Given the state of Lagos when he took over office, Eromosele Abiodun writes that the strategic steps the new governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, took in his first 60 days in office, has shown promise and a sign that he came prepared
On the morning of May 30, 2019, an important meeting was held at government house in Lagos. The new governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was sworn in less than 24 hours earlier arrived hours early to prepare for this all-important meeting which was his first major task in office.
The result of the meeting was the signing of an executive order which fired a volley at three major problems facing Lagos: sanitation, traffic congestion and infrastructure.
“I signed an executive order on indiscriminate refuse dumping, traffic management and public works,” the governor announced in a tweet on his official twitter handle, @jidesanwoolu just a few hours after the signing. The announcement was accompanied by a video which soon went viral on social media. The governor was unequivocal in the video, the executive order wasn’t meant to intimidate Lagosians but to ensure that the state is clean, decent and habitable.
Over the past 60 days, Sanwo-Olu has shown promise and raised the hope of many Lagosians who had given in to despair. As promised during his electioneering campaign, the list of cabinet members has been delivered by the governor to the state house of assembly for consideration, roads are being renovated across the state, drainages are being cleaned up, schools are being evaluated to bring them up to speed with the demands of the 21st Century and Lagos is cleaner.
Major stakeholders in state believe the governor has started well. “While it is too early to give an objective long term assessment of the governor’s performance, it is however very clear that based on the people-oriented actions so far taken by his administration, that Lagosians will be proud they elected Sanwo-Olu if the step he has taken so far can be sustained,” so says Ahmed Mansur, President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), in a telephone chat with THISDAY.
According to Mansur, “the governor has started well. Remember his cabinet is yet to be sworn in. However, we are seeing the steps he has taken, and we believe that he has started well and that is a good indication that the future will be bright.”
Tackling Traffic Congestion
A critical issue facing Lagosians on a daily basis is traffic congestion. The executive order signed by Sanwo-Olu directly attacks that problem in a number of ways.
First, it leans on the strength of the Lagos State Traffic Laws which came into effect in August, 2012. The executive order served was a riot act to those who assumed that the 2012 traffic laws had been relaxed.
As a follow up to the order, the governor made out time to visit the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) office at Oshodi on June 14, 2019 where he engaged officials directly. “I will tell my cabinet members that if you are caught or apprehended violating traffic rules, you will pay”, the governor told state traffic officials on that day.
“Lagosians expect a corrupt-free LASTMA that will not be collecting bribes. Therefore, you should be respectful and courteous even when you are going to arrest an offender.
“Lagosians want LASTMA that is decent and neat; we don’t want laziness and lateness to work. Be my advocates,” he told the officials, most of whom were meeting a governor for the first time.
Also, as part of efforts to rid Lagos of unnecessary gridlocks, LASTMA officials are now to operate at least two shifts and end operations at 11pm daily.
The governor also boosted the morale of LASTMA officials by increasing their monthly allowance by 100 per cent with a promise to revamp all their moribund infrastructure as well as procurement of new equipment for increased efficiency.
On 28, July 2019, Sanwo-Olu, declared his administration’s readiness to partner the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the areas of traffic management and security. The governor made the disclosure when he received the Consul-General of the UAE Consulate in Nigeria, Dr. Abdulla Al-Mandoos in Alausa at the weekend.
According to Chairman, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), the umbrella body of clearing agents in Nigeria, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, “in the first few weeks after assuming office, the new governor demonstrated that he knows what he is doing. His policy direction is right, but it must be said that there is so much to be done.”
Speaking while inspecting Iju Road recently, the governor disclosed that the ongoing road rehabilitation across Lagos was the first phase. In all, government has plans for about six to seven phases of roads rehabilitation with about 100 roads expected to be rehabilitated.
To complement the road maintenance, there is also a massive plan to clean up drainages. Some of the priority drains to be cleared in the next few weeks are Omole/Jubilee Agiliti, Muri International Channel, System 1 channel consisting of Odo IyaAlaro from Ojota to Lagoon.
Other channels scheduled for maintenance in the ongoing exercise under Ikeja division are Elere Collector Drain, Agege, Idimu Road Collector Drain, Jimoh/Victoria/Shasha Road Collector Drain, Gudugba Collector Drain, Agege Motor Road, (Mushin section), Kolawole Sebili/Falana Collector Drain.
Also planned for maintenance in the first week in the Lagos division are DurosinmiEtti Channel, Admiralty, Lekki, System 4 Channel (Tejuosho to Western Avenue), FolaOsibo Channel, Point Road-Liverpool Collector Drain, Apapa, Simpson Ebute Elefun Collector Drain, Ojo Oniyun Collector Drain, Ojo-Oniyun just as Signal Barracks Channel in Badagry will also be maintained during the period.
In the area of security, the new administration is proactive. The governor has met with heads of security apparatuses in the state, with a pledge that the security architecture will be overhauled to address contemporary challenges including cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery, pipeline vandalism and indiscriminate driving against traffic. So far, there are many positive points to cheer as the Lagos governor is opening up the security space for residents and investors alike.
One of the challenges which the governor stood up to in the first few days after he was sworn in was the Apapa situation. In response to public outcry over the situation in Apapa, the governor started working on making life and work in the port town more bearable. His desire to make Apapa habitable made him visit the port town as well as other locations in its environs immediately after he was sworn in.
During one of the visits, he was in the company of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to assess the situation and since then he has propelled the process of not only clearing the sedentary trucks but also finding a permanent solution to the gridlock.
He pledged to work with the federal government and other stakeholders to complete the 1,000-capacity Tin Can Ports Truck Terminal, a facility which could mop a significant number of trucks off the road.“What is left to complete it is the water system, toilet facility and power supply. All the trucks on the Ijora bridge and others within that axis can use it,” Sanwo-Olu told a mammoth crowd of workers and residents at Apapa when he first visited the port town.
The result has been drastic reduction in the number of trucks that line the roads, and better traffic management in Apapa. Officials of LASTMA, in collaboration with federal security outfits, have also risen to the task of traffic management.
Healthcare has also received some attention. On August 2, 2019, the government launched the “Healthy Bee Project” which is a component of the governor’s development agenda to reposition healthcare and give disadvantaged children access to first grade medical care.
The four-week programme will commence with a six-day screening in seven Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the state, after which children whose conditions required higher medical examinations and surgeries will be taken to the tertiary healthcare facilities for care, free of charge.
Flagging off the project at a ceremony held at LTV Blue Roof in Agidingbi, Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the programme was purposely designed to keep children fit for their studies and activities that would make them attain their potential. The very fact that the programme has commenced at a period when children are on holiday was to enable more children access care.
The governor, through his deputy encouraged parents to utilise the opportunity to take their children for screening and treatment for medical conditions that could limit their mental and physical development.
He said: “If children lack access to good health facilities and quality medical attention, they might lose their ability and functionality. We want to help them fight ailments that can put them at disadvantage. This is the reason the programme is essential to make sure our children live a good and fulfilling life.
“On behalf of the people of Lagos State and for the benefit of our children in Lagos and on behalf of the Governor of Lagos State, I flag off this programme for the benefit of our children.”
Also present at the occasion, the First Lady of Lagos sate, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, noted that the intention of the medical mission was borne out of the commitment of the Lagos Government to bring down the rate of childhood diseases and disabilities. The First Lady said there would also be free screening for tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS for adults.
Also, in order to make emergency response system in Lagos more efficient, the governor has directly demanded improvement from the management of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).
Eze Okorocha, a trader in Lagos who contacted the emergency number when he was about to be attacked by armed robbers testified, “I was shocked to the marrow when officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) called me to ask if the call I made to the emergency number resulted in me being rescued from a hoodlum who was threatening to enter my house on July 15.”
Okorocha had called the emergency number 112 on the fateful day at 11pm to complain that his house was on the verge of being broken into.
“The folks at the other end promptly took my call and said they will alert the police. In the morning they called again to find out if I was safe and if the police came sadly, the police never came, “Okorocha who is in his late 40s explained.
“Last week the 112 people called me again, to get my opinion about their service, when I reminded them that the police did not show up, they assured me that they would get to the root of the matter to know why a Nigerian in distress was ignored by the police! Can this kind of thing really happen in Nigeria or is this America, “Okorocha asked in amazement.
While on a visit to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) operational headquarters at Cappa, Oshodi, the governor praised the emergency response personnel for the quality of service the agency and asked for more.
“On behalf of the people of Lagos, I commend LASEMA and its emergency workers’ performance in disaster management. However, we know there is still a lot that we can do to raise the standard and there is still a lot that is expected from LASEMA. Where we need to come in to complement your effort, we will.” We pledge our continued support to encourage the agency to live up to expectations, because its efficiency in service delivery would be the parameter citizens would use to assess and write the agency scorecards, ”the governor said.
The governor emphasised the need for maintaining professionalism and empathy in the discharge of the agency’s duty. He further noting that disaster management required promptness, empathy and commitment to the wellbeing of all humanity.
Holistically, there is a clear roadmap for development as captured in the six pillars of the administration’s agenda captured in the acronym T.H.EM.E.S (Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy; Entertainment and Tourism as well as Security and Governance).
“Because the administration still has almost three and half years to run, this is just the beginning,” Amiwero posited.
He added, “Lagos still has a number of challenges which need the attention of Governor Sanwo-Olu. Water supply, youth unemployment, taxation and public transportation challenges are obvious challenges which he must tackle. But there is no doubt that he has shown early signs of foresight”.