Anti-Crime Police Squad in West Africa. Overall, Lagos was awarded the Best Security and Most Safety Conscious State in Africa.The appreciable level of peace and security in the State has in no small way given opportunity for massive development to take place.
His passion to decongest traffic especially in the metropolis has seen some innovative strategies that have, in no small way, reduced travel time motorists spend on the roads. From Oworonshoki to Ketu Alapere to Ojodu Berger, the story has changed for good. In Berger, Ambode has engineered what many describe as a total transformation. With two pedestrian bridges measuring 98 metres, lay-bys and slip road, the once notorious Ojodu Berger, the gateway into the state, has become the symbol of free flow of traffic. The governor alongside his team had visited the area a few months after the inception of his administration having identified the axis as one of the major traffic flashpoints that required urgent attention.
In September 2016, the 114 inner roads which the governor promised would be delivered every year were commissioned across the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas in the state.
The Alapere slip road and laybys which has greatly reduced the traffic congestion within the Alapere- Iyana Oworo axis followed an earlier intervention in the popular Oworo bus stop outward Third Mainland Bridge which was once synonymous for regular gridlock especially during peak period.
However, out of the major interventions in the area of traffic reduction, the Ajah and Abule-Egba flyover bridges stand tall. Christened ‘Jubilee Bridges’, aside a record time of completion, the state government has with both projects opened up the state for further economic opportunities as ime lost in traffic has reduced drastically.
The Ajah Bridge, completed within a space of 10 months is a 160metres long dual carriageway with total length of 620metres, while the Abule-Egba Bridge is measuring 1.3km with a water fountain that has become the cynosure of all eyes in the area. The governor said the construction of the bridge was the beginning of a process to transform the axis to the new economic hub of the state adding that the ongoing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane from Oshodi to AbulE-Egba would be followed by another BRT lane from Abule -Egba to Ogun State border.
But Abule- Egba residents have course to haeave a sigh of relief as beyond the bridge, the governor had given his word that all adjoining roads disrupted in the course of the construction of the bridge had been awarded for rehabilitation.
To complement the infrastructural interventions to reduce traffic, Ambode has also perfected plans to phase out the yellow commercial buses popularly known as ‘Danfo’ under the Bus Reform Initiative.
The initiative is a three-year plan aimed at introducing over 5000 air-conditioned buses to replace the danfo buses, which many agree are no longer befitting for the State’s mega city status.
The initiative aimed at giving Lagosians an integrated public transportation system is expected to kick start this year, and it would provide a viable alternative for residents to commute easily within the State.
The housing sector has also receied serious attention from Ambode’s administration. The decision of the State Government to reshuffle its housing initiative under the Lagos Housing Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) has brought a new dimension to making home ownership much easier and flexible.
In December 2016, the government flagged off its Rent-to-Own Scheme. The initiative offers prospective beneficiaries the opportunity to pay the required five percent of the value of the housing unit as commitment fee while the balance is spread over ten years. The scheme is specifically developed for low and medium income earners.
Every month, the government hands over keys to 200 allottees of various schemes spread across. To ensure the scheme runs seamlessly, the state has a pool of 4,355 homes available under the policy in five estates including Sir MichealOtedola Estate Odoragunshin, Epe; Oba Adeboruwa Estate, Igbogbo, Ikorodu; Choice City, Agbowa, Hon. Olaitan Mustapha and Alhaja Adetoun Mustapha, Ojokoro, while a total of 12 schemes have been earmarked for the policy.
Like the housing sector, the environment sector is also to witness a massive turnaround courtesy of the proposed Cleaner Lagos Initiative.
The initiative embedded under the Environmental Management and Protection Law which the governor signed earlier this year,is expected to go a long way to secure the public health safety of residents most especially children.
Under the initiative, the commercial sector would be serviced by licensed waste management operators while an environmental consortium will provide waste collection, processing and disposal services for residential properties through a long term concession.
The health sector has also continued to witness massive infrastructural upgrade. In February, at least 14 primary health care centres across the state were upgraded to run a 24-hour service, while other existing centres were also equipped to cater for the health needs of residents especially at the grassroots.
It was within the same period the governor commissioned the first state owned Helipad for medical emergencies at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). This facility would come in handy to evacuate persons with health challenges from areas that are not motorable and where time is of essence.
In the education sector, a significant level of development has also been recorded. Ambode approved N15.5million as seed funding and grants for university entrepreneurs under the Ready. Set. Work initiative as well as training of 422 graduates on entrepreneurial skills.
So far, in the last one year, over N11.5 billion has been expended on improving infrastructure in schools across the state. While about 79 public schools were renovated, 16 schools were fenced, six new classroom blocks were constructed and 707 double-bunk beds and 469 mattresses were supplied to boarding schools, among other projects executed.
The construction of three new world class model blocks of classrooms in public secondary schools has also begun in earnest and other several educational projects all in a bid to improve the standard of education.
Tertiary institutions are also not left out as the Ambode administration has invested massively to upgrade infrastructures within the campuses of the state-owned institutions and there are plans to do more.
The repositioning initiated and sustained by Ambode are already yielding result with the recent ranking of Lagos State University (LASU) as the best state university in Nigeria in 2016 by the National Universities Commission (NUC). Also, after several years of waiting, LASU secured full accreditation of its Faculty of Dentistry by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, the first state university to do so in Nigeria, among other numerous achievements, while as we speak, Governor Ambode is perfecting plans to construct a 6000-bed hostel within LASU campus in Ojo.
In another major fulfillment of the electioneering promises to the people of the state, Ambode launched the N25billion Employment Trust Fund to facilitate access to loan by artisans and entrepreneurs. The aim of the initiative is to boost the informal sector realizing its importance as the next frontier of the Lagos economy. Over N2billion has been disbursed to residents and still counting, while the governor has also launched the N500million Disability Trust Fund to assist people living with disability, among other initiatives aimed at reflating the economy and empowering the people to be wealth creators.