By Gbolahan Akintunde
Lagos State is currently celebrating 50 years of her existence as a State created in 1967 while Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is due for a mid-term assessment having spent two years in the saddle as the 5th elected Governor of Lagos state.
In the first few weeks that Ambode assumed office in 2015, not a few Lagosians expressed doubts as to whether Ambode would be able to match the performance of his predecessor, Raji Fashola. There were complaints in almost all sectors and Ambode received bashing left and right while he was accused of ineptitude and incompetence. One cannot blame Lagosians for expressing their frustration because they are used to excellence and they don’t accept excuses for failure. The foundation of this was laid since the Jakande years between 1979 and 1983 while Asiwaju Bola Tinubu not only built on this, but remodelled it to meet the exigencies of modern times especially Information Technology and the growing population of Lagos. Babatunde Raji Fashola improved on that, while Ambode inherited it on May 29, 2015. So it is understandable if Lagosians were impatient with him even though the sad occurrences like the infernos which he confronted in the first few weeks of his administration were natural calamities, he proffered solutions to them.
In assessing the Ambode administration in the last two years, it is important to note that he keyed into the Lagos state Development plan and this he reiterated in his inaugural speech when he said, “In the spirit of continuity, I have keyed into the Development Plan of Lagos State which are grouped into four; Social Development and Security, Infrastructural Development, Economic Development and Sustainable Environment”.
Under his Infrastructural Development, what will give any visitor entering Lagos from the Ibadan end through Berger bus stop an inkling of the transformation that has taken place in Lagos is the new world class long pedestrian bridge which has changed the face of that area previously known for its filth, rowdiness and traffic gridlock. The well-lit bridge is an edifice befitting the entrance to a megacity like Lagos. There is also the Ojota pedestrian bridge, the Ajah and Abule Egba flyovers, the Aboru/ Abesan link bridge which were all constructed and commissioned by Ambode recently. In conjunction with the Local governments, he has executed 114 road projects covering about 600 kilometres in all the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas of the State while at least, construction of two new roads per LCDA are on-going. Slip road and lay-by were constructed in Ketu-Alapere while a Segregated Bus Park was constructed in Oworonshoki. The Ajido-Imeke Link Bridge in Badagry was completed.
A drive through the streets of Lagos at night will reveal that many areas that are hitherto in darkness have been lit up and everywhere is as bright as day under the “Operation Light Up Lagos”. From Lekki axis to Victoria Island, Third Mainland Bridge, Berger to Ikeja, Agege Motor Road, Lagos -Abeokuta Expresway, Capitol Road, CIPM Road-Alausa, College Road- Ogba, Ile-Epo Inwards Ekoro-Abule Egba, Ipaja Road, Aboru/ Abesan link bridge, Abule Egba flyover and so many others are well lit. The roads constructed or rehabilitated by Ambode all come with streetlights and this actually helped reduced crime and boosted night life once again. Ambode had rehabilitated and erected streetlights in over 366 locations in the state. He upgraded Tafawa Balewa Square, Tinubu Square, constructed blocks of classrooms in primary and secondary schools as well as mini-water works such as the Mosan-Okunola mini-water works to improve the level of water supply in the state. The removal of six roundabouts along Lekki-Epe Expressway axis and replacing them with traffic light alternation system has resulted in traffic flow in that area.
In the health sector, Ambode commissioned 20 Mobile Intensive Care Units Ambulances and 26 Transport Ambulances deployed across the various General Hospitals and 24 hour primary healthcare centres in the state. While more paramedic staff and medical coordinators were recruited, the General Hospitals were upgraded with manpower and equipment with standby generators purchased for each of them. Primary healthcare centres were built across the state.
Under his Social Development and Security agenda, Ambode re-organised the civil service for more effective service delivery by realigning some ministries and scrapping others while appointing 19 new Permanent Secretaries. He ensured that the welfare of workers and pensioners is paramount by prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments. Yes Lagos is rich, but if the resources are not well managed, Lagos may not be able to pay salaries like some oil producing states. Workers were sent for various trainings and workshops for more effective service delivery while he approved N11 billion to offset arrears of pensions owed since 2010. Recently, N78.6 billion N78.6b was remitted into workers retirement account.
To ensure the security of lives and property, Ambode purchased and distributed security equipment to security agencies in the state. He purchased security equipment worth N4.8billion which include; One hundred Units of 4-Door Salon Cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, three (3) Helicopters, two(2) Gun Boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers, Revolving Lights, Siren and Public Address System, Vehicular Radio Communicators, Security Gadgets including Bullet Proof Vests, Helmets, Handcuffs, etc, Uniforms, Kits and improved Insurance and Death Benefit Schemes for officers. Recently, in order to encourage security agents to put their all in securing lives and property, he presented cheques totalling N55 million to the families of five officers who lost their lives to attack by militants in the Ishawo area of Ikorodu. Crime was reduced to the barest minimum. The Ikorodu bank robbers who escaped through the waterways with a speedboat were apprehended few weeks after the incident while the prompt and professional rescue of the abducted Ikorodu schoolgirls six days after they were kidnapped and the arrest of the kidnappers was prompt and remarkable. Cultists and land grabbers who had become a menace to Lagos residents have been put under check.
He took steps to curb sexual and domestic violence in the state, assisted many families in distress while the destitute and mentally deranged persons were rehabilitated and some were reunited with their families.
Under Economic Development agenda, Ambode worked out ways of taking the state out of recession such that it has become the economic model for the Federal government. Ambode reflated the economy of the state by embarking on more capital projects and also created a conducive environment for small and medium scale businesses to thrive.
The empowerment programme of the state government through the Empowerment Trust Fund saw many beneficiaries who have since invested the fund to improve their businesses. The launch of the LAKE rice sold to Lagosians at an affordable price is a joint venture between Lagos and Kebbi States. This shows a thinking government.
The Operation of The Treasury Single Account (TSA) improved the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state with the state saving N3billion naira monthly. Ambode, a seasoned accountant, put his experience and financial wizardry into play by ensuring effective tax collection without actually imposing tax burden on the citizens. This has increased the monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the State to N23 billion from N20 billion generated in 2013 with a plan to hit the N30 billion mark in 2017 and N50 billion in 2018.
In his bid to attract investors to the state, Ambode met several groups of local and foreign investors including heads of government, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, investors from Dubai, United States of America, as well as envoys from several European and Middle East countries. The government has received approximately $43 billion investment proposition in the last one year.
Under the Sustainable Environment agenda, the Ambode administration took many steps in ensuring a cleaner Lagos. The waste disposal system has been upgraded with the introduction of the new waste disposal regime aimed at ensuring a cleaner Lagos while illegal structures that constitute threat to human lives were demolished. Water hyacinth removal equipment were purchased while the traffic gridlock in the state was tackled with all seriousness. The Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) was overhauled and the officers re- orientated to make them people friendly. Mobile courts were inaugurated in the state to summarily try recalcitrant drivers.
Ambode transformed the State owned Higher institutions like the Lagos Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Lagos State University (LASU), Michael Otedola College of Primary Education and Lagos State Polytechnic where he has constructed and commissioned many projects.
However, the Governor should do more to curb the menace of kidnappers in the state. There is no doubt that Ambode has performed beyond the expectation of many. Some noise making governors are enjoined to attend the Ambode School of good governance, this will certainly enable them deliver the dividends of democracy to their folks too!
Akintunde, writes from Surulere, Lagos
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