By Niyi Anibaba
Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos State has, since his inauguration some 12 months ago, moved with the winds of a hurricane to begin a new phase of growth and development of the state such that his achievements in this brief period of one year out of his four-year constitutional tenure appear like he has been there for a longer time.
Yet, it was only on May 29, 2015 when Ambode stood before a hugely expectant crowd at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, to proclaim his agenda as the helmsman of Lagos. He spoke of a divine orchestration that worked in his favour. Indeed, as we mark his government’s first anniversary we can see his to give the best to Lagosians.
In less than 24 hours after taking office, he met with the Body of Permanent Secretaries with whom he would work before the appointment of members of the cabinet. He presented his vision to reposition the state along the principles of efficiency and a service driven-administration. He would streamline some ministries, departments and agencies, he said. This would cut cost of governance as well as create new offices to cater for the emerging needs of the people.
By August 5, 2015, Ambode had moved swiftly to give teeth to the reform. He dropped some senior carrier civil servants and appointed 19 new permanent secretaries based on “merit, competence, and track record.” In the same period, he scrapped the Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, Debt Management Office while he merged the Office of Works and Office of Infrastructure, Office Drainage Services and Offices of Environmental Service.
A major outcome of these reforms was the re- introduction of lump sum leave bonus for civil servants. It also resulted in something else that brought smiles and joy to thousands of Lagosians: he paid a massive N11billion back log of arrears owed retirees for decades.
Quite early in office, Ambode located the thorny issues of fraud and corruption in the flow of government revenue. He blocked the drainpipe by introducing the Treasury Single Account (TSA) operation with effect from September 1, 2015. This consolidated all government revenue into a single account. It threw out the multiple account regime that was a breeding ground for graft and the pauperization of government treasury.
In his first 100 days, he had toured Ipaja, Mosan-Okunola, Oshodi-Isolo, Brown Road (Oshodi), Ikotun Ejigbo and Somolu communities.
Now, there is a pedestrian bridge in Ojodu Berger and over head bridges in Abule Egba and Ajah being built by Ambode in his first year in office to save the lives of citizens. There have also been noble futuristic moves such as the signing of MOU for the construction of a Fourth Mainland Bridge. Dozens of major and link roads have been constructed across the state; In June 2016, some 114 local government roads will be delivered. All these have landed with a gigantic light-up Lagos campaign, notable among which are the 36 kilometer stretch of street lights from Ile Zik to Sango Toll gate and the linking of 67 Ibeju Lekki communities to the national grid.
Ambode’s government has linked security to this quest for an enabling environment for business. His administration gave the police N4.8billion worth of equipment in December and more were added by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by Vice President, Yemi Osibajo, last week. Thus, the state has spent more than N6.6b to equip security agencies in the past six months.
The police now have more attack helicopters, patrol vehicles, power bikes, gunboats, armour personnel carriers, and bullet proof vests. Insecurity is fast receding in the state, with adequate coverage of this former federal capital and the economic epic center, as a result of all these proactive steps undertaken by the Ambode government.
On transportation, Ambode has injected 434 new BRT vehicles for the Ikorodu corridor. There is also the re-launch of the Blue Rail Project. A water transportation scheme is in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Ambode has restructured LASTMA for efficient traffic control, with mobile courts to deal promptly with road-related breaches. LASTMA is now headed by a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police Chris Olakpe. Ambode has set up a N25b Employment Trust Fund to work out a template to engage the youth. Government has also intervened with the recruitment of 1300 teachers. Still on education, Ambode set aside some N1b for upgrade of schools infrastructure across the state. The governor has in addition resolved the protracted LASU crisis leading to the signing of the Revised University Law to make for harmonious campus life devoid of the seasonal industrial actions that have adversely affected the quality of education there.
In the health sector, he has approved N49b Medical Parking Ikoyi while his government has greatly improved the welfare of medical doctors and other health delivery staff.
Agriculture and food production in the state got a fillip. Ambode’s administration entered into a deal with the Kebbi State government for the Development of Commodity Value Chain Rice Production. The implication is that when the pact fully plays out Lagos would have partly taken charge of its destiny in its responsibility to feed its population. The government would also save money spent on food importation.
On the challenge of potable water supply, his interventions have seen residents having access to good water for domestic and industrial use.
In the entertainment and tourism sector, the Ambode regime has partnered with the private players and Nollywood to tap the limitless talents of the sector. Recently the government rebranded the One Lagos Fiesta idea to boost the industry.
Now, as Lagos prepares for the 50th year of its creation next year, the governor is putting in place an elaborate plan to give the people a befitting celebration. The government has succeeded in raising a committee to work on the anniversary, with Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka and respected economist, Chief Rasheed Gbadamoshi as co-chairmen. Lagosians and Nigerians alike are excited as they await Lagos at 50 on account of the involvement of these illustrious citizens.
Sports has not been neglected by Ambode in this first year in office. There has been a well-reported international marathon race that attracted the best in the globe. Ambode has also hosted Spanish football giants Barcelona with a move to establish a football academy in Lagos. Indeed, many who have observed the activities of Ambode over the past 12 months say they are struck by how he has faithfully gone about fulfilling his campaign promise to run an administration that will ‘’ cater for the poor and needy…and (operate)a compassionate government.”
- Anibaba, an economist, is resident in Gbagada.