By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode took mantle of leadership of Lagos State on May 29, 2015 like a ship with seemingly no destination.
The governor was just about settling down for the business of governance when the corollary of the rocky start began to be felt in major sectors, especially security and traffic management. Naturally, tempers flared and people started asking questions to the point of raising doubt about the ability of Ambode to step into the “big shoes” left by his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing.
In the face of the initial turbulence, he kept calm and remained focused on the big picture and, soon, the story changed and people who castigated him initially started showering praises on him for sterling performance.
The governor, who later explained the reason for the early hurly-burly experienced by his administration, said any organization with success in mind must first think through its policies, plan and then act. True to his position, the process of thinking and planning the programs brought about the initial drawback. Today the story of Ambode’s Lagos is a potpourri of positively impactful infrastructural renewal as well as focused and dynamic leadership in all sectors and sections of Lagos.
The governor, in his ingenuity, introduced checks and balances for revenue inflow and also introduced the Treasury Single Account which, in turn, blocked revenue leakages and loopholes. He immediately followed same with N11billion approval to offset arrears owed since 2010, not only for state government mainstream retirees but also retirees in councils and parastatal organizations. As we speak, the government has done a lot in that regard in terms of taking care of retirees and of course the staff that are still in active service.
In response to the public outcry over the increase in spate of crime, Ambode rebranded the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, of the Nigeria Police, and, in an unprecedented move, he donated equipment worth N4.765billion to the state Police Command. This was done in September of 2015 and the items include 100 4-Door Saloon Cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, three Helicopters, two Gun Boats, 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers, Revolving Lights, Siren and Public-Address System.
According to him, when there is security of lives and property, more businesses will spring up and such will facilitate job creation, while the taxes derived from the jobs would be judiciously utilized to provide amenities for the people, thereby making life comfortable and easier for them.
In March 2017, he donated 48 Patrol Vans, among others, to boost the operation of the Neighborhood Watchers to keep all the communities in Lagos safe. The Neighborhood Watchers have been rebranded and transformed to Neighborhood Safety Corps Officers with 171 Vehicles fitted with communication gadgets.
Ambode, in an unprecedented move in transport reforms, commissioned the Mile 12-Ikorodu Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, Extension Project and injected 434 new air-conditioned and comfortable BRT buses into the transport scheme in November 2015, while as part of the integrated transportation system aimed at ensuring intermodal transportation of rail, water and land. He re-launched the Blue Line Rail Project which, upon completion, would ease connectivity in Lagos as over 500, 000 passengers would be conveyed daily between Marina and Okokomaiko, while the second phase, which is the Red Line Rail Project, from Alagbado to Lagos Island, will follow.
In the area of road infrastructure, perhaps the sector is the biggest beneficiary of the impactful administration of Ambode as no part of the state was left behind in the last three years.
Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Adebowale Akinsanya, said the state government completed about 500 projects while several others are ongoing.
From Ikorodu to Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway to Badagry, Epe, Ikeja and so on, one road project or other is either completed or ongoing.
In the health sector, in August, 2015, he commissioned 20 Mobile Care Units Ambulances and 26 Transport Ambulances which were deployed across the various General Hospitals and primary healthcare centres in the state. Major upgrade of facilities in all the General Hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres, PHCs, kept springing up. The first state-owned helipad for medical emergency was also constructed within the premises of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).
In area of food security and agriculture, Ambode entered into a strategic partnership with Kebbi State in 2016 which brought about the famous Lake Rice. No doubt, the initiative forced down the price of rice in the market and the governor is building on that to install a 32 metric tonnes per hour rice mill in Imota, a suburb of Ikorodu.
Similarly, work is progressing steadily at the new Mile 12 Regional Foodstuff Market in Imota that will accommodate the traders in Mile 12 and other markets in the area.
Ambode also recorded unprecedented feat in the power sector through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. He set to work by unveiling the Light-Up Lagos Project with three-pronged approach focusing on street lightening, community electrification and embedded power programme.
On the community electrification component, many communities across the state have so far been connected to the national grid and many others had their either moribund or non-existent transformers replaced with new ones.
On the embedded power programme, the governor had set up a Power Advisory Committee made up of key stakeholders from the public and private sector to drive the bid by the state government to generate 3,000 megawatts of power and distribute it in the state to ensure power security. Also, a legislation to legalize the initiative has been passed by the state House of Assembly.
Perhaps, one of the major achievements of Ambode is the N25billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) set aside to provide minimal interest loan for members of the informal sector and Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs. So far, over N4.1billion has been given to about 5,000 beneficiaries.
In the area of tourism, several statues of illustrious Nigerians who contributed to the growth of not just Lagos but Nigeria in general have been erected, such as that of late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolomo; human rights crusader and philanthropist, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, among other monuments across the State.
Aside the fact that tourism master plan is being developed for the state and would be ready by end of May 2018 which will drive tourism potentials of the state for the next 15 to 20 years, work is at various stages on new Lagos Museum in Onikan, redevelopment of J.K Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture and construction of six new theatres in Ikeja, Badagry, Igando, Epe, Ikorodu and Lagos Mainland.
In education, considerable achievements have been made with completion of new model colleges, revamping of infrastructure in public schools and ingenuity in coming up with innovative initiatives such as: Ready.Set.Work, RSW, Code Lagos, among others.
Deputy Governor, Mrs. Idiat Adebule, giving highlights on achievement, revealed that a total of 12,500 final year students in tertiary institutions have so far been trained in the last two years on entrepreneurship and employability skills under the RSW, while plans have been firmed up to train 25,000 students through the scheme in 2018.
In the environment, the state government introduced the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, which, like the present administration, started on a shaky note with the introduction of Visionscape organization, an expert in environmental issues, but the challenges are gradually being addressed. Under the CLI, the three Transfer Loading Stations in Agege, Oshodi and Lagos Island have been upgraded and retrofitted to international standard, while the first engineered sanitary landfill in the whole of West Africa is nearing completion in Epe. 27,000 community sanitation workers are being employed to sweep the inner streets, while mechanized sweeping equipment have been deployed to the highways, equipment are being deployed to collect waste, and the positive results are already being felt.
In April 2016, government introduced the rent-to-own policy whereby home owners under the scheme will just pay one month rent and spread the remaining payment over 10 years. Through the scheme, thousands of residents have become home owners and the allocation of homes is now a regular occurrence as the houses are allocated as soon as they are completed.
In the area of Sports, the present administration successfully reintroduced the Lagos Marathon in 2016 and the event has now gained international recognition as IAAF bronze label marathon race.
For sporting infrastructure, government approved comprehensive upgrade of Campos Mini Stadium, Lagos Island; Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere; Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre, Rowe Park, Yaba; Isheri Football/Swimming Pool; Ijede Mini Stadium, Ijede, Ikorodu; as well as the reconstruction of Onikan Stadium awarded at the cost of N3.6billion.
Within the period under review, the Agege Stadium was also remodeled to Confederation of African Football (CAF) standard.
Another significant milestone recorded is the progress recorded with gigantic projects such as Eko Atlantic City (EAC) and Lekki Free Trade Zone while the Federal Government launched the Lekki Deep Seaport project in partnership with the state government.
There are major projects designed to redefine the landscape of the state for good forever. They include the Oshodi Transport Interchange, 10-lane Airport Road, both scheduled to be delivered by December 2018, and Oworonshoki Lagoon Reclamation.
Apart from the giant strides in the provision of infrastructure, Lagos now generates an average of N34billion monthly revenue.
With the completed and ongoing projects, it is expected that the ship of state under Ambode will berth safely and triumphantly in 2019 and will hopefully be renewed by the people for another four-years.