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Wednesday , 28 June 2017

Steve Ayorinde Thumbs Chest on Lagos as ‘Mini Country’

Steve Ayorinde,a serious minded & respected Media Expert, has developed  a singsong..Lagos state is different,unique,indivisible,important and distinct..Now as the state celebrates,he has increased the tempo,with his deep knowledge of Music..Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy Steve Ayorinde  had a chat wth the nation newspaper, on the 50th anniversary of the state’s creation, how Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is tackling the challenges of governance and the government’s agenda for a better Lagos. 

YOUNEWSNG.COM REPRESENT IT

What is the significance of this Lagos at 50 celebration?

The golden jubilee of any individual or institutions is very important. Therefore, anybody who lives up to 50 wants to do something significant, to mark the milestone. So, if you live up to 50, you will not allow it to go by without doing something to mark the age. Lagos at 50 is significant because, as a state, it is not the only one that was created in 1967 by General Yakubu Gowon. But, as you can see, everything is being done to make the celebration worthwhile. And maybe, there some muffled echoes by a couple of other states, acknowledging their existence for 50 years. Some have not given it a thought, but Lagos has been the only state that is celebrating the jubilee with the extra ordinary attention. Lagos, out of a class of 12 that was created in 1967 has remained an indivisible state so far.  Nothing has been created out of Lagos and nothing has been added to it. The indivisibility and its cohesiveness call for celebration. It can also take a lesson from when Lagos celebrated its centenary as a Republic. When Lagos was celebrating the centenary, Nigeria was only 55. The situation was also similar to when Nigeria celebrated its centenary as a geographical area that constitutes Nigeria. And of course, this predates the 55 years or the 100 that we have celebrated in the past. Lagos has always existed. during those days, we interacted with Portuguese and missions. So, in celebrating the 50 years of Lagos as a state, we are also celebrating the rich history of Lagos as a coastal and aquatic region with its enterprising background and people. Lagos is the most accommodating of all states in the country and it has enjoyed the profile of being a commercial city right from time. Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of the country, West Africa and the first largest economy in Africa. We are celebrating this feat; it is like what California is to the United State of America. If Lagos was to be a country of its own, it would be one of the largest economies in the world. Lagos is important for us to celebrate because everything that our country ideally stands out to be is found in Lagos. it can be called a mini Nigeria.

Can you shed light on the challenge of governing Lagos, this mini Nigeria?

There are enormous challenges. they are not challenges that are undaunted, that will not allow you to achieve your purpose. When you have 26 or 27 states out of the 36 states that are struggling to pay salaries and those paying are finding it difficult to pay pension and the like, the effects will spread to those that are paying. Let’s say you have three, four or five that are consistent with payment, so that if, we are to calculate their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), it is not significant. The closest of the leading state is rated a quarter of Lagos IGR profile. That gives you an idea of the kind of pressure Lagos is facing, particularly in the last few years arising from fallout of state that are not well positioned to meet their obligations. In the last two years, the gravity of people moving into Lagos after 2014/2015 because of the electioneering has been quite huge. There is no other city in the world that has recorded volume of influx Lagos recorded within the time frame. That keeps a lot of pressure on roads and attending to security of the state. This therefore, means that, no matter how much Lagos State is generating, it really cannot be sufficient because of the people that need to be catered for in the state. But, Lagos has been lucky, lucky because in the last 15 to 20 years, it has been blessed with leaders that are upright, ingenious, committed and proactive. We had Alhaji Lateef Jankande, General Buba Marwa and, of course, the founding father of modern Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. And uptill now, Lagos is witnessing an unprecedented level of development. So, you can see a city state that is confronted with enormous challenges because it is about the only functional state, not only in Nigeria, but West Africa. And there are examples to back that assertion. Which other state or country do you see this level of development that you have seen in Lagos? You have seen the flyovers being constructed, investment going on, security provided, infrastructure and other projects well attended to.  You now have programmes, not only cosmetic beautification of the state, but the one that help to invest in permanent infrastructural projects; the ones make life better for the people. For instance, there is only one Emergency Hospital in the whole of Nigeria perhaps West Africa. It is located here in Lagos by the Toll Gate. I used the facility personally and can testify to its efficiency. A good percentage of people who use that hospital come from outside Lagos. These are people from Oyo, Ogun states and some people come from the northern states, the West African coastal states like Cotonou, Accra and Mali. If an accident occurs outside Lagos, the victims sometimes demand that they be taken to Emergency Hospital in Lagos. So, what do you do in the circumstance? It is either you encourage other states to have the type of hospital in their own states or create addition ones in different parts of Lagos. There is a dilemma to the success of Lagos, the more successful Lagos it has been, the more problematic it has become for Lagos. That is to the extent that people cannot fold their hands or hang their jaws hoping that things will be better in their states. Even those who are interceding on their behalf like the pastors or Imams that things will get better have been moving to Lagos because this is where the opportunities are.

 As we conduct this mid-term assessment of the administration, what is the assurance that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will be able to sustain the tempo of what he is doing?

He was not elected to serve for two years; his mandate is for four years. Therefore, if what you are seeing in the last two years has been spectacular, it means that you are only seeing a glass house being built. You will have to wait for the end of the four years to put him in better perspective. We are happy the things we were trying to do at the beginning, which were not quite clear to lot of people in the last five months, are now clear. People are now realising what government plans to do. They now realise he is not a man that comes to wear another person’s shoe. This is the shoe maker himself, who decides the size of his own shoe. If you have seen the level of progress in the last two years, he is duty bound to maintain it. His campaign promise was to adhere to the concept of continuity. However, he added the continuity slogan, which is continuity with a difference. Therefore, he is mandated to work for the people till 2019. But, what is on ground will not terminate in any case then because of the developmental programme that is handed over by his predecessor which is the Lagos Developmental Plan, 2020 – 2025. This is anchored on the economic development, environmental sustainability, security etc. What we have done is to actualise what was handed over, which is based on a tripod of security, job opportunities and wealth creation and infrastructural development. Everything that has been seeing done by Akinwunmi Ambode and he is still doing will be based on that tripod. And in creating the job opportunities, that is why we have that N25 billion Employment Trust Fund. You cannot have a megacity like Lagos and you think the major thing you do is to secure their lives for one or two years. Only a few days ago, Lagos State compensated police officers who died in active service. Their families were given N10 million each and the one that was wounded got N5 million. It means that people are not just going into protecting the lives of others with their own being secured. Plans have been made to take care of their families and their legacies, if anything happens to them. We have also made provision for security gadgets that will add to the security of the state. The city is moving from a megacity to smart city. Lagos does not want to be a megacity, but a smart city because our contemporaries are thriving on the concept of smart city. Therefore, what makes it a smart city? Smart city cannot have just one seaport state; therefore we are working on the Badagry seaport that will create thousands of jobs and other projects befitting of a smart city. You can’t just live from hand to mouth here; we are creating one of the most important cities in the world, which will be like Dubai. We are saying that the city will be given security and development will be driven by technology. We are working on about 13,000 Close Circuit Cameras that will help in the security of the state. This means that Lagos will welcome everybody, but will demand that we live and work by the rules. We are in a marathon to win and the first leg of the marathon is a four year term. However, the seed that would have been sowed will not terminate in four years.

When will the second phase of the rural road construction commence?

It will commence this year. Again, that will take us back to why Lagos State is celebrating 50 years. There is no individual or state in Nigeria or Africa that celebrates its 50 years as Lagos State has devoted it’s time to mark the golden jubilee year. Maybe, something that will be close is Singapore. We have had wonderful times celebrating Lagos at 50. The last few weeks commencing from April to mark the celebration has been the most reported and publicised event. So, by the end of this month, when we would have been done with Lagos at 50, precisely from June/July we would have kick started another round of constructing the 151 road that we promised for which more than 2000 indigenous and foreign contractors applied would have been announced action. In May 2015, we announced that we would do something nobody has ever done in Nigeria, that we would commence 114 roads across the LGA and LCDA that would be delivered, when we celebrate our first year. And toward last year, we said we will not just repeat what we had the previous year, we would add to it, in which case, it would have been two roads per LGA but we realised that there were road network that needed some connectivity to the main road. This mean every council will still get two roads done, but there are some of the LCDA and LGA that cannot terminate in their council, but have to link major roads in order for things to happen. So, instead of 114 we now have 151 because all the roads have already been marked. So, between September and December this year another windfall of infrastructural development would have happened including of course the Pen Cinema Flyover and others to be delivered next year.

Is the fourth Mainland Bridge project still possible?

Yes, it is possible. It is going to happen and before you see the coming of the fourth Mainland bridge, the engineering work would have been going on. That is the level we are.

Has the Federal Government fulfill its obligations, in term of the federal roads?

We have not calculated what the federal government owes in the last two years because that has not been our focus. But of course, up till 2015, Lagos State has always insisted that federal government is owes it about N56 billion. There have been discussions between the federal government and the state government. Nothing has been paid, but again that is not our focus. Our major request will be two folds; it is for the federal government to be reminded its responsibilities about Lagos State, particularly within the Apapa axis. And secondly, for the Federal Government be on the same page with Lagos State government for the fixing of its roads. The state is desirous to fix mainly the Airport road, the BRT corridors at Abule Egba and a few other ones. As you know this is a family affair, there are no issues that cannot be resolved and discussions are on-going. Even if it is the desire of the federal government to fix some of these things and because of their important to the Lagos State government and the desire of the state, we have the wherewithal to deliver, we feel that it is better for the federal government to release whatever it has budgeted to on the projects to the state. It would be better for the federal government to release to Lagos State out of the N51 billion that we have agreed that federal government is owes Lagos State. And if for instance, we get N2 billion out of the money, we would say okay we have receive N2 billion, not as a tax, but out of the N51 billion that we have agreed that the federal government owes us.

Lagos generates N1 billion per day. how can the local government improve on its IGR?

The vision for the local government in Lagos State as we have it is to put people who will deliver in charge. People we want at the council are those who have the same vision on how the third tier of government, an important component of the state, to deliver good governance to the people. With what we have on the ground, we believe they can deliver on that. This time around, that Lagos set the developmental agenda, it only better that we have people with the same vision. If this is done, it would reduce a lot of things, it would reduce the pressure on government and their communities.

What is the position of Lagos in the Southwest regional integration; at a time it has a synergy with a northern state to produce LAKE rice?

Lagos state is an integral and bona fide member of the Southwest. Lagos state is a unique state, which is very welcoming and can be described as a mini Nigeria. We are glad and that underscored that people of Lagos State are from the Southwest. We are glad that Lagos State has now been absorbed into the Odua group of investment business and its core businesses. It is a component of the Southwest and we can see how Lagos is playing important role in the meetings of the Southwest governors. Oyo and Ekiti a PDP states, have hosted that meetings. Ogun State was supposed to host the meeting but because of the unfortunate transition of Dipo Famakinwa of the DG of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) an integral part of Southwest. Lagos State has always played important role and it is well positioned to captain the ship not only of Nigeria because we are already providing import role in the Southwest.  And from what we are doing, all other regions will see Lagos State as a region that we need because of its location and because of the leadership position has provided.

 

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