There was apprehensions after the change in baton in Lagos State, as to whether Governor Akinwunmi Ambode can perform like his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, who rode on the megacity agenda of former Governor Bola Tinubu. Ten months down the line, the consensus of opinion is that the governor has not only matched the pace of his predecessors, he has also raised the bar in many respects. ENITAN SERIKI reports.
Stakeholders have hailed Akinwunmi Ambode’s performance in the last 10 months as the governor of Lagos State. They said ‘the consolidator’ has kept the flag of excellence flying. A series of armed robbery incidents that took place immediately after he assumed office had attracted negative publicity for the government. It took the governor’s prompt intervention, by provision of high definition security equipment to assist the police to combat crime, the rescue of abducted Babington Macauley Junior School students, among other things, to change the perception that criminals are free in the state.
Analysts have hailed the silent and steady progresses achieved under the governor’s new agenda for a more prosperous and secure Lagos, through different programmes. For instance, under his watch, the state has taken a giant leap to cut the cost of governance through the merging of some ministries, departments and agencies.
Ambode may have opted for a smaller cabinet, compared to that of his predecessor; he has scrapped the Ministry of Rural Development, Monitoring Office, Political and Legislative Powers Bureau, Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, as well as Debt Management Office. He has also merged the Office of Works and Office of Infrastructure; Office of Drainage Services and Office of Environmental Service for effective execution of government services.
In the same vein, he has converted the Ministry of Home Affairs to Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, which is saddled with responsibilities beyond home affairs alone. He has expanded the Ministry of Special Duties to accommodate Inter-governmental Relations, renaming it ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental relations while that of the Office of Transformation has been expanded and renamed the Office of Transformation, Creativity and Innovation. In addition, the responsibilities of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs have been expanded to include Community Affairs, renaming it Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs.
On assumption of office last year, Ambode pursued aggressively his ‘Operation Light up Lagos Project’, which has made driving at night a pleasurable experience. He also embarked on rehabilitation of roads.
He has also made significant progress in the expansion of the existing waterway transportation system to ease road traffic since Lagos is blessed with abundant water resources by encouraging private participation in water transportation. Hitherto, the state was said to have the worst traffic in the world, which compelled Lagosians to remain locked up in traffic snarl, thereby wasting productive hours.
The governor has received accolades for his commitment to the development plan of the state targeted on social development and security, infrastructural and economic development, as well as sustainable environment. In this regard, he awarded the contract for construction of Ikotun road, which has been in very bad shape for more than a decade now and work is currently on-going on the road. Furthermore, following his inspection of certain areas notorious for traffic congestions in the state, such as Dopemu junction, Abule-Egbe, Mile 2, Oworonshoki, Mile 12, Ipaja, Alimosho and Apapa, he has awarded the construction of pedestrian bridges at the designated points.
Furthermore, Ambode has assured Lagosians that the light rail project from Orile to Lagos Island would be completed within 12 months. He has also embarked on the construction of more link and inner roads in the state. One of such is the on-going reconstruction of Creek road, Harold Wilson road and other major roads. The governor has also awarded the reconstruction of Brown Street and other major streets in Oshodi axis. On the other hand,
Besides, Ambode recently assured Lagosians of his administration’s determination to complete the Mile 2-Badagry Road Expansion project in good time. The governor, who gave the assurance when he inspected the Mile 2-Badagry road construction works, which was being expanded to a 10-lane expressway, said the contractor working on the project has been mobilised to ensure that he delivers on schedule.
He has equally commenced the building of a 1000-truck capacity park in Orile-Iganmu in order to resolve the perennial traffic gridlock in the commercial area of the city and also the daily loading of the tank trucks on the Apapa bridge by the tank farm owners has to be stopped to allow free flow of traffic on the bridge.
To tackle the growing youth unemployment in the state, the governor established a N25 billion Employment Trust Fund and also established the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment to drive the government’s vision in that regard. “This specifically addresses the promise he made during his campaign on employment trust fund, labour exchange and entrepreneurship,” a politician who does not want to be named told The Nation.
In line with his promise to attract investment and ease the difficulty of doing business in the state, the governor has set up the Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (Lagos Global). Investors have been given the assurance that they can now fly into Lagos, start their business, live, work and enjoy in the state.
To exploit tourism potentials , Ambode has launched the tree-planting campaign, as well as the Deep Sea Port project in Badagry, covering about 1000 hectares of land area. This is expected to become the biggest in the African continent when completed.
The governor has also fulfilled his promise of compensating the victims of the petroleum tanker explosion at Iyana-Ipaja and Idimu area Properties worth millions of naira were gutted when tankers laden with petroleum exploded. He donated N100,000 each to them to prove his deep concern for the welfare of the citizens. This token was given as palliative measures to cushion the losses incurred by the victims, as well as to enable them return to their normal lives prior to the outcome of the investigations into the cause of explosion.
To identify with the Federal Government’s anti-corruption stance, he set up a special force and adopted strategic approaches in fighting the scourge. By operating a single bank account, a lot of cost has been saved in an effort to efficiently improve revenue collection and accountability. He has blocked existing loopholes for looting and embezzlement of funds.
In line with his campaign promises of running an inclusive government, he has appointed a non-indigene of Igbo extraction, Mr. Peter Nkedishuka Okonji, an an engineer, as the new General Manager of the State Electricity Board. Okonji succeeded Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, who was appointed by the immediate past governor.
Within few days in office, Ambode declared the second Lekki-Epe Expressway toll-free, saying that his major concern was ensuring the completion of the road and not in the toll fees levied on the road users.
Ambode has responded to the call for the improvement in the quality of education in the state, by approving the recruitment of no fewer than 1300 teachers into public primary schools across the state. He has also approved the payment of the annual bursary awards for students in higher institution of learning across the country, stressing that his administration is determined to ensure that no child who seeks education is left behind. The governor has equally approved N188.5 million for the payment of 2014/2015 local scholarship and subsequent payments to students studying in various tertiary institutions across the country. About 886 students would benefit from the awards, which the governor had approved as part of efforts of the state government to reduce the financial burden of its citizenry.
As part of efforts to enhance retirees’ welfare, Ambode has approved the payment of N2.2 billion to 658 retirees in the state who had retired from the state civil service, local governments and other parastatals. This Retirement Benefit Bond presentation, being the 18th consecutive one since the inception of the Contributory Pension Scheme, signifies the strong commitment of the State Government to the implementation and continued sustainability of the Contributory Pension Scheme.
The state has embarked on local government reforms to make the 57 local councils more responsive to the needs of the people. He has rewarded self-help initiatives in local communities, by rewarding same though the provision of grants, assistance and other support through local governments and LCDAs.
To support the Federal Government’s bid to diversify the country’s economic base, Ambode has entered into an unprecedented food security and rice production pact with Kebbi State. Similarly, he has put in place strategies that would engender sustainable food production, especially in fishery, by creating enabling environment, facilitate capacity building and create ground for easy access to credit facility for fish farmers. This may reduce the cost of production and enhance profitability since more than 22 per cent of the entire land mass of Lagos is covered by water and about 180 km is a coastline.
In the health sector, Ambode has commissioned 20 Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU) and 26 Transport Ambulances, which were stationed at the 26 General hospitals in Lagos in his fulfillment of his administration’s commitment to bring quality healthcare service closer to the people. He has also approved the recruitment of more paramedic staff and special medical coordinators to ensure 24 hours service to the citizens. Alongside this, he has upgraded the General Hospitals within the state and constructed a Medical Park, while also ensuring the availability of Quality Drugs, new mobile x-ray machines and more hospitals.