BY DAPO AKINREFON
MR Lateef Aderemi Ibirogba is the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy. In this interview, Ibirogba dismissed insinuations that the state government directed its officials to take oaths of secrecy. Excerpts:
The Eko Atlantic City project has been criticised by the Peoples Democratic Party as a white elephant, how would you react to this?
It may interest you to know that 62 parties went to 21 million people in Lagos State to canvass for their mandate and by the confidence in our ability to perform, they gave us their mandate. To us, the definition is for us to direct the affairs and restructure this community; at least for the period that we have the mandate and it is pertinent to bear in our minds that we are not a government of any party. We are not a government of ACN neither are we a government of PDP.
So, it is left for us to respond to whatever the PDP or any other party thinks it can bring up to distract us. The right channel that should have responded has done that, the ACN through its publicity secretary has responded to the PDP. We as a government are focused and we understand that Lagos State is a coastal state. Some areas in Lagos are three meters below the sea level and if we are not careful, we maybe missing the point; issues of how do we cope with a state that has a little landmark whereas more than 10% of the population of Nigeria live here.
It will not be proper for us to sleep and allow water to take over the little land mark we have in Lagos. If we don’t do what should be done right now, we would find out that the little landmark we are enjoying now will continue to reduce. At the time we were commissioning Eko Atlantic City, the president had to come to be part of it and then promised that the federal government would replicate what we are doing here in some other states. But then, the truth is that we have done it in the best interest of Lagosains and Nigerians as a whole.
NIMET has continually warned that there would be a lot of flooding this year; how is the state preparing for this, especially considering that it is a coastal state?
The 2012 flood experience has made us to work to get better and it made us to roll up campaigns and come out better. We have opened some channels, to make them free for water passage so that whenever it rains, the flood will not disturb. More so, we have been able to educate Lagosians that they should not be nonchalant with the facilities of government in their communities because if they did, they would be bringing problems to themselves.
So we urged them to see government facilities in their areas as their own. We have been able to let Lagosians know that a little carelessness on their part might affect everybody in the community. That was why we didn’t have problem in 2012 and so, we are quick this year too. The Ministry of Environment organised a press conference to let Lagosians know that it is not just going to be more this year, it’s going to be stormy and we have gone into business immediately.
We have provided more good channels, loading water to the Lagoon which is the ultimate drainage. Also, we have cleared all those channels so that it will be through. We have also repaired the damaged ones. We have even taken it to the local government levels. We have employed Environment Officers that are fixed in the local government to ensure that we have a network of activities. We have also told those staying in the water-log areas to vacate the area so that they don’t have problem. I will like to tell you that the advocacy is still ongoing and we are at the same time, fully prepared. Rain is not tantamount to flooding.
How has government been making use of the N23 billion Security Trust Fund?
The Lagos State Security Trust Fund has been living up to expectation. The state government has nothing to do with it. It operates on its own. We don’t have access to their money. We don’t have anything to do with them. But I am happy that we can all sleep now with our eyes closed in Lagos.
I give kudos to them just as Lagosians have been giving them Kudos. Prior to that security trust fund, we forgot that the man you sent to go and combat crime had no instrument to do so but with the security trust fund, this men have been adequately equipped with arms and ammunitions, patrol vans and uniforms.