To Live in the Heart of Lagosians

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State may not be a perfect man, but he has successfully raised the bar of governance with evident legacy projects which can’t be erased from the heart of Lagosians, as he is ready to exit the stage for his successor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu

There are lots of things Lagosians will remember the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for. Stamped in their memory forever are a myriad of projects that constitutes the pool of massive infrastructural renewal that positively transformed the landscape of the state.

The Ambode government took off on a shaky note on May 29, 2015. His initial unstable steps were noticed in major sectors especially security and traffic management. This naturally led people to question the governor’s capacity. In the face of the initial turbulence, Ambode kept calm and focused. Soon, the story changed and people who castigated him initially started showering accolades on him for sterling performance.

All the while, the Governor was following the time-tested route of successful organisations; by first thinking through its policies, planning and following up with brilliant execution and well-rounded programmes. Ambode who is an acclaimed public finance expert came up with checks and balances for revenue inflow and also introduced the Treasury Single Account which in turn blocked revenue leakages and loopholes. The development ensured that there were funds to carter for government activities, while he immediately followed same with N11billion approval to offset arrears owed since 2010, not only for Lagos State Government mainstream retirees but also retirees in local governments and parastatals.

In response to the public outcry over the increase in spate of crime, Ambode rebranded the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Nigeria Police. In an unprecedented move, he donated equipment worth N4.765billion to the State Police Command. This was done in September of 2015. The current Lagos governor will be remembered for creating Neighborhood Watchers to keep all the communities in Lagos safe. The Neighborhood Watchers have been rebranded and transformed to Neighborhood Safety Corps Officers to improve security in all communities in the state.

As part of the transport reforms in the state, the Governor commissioned the Mile 12-Ikorodu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Extension Project and injected 434 new air-conditioned and comfortable BRT Buses into the transport scheme. Ambode re-launched the Blue Line Rail Project which upon completion would ease connectivity in the State as over 500, 000 passengers would be conveyed daily between Marina and Okokomaiko. The project is to be followed by the second phase which is the Red Line Rail Project from Alagbado to Lagos Island.

In terms of easing traffic, several laybys and modern segregated bus parks have been constructed across the state in strategic areas including Ikeja, Oworonshoki, Lekki-Epe expressway, Ogudu, Alapere, among others, while in a move to find a lasting solution to the perennial traffic gridlock along Ikorodu Road, Governor Ambode on November 9, 2017 commissioned multiple Layby and Slip Road in Alapere. On the same day, 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.

From Ikorodu to Lagos-Abeokuta expressway to Badagry, Epe, Ikeja and so on, one road project or other is either completed or ongoing simultaneously including 21 Lagos-Ogun boundary roads with two bridges in Alimosho, Pen Cinema Flyover, 114 and later 181 inner roads, Epe arterial roads, among others.

In the health sector, Ambode commissioned 20 Mobile Care Units in August 2015, 26 Transport Ambulances which were deployed across the various General Hospitals and primary healthcare centres in the state. He also approved the purchase of generators and x-ray machines for all General Hospitals in the State to ensure 24-hour power supply. Since then, it has been good tidings for the sector with major upgrade of facilities in all the General Hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), with more springing up. As at 2018, a total of 61 PHCs have constructed or upgraded and furnished with medical equipment, as well as another 38 centres, while 1,000 health workers were recruited into the PHC system.

The first state-owned helipad for medical emergency was also constructed within the premises of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) as well as a new access road, while the biggest baby manufacturing factory (Maternity Hospital) in Nigeria – Institute of Maternal and Child Health, popularly called Ayinke House, in LASUTH was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 24, 2019.

In area of food security and agriculture, Ambode entered into a strategic partnership with Kebbi State which brought about the famous Lake Rice. The initiative forced down the price of rice in the market and the governor is building on that to install a 32 metric tonnes per hour rice mill in Imota, a suburb of Ikorodu.

It is projected that when operational from, the mill will ensure availability of rice in the market and will also facilitate the creation of about 200, 000 jobs across the Agric value chain, while it will also bring about cultivation of 32,000 hectares of farm land to produce rice paddy equating to an estimated 130million kg of processed rice per year (an equivalent of 2.6million 50kg bags of rice). Also, the scheme will be aligned with the Western Nigeria economic integration agenda whereby the States in the South West will supply the mill with rice paddy.

In the same vein, work is progressing steadily at the new Mile 12 Regional Foodstuff Market in Imota which will accommodate the traders in Mile 12 and other markets in the area. The idea of the new market was conceived in response to the fact that the activities of traders in Mile 12 were already impacting negatively on traffic and the environment, hence the need for them to move to a more bigger, comfortable and convenient place. And in order to forestall the chaotic traffic situation in Mile 12 as a result of the market, government had begun moves to expand Ikorodu-Itoikin-Imota- Road up to Epe.

In that axis too, work is already completed for operational take-off of the Timberville Sawmill in Agbowa/Ikosi Ejirin LCDA where plank traders in Okobaba Sawmill will be relocated to. The development will pave way for the regeneration of Okobaba.

In the power sector, the government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, actually scored many firsts. First, the Governor unveiled the Light-up Lagos Project with three-pronged approach focusing on street lightening, community electrification and embedded power programme.

Through the street lightening component of the scheme, major highways and streets are now well lit at night thereby enhancing security, improving aesthetics of the environment and bringing about major boost to the night economy of the State. On the community electrification component, many communities across the State have so far been connected to the national grid and many others had their either moribund or non-existent transformers replaced with new ones.

Perhaps, one of the major achievements of the Governor is the novel initiative of N25billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) set aside to provide minimal interest loan for members of the informal sector and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Three years after the Fund commenced operations on March 1, 2016, according to official report of the LSETF, over N6.5 billion had so far been disbursed to almost 10,000 beneficiaries, while over 3,500 unemployed Lagos residents have been provided with vocational training, with over 1,500 of the trainees placed in jobs.

Also, the Fund has supported over 80 start-ups through its Lagos Innovates programme, while in total, LSETF’s interventions have helped create almost 90,000 jobs in the State since it started operations. Not done yet with the feats recorded, the LSETF recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding worth $10million with the United States African Development Fund (USADF) to support 15,000 youths in Lagos State within the next five years.

In the area of tourism, several statues of illustrious Nigerians who contributed to the growth of not just Lagos but Nigeria in general have been erected such as that of late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; human rights crusader and philanthropist, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, among other monuments across the State.

Aside the fact that tourism master plan had been developed to drive tourism potentials of the State for the next 15 to 20 years, for the first time in the history of the State, the Lagos State Tourism Promotions Agency Bill, an Executive Bill, was also passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. The Agency is designed to put Lagos on the same pedestal as any other entity, be it a State or country, by intervening in promoting Tourism and Culture in the State. There is also a Tourism Board that is specifically saddled with promoting the sector. Already, the Bill has been signed into law by the Governor.

Also, four out of the five theatres that Governor Ambode promised to build across the State have been completed, with President Buhari unveiling of them at Oregun. The multi-purpose theatres, which can each comfortably accommodate 500 people, were built across the state to spread development as part of promise to run government of inclusion. The theatres are in Oregun, Igando, Badagry and Epe, while land has been provided for the fifth one in Ikorodu.

Still on tourism infrastructure, the government of Governor Ambode also transformed Glover Memorial Hall, the oldest cultural space in Lagos which in 1903 screened the first film in Nigeria by the Colonial Film Unit. The government has restored the edifice to its glory with a total refurbishment and upgrade without distorting the value and the essence of what it stood for. It will soon be commissioned.

The government also commenced the redevelopment of JK Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History. The Centre, which is billed to be completed by October 2019, consists of an Exhibition Centre, a Library, a Multi-Purpose Hall, Learning Spaces, Restaurant and Lounges. The Centre will retain its swimming pool and sports facilities and also have a pavilion for stage performances. The initiative to redevelop the Centre was part of a grand plan to turn the Onikan axis into a critical tourist hub, not just in the country but in the continent.

Other developments within the Onikan–Marina axis include the upgrading of the Onikan Stadium to a standard sports arena which is also on-going, regeneration of CMS Marina and Multi-Layer Car Parks around Onikan, all geared to serve as a catalyst for the rest of the regeneration of Lagos Island, restoring it to its former glory, while reinforcing the position of Lagos State as one of the world’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and exciting places to experience.

One Lagos Fiesta which has become the biggest end of the year event in Africa, the administration of Governor Ambode also embarked on initiative to massively change the landscape of the State by building arts installations including statues and monuments across the State using local artistes. Such include Fela’s statue on Awolowo Road, the Big Foot at Ojodu, the Freedom Park in Ikorodu, Awolowo’s statue, MKO Abiola’s statue, Gani Fawehinmi’s statue, Tunji Braithwaite’s statue, upgrade of Tinubu Square, among others.

In the area of smart city project, many online portals have been developed to enhance residents’ interaction with government, while High Definition CCTV cameras with gantries are being installed across the state. Also, the State Government launched plans to transform the Sabo Industrial Estate in Yaba into a technology hub and another Silicon Valley where new set of entrepreneurs and innovators will be raised to address the challenges confronting the nation in the ICT sector.

In education, considerable achievements have been made with completion of new model colleges, revamping of infrastructure in public schools and ingenuity in coming up with innovative initiatives such as Ready.Set.Work (RSW), Code Lagos, among others. Within three years, a total of 37,000 students benefited from the RSW, which is an employability and entrepreneurship program aimed at preparing final year students in Lagos State for immediate entry into the work force as employees and employers of labour.

As part of efforts to improve the learning environment, 160 projects for rehabilitation of schools were awarded and completed in 2018 at a cost of N4.8billion. Also, many projects have been completed in state-owned tertiary institutions and significant ones are ongoing including the 6000 capacity hostel and Senate building at Lagos State University (LASU), which has been completed.

In housing, the government introduced the rent-to-own policy whereby home owners under the scheme will just pay one month rent and spread the remaining payment over 10 years. Through the scheme, thousands of residents have become home owners and the allocation of homes is now a regular occurrence as the houses are being allocated as soon as completion.

In the area of sports, the present administration successfully reintroduced the Lagos Marathon in 2016 and the event has now gained international recognition as IAAF bronze label marathon race, while in area of sporting infrastructure, the government approved comprehensive upgrade of Campos Mini Stadium, Lagos Island; Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere; Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre, Rowe Park, Yaba; Isheri Football/Swimming Pool; Ijede Mini Stadium, Ijede, Ikorode; as well as the reconstruction of Onikan Stadium awarded at the cost of N3.6billion.

When completed in 2019, the Onikan Stadium would be an all-covered ultra-modern international stadium with FIFA certified artificial turf. It will also be a multi-purpose arena where entertainment concerts and other activities would be staged with capacity for 10,000 people.

The Agege Stadium was also remodeled to Confederation of African Football (CAF) standard, and as a result of the transformation, the stadium now houses a state-of-the-art dressing room equipped with modern information and communication technology facilities, among others. Perhaps, the major legacy projects of Governor Ambode would include the Abule-Egba and Ajah Flyovers, the DNA Forensic Centre, the Oshodi Transport Interchange, Ojodu Berger Regeneration, and 10-lane Airport Road, as well as 820 high and medium capacity buses launched by President Buhari last month as part of the Bus Reform Initiative of the State Government.

The Ojodu Berger project is fitted with 400meters long pedestrian bridge across the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway down to Ogba Road, slip road, layby, and beautification works, while the Airport Road project include the reconstruction and expansion of the existing carriage to three-lane Expressway on both directions, construction of two-lane Service Road in both directions making a total of 10-lanes, construction of Ramp Bridge to provide a U-turn from Ajao Estate to Airport, construction of a flyover at NAHCO/Toll Gate and drainage works. Others include the removal of existing Pedestrian Bridge at Ajao Estate and construction of Pedestrian Bridges at Ajao Estate and NAHCO/Hajj Camp, construction of Slip Road to provide access to Ajao Estate, construction of Lay-bys and installation of Street Lights, among others.

On the other hand, the Oshodi Transport Interchange, in a nutshell, seeks to transform the axis into a world-class Central Business District (CBD) with business, travel and leisure activities conducted in a serene, secure, clean, orderly and hygienic environment, comparable with other transport terminals around the world including Stratford and Victoria Bus Station in the United Kingdom.

By the project, all the 13 city and interstate bus parks in Oshodi have transformed into three multi-storey terminals, providing standard facilities including waiting area, loading bays, ticketing stands, drivers lounge, parking areas, rest rooms, accessible walkways and pedestrian sky-walks linking all the terminals.