Despite the challenging times, Lagos State did not lose focus, writes Tayo Ogunbiyi
For Lagos State, the past year was striking in diverse ways. For one, it was a year when the state became the nation’s epicenter of two striking events. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic, while the second is the EndSars protests. Without a doubt, the two events have far-reaching consequences on the state’s 2020 outlook.
As it happened across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted socio-economic activities at ‘Centre of Excellence’, bringing almost every sector to a halt. The tourism, hospitality, informal and education sectors were, perhaps, the most affected, as jobs were lost and sources of livelihood unsettled. Also, markets, worship centres, business hubs and recreation centres were shut down for a season.
For an ever bustling metropolis like Lagos, it was a most trying period. However, being the resilient city-state that it is, Lagos was able to decisively and effectively manage the COVID-pandemic and its attendant challenges. The proof of this is in the recommendations it got from across the globe, applauding the state government’s management of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, as the state was gradually coming out of the COVID-19 scare, it was faced with yet another challenge of equal magnitude- the #EndSars protests, which initially began as a peaceful dissent against police brutality.
· In spite of the trials and turbulence, for Lagos, 2020 is certainly not totally defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and the EndSars violence. Concrete moves were made to implement the Sanwo-Olu administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) Developmental Agenda.
· The transportation sector, in particular, received considerable attention in 2020. Early in the year, eight new ferries were commissioned by Governor Sanwo-Olu to enhance water transportation.
· Also, five major roundabouts at Allen, Lekki 1st/2nd, Ikotun, and Maryland were redeveloped to meet current travelling reality. Equally, the Oshodi-Abule-Egba BRT Corridor was commissioned to give commuters along the axis a pleasant motoring experience.
Similarly, the Iru network of roads at Victoria Island, a PPP project done in conjunction with Access Bank Plc, was commissioned for public use, while the Pen Cinema Bridge has also reached over 90% completion stage and it is due for commissioning by February 2021.
The reconstruction of the Lekki-Epe Expressway was also flagged-off, while an unprecedented programme aimed at bringing development to the grassroots equally berthed with the inauguration of 377 grassroots projects across all wards in the state by Mr. Governor. This is just to mention a few of the several road projects initiated by the government in 2020.
Also, the investment of the government in up scaling infrastructure in the education sector got a crucial boost with completed projects such as 18 Classroom Blocks at Muslim Junior College, Egbe, 18 classroom blocks at Maya Secondary School, Ikorodu,18 classroom blocks at Eva Adelaja Junior Secondary School, Bariga, block of 20 classrooms at Bashua Military School Primary School, Shomolu, 13 classrooms at Saviour Primary School, Ifako-Ijaiye LGA, block of 20 classrooms at Ayanleye Memorial Primary School, Ifako-Ijaiye LGA and block of six classrooms at Ansar Ur Deen, Ibonwon, Epe, just to mention but a few.
· Remarkable inroad has also been made in the training of teachers for 21st century competence. Through the Eko Excel training initiative, 3000 primary schools teachers have been trained on how to competently utilize technology in teaching. And the results have been amazing. More pupils now register in our public primary schools, while attendance rate has remarkably improved.
· In order to bridge the housing deficit in the state, major housing projects were completed and commissioned in 2020. These are the Idale 252 units of two-bedroom bungalows in Idale, Badagry, Courtland Villas, Behind Alhaji Femi Okunnu Estate, Igbohushu, Lekki with 120 units of four-bedroom Maisonettes and BQs Lekki Apartments, Ikate-Eleguishi, Lekki. The Igbogbo scheme, with 360 home units comprising 120 1-bedroom, is equally ready for commissioning.
Similarly, food security was enhanced through fresh initiatives such as the Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS), which is designed to build capacities of actors in the rice, aquaculture and poultry value chains towards large scale production and processing of rice, eggs, poultry and fish in the state.
· The capacity of farmers was strengthened through the Lagos Agripreneurship Programme (LAP), Sea Food Festival and Eko City Farmer Food Market, improved rice cultivation, milling and bagging; poultry production and processing; fish and seafood production, education and provision of extension services to farmers.
· In a bid to revitalize the primary healthcare system, a comprehensive assessment of all 329 Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in the state was conducted to determine their level of functionality and geographical positioning system to identify gaps for service improvement efforts. This was done in collaboration with health assist and pharmacies. 129 PHCs benefited from improved access to essential drugs through the Save One Million Lives intervention programme.
Similarly, 65 PHCs were provided with seed stock of essential drugs by PATHS2, 100% availability of essential medicines and an average of 85% growth in the sustainable drug revolving fund (SDRF) scheme.
The government also trained PHC workers on emergency preparedness and infection prevention control protocols as well as the implementation of the LGA Emergency Operations center.
Maintenance of law and order, tourism, advocacy against gender violence, youth and women empowerment equally received a major impetus for growth in 2020.
Thus, despite the peculiar challenges of the year, the state government was able record milestone attainments aimed at concretizing the ‘Greater Lagos’ vision. With the 2021 ‘Budget of Rekindled Hope’, 2021 no doubt offers better prospects.
· The budget 2021 was carefully designed to meet the aspirations of our teeming youth by focusing on sectors with job creating potential like agriculture, construction, technology and security.
· The aim is to improve the economic conditions and social safety needed for the youth and all hardworking Lagosians to flourish. Resources will be committed to sectors that need to grow for the youth to become self-reliant and economically empowered.
A pivotal crux of the 2021 budget will be the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture among the youth. In light of this, micro, small and medium enterprises will be strengthened because their activities help to facilitate socio-economic advancement.
· One distinct feature of the budget estimate is the high ratio of capital to recurrent expenditure. About N704 billion, representing 61 per cent of the total budget, is earmarked for capital expenditure in the proposed 2021spending.
· This is consistent with the Sanwo-Olu administration’s move to keep the cost of governance low in the face of dwindling revenues and general inflation occasioned by multiple factors. No doubt, it is the same desire of shrinking overhead costs, in order to free more resources for fixed intensive investments, that informed the proposal to repeal the state’s payment of Pension Law of 2007, which provides for the payment of pension and entitlements to former governors and their deputies.
· The future, no doubt, looks exciting. But, in 2021 and beyond, Lagosians must join hands with the government to build an orderly society where there is respect for law and order.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director (Public Affairs) Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja