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Open Letter to Governor Ambode on Health and Safety Issue in Lagos – by Abdulrasaq Adewole

OPEN LETTER TO LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR AKINWUNMI AMBODE ON HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUE IN LAGOS STATE

His Excellency,                                                                            27th April 26, 2017

Mr. Akinwunmi  Ambode,

Executive Governor of Lagos State,

Governor’s office,

State Secretariat, Alausa,

Ikeja, Lagos State.

Your Excellency,

With great humility and respect, I felicitate with you and fellow Lagosians in celebrating Lagos at 50 and to wish you happy world health and safety day. It has been a great journey so far with a lot of developments and successes. Lagos is indeed the land of excellence.

Even as we celebrate, I wish to use this open letter to urgently your draw attention to the matter of health and safety of Lagosians. Let me, however, start by defining Health & Safety:

Health: Absence of diseases

Safety: Absence of injury to person, damage to asset or property or equipment

I have been a keen follower of your government for two reasons;

  • To observe whether you will continue from where Ex-governor stopped regarding safety in Lagos because it was during his tenure that the Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC Law; 2011 Cap. No. 6) was established with the vision to ensure citizens of Lagos work safe and live safe
  • To observe your commitment towards the safety and security of Lagosian as promised in your inaugural speech on the 29th May, 2015

In your words paragraph 13 (EVERYBODY COUNTS) “As we collectively face the challenge to make Lagos a better place to live in, we must recognise our diversity.  A common national identity where everybody counts. I shall have an open government of inclusion that will leave nobody behind”.

While you have scored highly on the issue of security, the question needs to be asked about how you have fared in Health &Safety.

Paragraph 14 (THE NIGERIA DREAM)  “Lagosian are hardworking people.  Lagos is striving because of its undying entrepreneurial spirit. However, we must realise that there are no short-cuts to success. To our youths, we must nurture good family values to succeed in any endeavour. In our country, particularly in Lagos, you can always succeed. This is the Nigerian dream where hard work, courage, perseverance, persistence, merits and rewards pay. We must, therefore, embrace new thinking and be determined to succeed at all times. I am ready to encourage and nurture that dream in our children, youths and every hard-working Lagosian.

While it is indisputable that Lagosians are very hardworking, there is much more that can be done by Government to secure the health & Safety of the Lagos workforce and better improve productivity, worker morale, and the general wellbeing of the workforce. Many people are dying every day in Lagos basically due to exposure to several workplace hazards and poor working conditions amongst others. These include workers from the construction, manufacturing, hotel and hospitality industries. Also affected are workers in education, the public sector, telecommunications, financial institutions and even markets (with its share of fire incidents etc). Even our hospitals and clinics are failing us in Lagos safety wise. So many families are in lots of pains from workplace accidents.

Lastly sir, Paragraph 16 (DEVELOPMENT PLAN (2012 – 2025) “In the spirit of continuity, I am committed to the State Development Plan (2012 – 2025). The plan is structured under four pillars; (1) Social Development and Security; (2) Infrastructural Development; (3) Economic Development and (4) Sustainable Environment”. Your government is doing so well “in the spirit of continuity” which we all crave for during the election but a whole lot more needs to be done in addressing the safety aspect.

The challenges we face today as a state require proactive actions in all sectors of the state to ensure the safety of all Lagosians in actualizing the above development without a doubt. As a Health & Safety professional, I  believe Your Excellency has to be proactive to ensure workplace safety in Lagos. Consequently, the following are my suggestions to ensure the safety of Lagosians.

  1. REFORMATION OF LAGOS STATE SAFETY COMMISSION: Quoting your words during the inauguration, paragraph 17 (PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM) “As we all know, the best practices of yesterday may not be good enough for the products of today. In this sense, we shall embark on continuous reforms in the public service. I am determined to demonstrate that the government belongs to the citizens. You have put us here as servants to serve you and not you serving us. Today we are committed to that creed. Moving forward, the Civil Service will be strengthened and made to respond to the needs of all citizens in the same manner, quality services are rendered in the private sector. My administration is prepared to take the decisions needed to promote merit and professionalism. To restructure where required, eliminate poor Human Resource practices and accelerate the pace of reforms in the spirit of good governance. I want to assure the business community and corporate Lagos that the ease of doing business in Lagos will be improved upon earnestly”.

This is one area the performance of your administration has left much to be desired as far as the LSSC is concerned. Despite the clear wordings of the law that established  Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC Law; 2011 Cap. No. 6)  which stated clearly in Article 2 (1) that the commission shall consist of;

  1. A chairman who is of proven integrity and knowledge in safety related matters
  2. Four(4) persons of proven integrity and knowledge in safety related matters
  3. The Director General or Chief Executive Officer with proven integrity and knowledge in safety related matters. They must all be appointed by your Excellency and subject to state assembly approval.

Since it was established, the Lagos State Safety Commission is yet to witness someone with proven integrity and knowledge in safety related matters in leadership and this is affecting the running of the agency as a safety regulator. Lagos State does not lack experienced indigenous Safety Professionals with proven integrity. In fact, Lagos state is home to more than one thousand (1000) safety professionals with proven integrity and knowledge in safety related matters with years of experience. I do not believe a non-Accountant will be appointed to head Lagos internal Revenue Service (LIRS) nor a medical doctor to head Lagos Building Control Agency (LABCA) etc. Why then Sir, do we not have a Health & Safety Professional heading the LSSC.

Your excellency, now is the time to set the record straight and match your words with action. This should start with the appointment of the right persons with proven integrity and knowledge in safety related matters to head Lagos State Safety Commission.

Your Excellency sir, you need to strengthen the workforce in the commission with qualified safety professionals and not just civil servants without the requisite Health & Safety competence as the situation currently is today. Most of the officers in the commission today can’t match the quality of the officers in the field of health and safety in the private sector and this affects their ability to carry out their oversight functions.

  1. While thanking your Excellency for the recently signed environmental law and establishment of Lagos State Neighbourhood safety corps’ (which to strengthen the security of the state), more needs to been done as far as health and safety are concerned in Lagos State. A visit to construction sites, steel companies, hotels, restaurants, markets, food and beverages companies to see Lagosians suffering from poor workplace set up and non –compliance with international standards in health and safety in workplace as established by International Labour Organization (ILO) convention (C155) and recommendation (R164). We need to strengthen the law that established the commission with further legislation to ensure safety standards in Lagos state as this is long overdue (5years and still counting), We can only achieve this through your leadership.

 As reported by ILO in 2012 about 2.2 million people die every year from occupational accidents and diseases with an average of 6000 per day. Approximately 4% of the world’s Gross Domestic Products is lost with the cost of Injury, death, and diseases through absence from work, sickness treatment, disability and survivor benefits. Lagos state with a population of over 15 million and accommodating over five thousand (5000) companies requires a stringent law and vigorous implementation, fostered by quality leadership which your Excellency is providing.

The performance of Health and Safety Executives, UK (HSE), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the United State of America in terms of ensuring safety standards, leadership, funding and revenue generation for their respective countries is worth studying. We can also replicate it here your Excellency and I believe in your administration’s ability to ensure that Lagosians live and work safely.

Your timely action will further redeem the faith of existing investors and also encourage intending local and foreign investors to conduct their businesses in a State that values the Health & Safety of its workforce and reap the attendant rewards such will bring to their investments.

Once again your Excellency, happy 50th anniversary and Happy World Health and Safety Day

Your Sincerely,

Abdulrasaq Adewole

Health and safety Professional

E-mail: Adewolerasaq@gmail.com

Twitter: @safeempire

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Managing Editor