Lagos State Governor–elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who will be taking over administration from the outgoing Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, tomorrow, last week, granted interview to some selected media executives at his new administrative office in Ikoyi, where he unveiled his first three months plan among other issues.
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
On how he will govern LagosWe will be a listening government. We will open the corridors, as it were, for all those who actually have ideas and contributions to make. It is not going to be about me alone but a load of young, intelligent, middle-aged and older Lagosians.
Progressives have been governing Lagos since 1999. How has the journey being for the state 20 years after?
It’s been worth it for us as progressives and more importantly for Lagosians. This is the not the Lagos we had 20 years ago. It was not the 5th largest or the 6th largest economy in Africa. Lagos did not have 23 million population, Lagos didn’t have a lot of things she has now- new infrastructure in health and education. Of course, Lagos didn’t have so much traffic and refuse.
Today, Lagos has grown to be one of the biggest megacities in the world and it has come with huge opportunities and a lot of challenges but the progressives have held their thoughts very well for Lagosians. They built structures and laudable infrastructure all around the city. The revenue of the state has astronomically being enhanced through quality representation.
When we started in 1999, records showed a little over N600 million being generated. Now, tens of billions are being generated. But the question is, is that enough for today’s challenges? The answer is it is not but we have seen leaps and bounds of growth and Lagos has been good to all residents.
The first governor that came then, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu brought in first class technocrats and you can see what has come from all those teams, which I’m proudly part of. If we can go back and reflect on all of these and what has come out of small Lagos within this period you will see that progressives have earned it. But if you ask, can we do better? That is why I am here; we can certainly do it better and faster.
There has been a list of 45 promises on the social media believed to have been made by you on solving, within six months, the many problems confronting Lagos. How do you respond to that list?
I saw the list, too. In Lagos, everybody is now a Sanwo-Olu. But the reality is that it is just a wish list; it is fake news. It is not a bad thing in itself when people push you to achieve, but the truth is that you need to crawl before you walk. In our first quarter in office, we are hoping to have a working government running very quickly.
Practically, we will be a listening government. In the next 60 to 90 days, we are hoping to have a working government. That means, we will have all the cabinet and major appointments running quickly. We will engage real professionals to be working in the cabinet. We will not be lacking in ideas and Lagosians will be happy with our cabinet and we are expecting a Lagosian to be our speaker at the House of Assembly who will reason with us. It is not political but a need and a point of requirement that we all require to take us to the desired destination which will help all of us as Nigerians in general and Lagosians in particular.
And in the next 60 days, we should begin to see huge solutions in our traffic management scheme that will include those we would have solved and others we will still be practically working on. And in terms of design, identifying those corridors that we need traffic improvement we would have done all of that.
Also, in terms of where we need to improve and increase waste management solutions, we would have done all that.
In the first three months, we would have rolled out loads of waste management bags where people will see them; sorting will start from individual households’ kitchens. It will be work in progress with Public Sector Participants, PSPs, and we would have made some capital expenses in terms of procurement of wheel compactor trucks among others. That will take awhile for it to come fully alive.
Solution to Apapa gridlock will be given priority and in 60 days, we would have solved it. But sustenance will be the issue, if we are not careful. It will cost us some money to put on board.
I will give the task force and the committee full support on enforcement. These are some of the things we hope to achieve quickly.
We will also be working around the civil service because we understand that we need professionals in the civil service. So in terms of capacity, skill gaps, we will quickly identify for improvement by developing right people.
In other areas around health, we would have rolled out a more detailed plan as to what we need to do to ensure that our health, education are improved as a strategy would have been clearly cast out as a road map on what we need to do.
On health, we will have collaboration with the private sector to ensure health is accessible. Affordability of it might still be a challenge but accessibility is what we will do quickly.
On infrastructure, we will have more plans, as to what areas and new roads to build because at that time we will be preparing for the next year budget all of those plans, we will begin to implement very quickly.
Also, on power, we will have a clear cut policy with all the DISCOs, GENCOs on how to ensure Lagos get powered up, very quickly.
On my campaign trail, I met quite a number of very intelligent, young Nigerians, about six, seven thousand of them at various fora. One of the things we discussed we would be looking at is the incubator centres we need to create for them. There will be clusters of incubator centres we can develop. On the ones that require financing and support, we’ll get the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to quickly identify more beneficiaries to support them with grants or little loans so we can increase the numbers very quickly. There will be light industrial estates we need to revive. We will also need to work with the Central Bank because some of these things we discuss are beyond our control.
The grants, the loans the Central Bank has been talking about, how well can they be accessible?
The commercial banks will mention they want to be supporting SMEs, but how truly well are they going to be supporting them? These conversations must come from that angle. If you have just a small corner tailoring outfit, it’d be difficult for me to say I’d be solving your immediate problem because your situation could just be power supply in your small shop. But we can pool that together to have a tailoring section in Obalende, for example. That is the kind of innovation we’d do. We’d look for a place where they can share resources, maybe have about 300 tailors clustered there and we can develop a power solution for them as against developing for each person. On their own part, they must identify players in the same industry. Once they come together, it becomes easier for government to intervene for them collectively.
How do you intend to address infrastructure deficit?
Infrastructure is big. It is roads, power, and housing. On roads, there is little you can do during the rainy season. But you can do a lot of planning. You can also, when it rains, clear the drainages, remove what could block the manholes and fix potholes. During the rainy season, you need to be smart so you don’t waste materials.
On infrastructure, before the end of the year, the people will see our growth plan, in terms of which roads, which bridges we would be completing within the next two, three years. We’ll be working a lot with the private sector on public-private participation so we can be using private equity, private funds to develop some of those competences in infrastructure.
How would you be transparent on budgeting and procurement
The state government still publicises its budget year-on-year; we intend to continue with that. Beyond that, we intend to be doing what we call quarterly review of our budget performance so the people can ask us questions on the budget in the last three months: ‘You said you would this and that, why have you not done them? Is it because there is not enough money?’ In terms of transparency on procurement, we have a Procurement Law, we have a procurement agency. It’s for them to assess a bit more. Whatever needs to be published in terms of who gets what procurement, we’ll do it, if it’s not currently being done. Business owners in Lagos complain a lot about multiple taxes.
How would you give them succour
There are no multiple taxes. It’s your perception. It’s a paradigm we need to change. It’s not true. There’s no tax that doesn’t have a law component to it. Taxation is a function of the law, so if the law is faulty let’s go back to it. Maybe you can talk about the people and how they collect taxes, which we need to work on. But then, that’s people, that’s culture. We need to correct the narrative.
Giving priority to uncompleted projects of the outgoing government
We’ve had several interactions with the government; we have a transition committee. We’ve seen documents. In terms of completion, yes, we will ensure we complete them and we will do that very well. There shouldn’t be any problem.
Style of administration
My style would be to be humble, transparent and accessible as much as possible. My administration would be engaging. I’d allow people to have their say. They may not necessarily have their way, but it’s an opinion, an idea, a suggestion you are putting on the table. If it’s not something in my view that Lagosians will benefit from, I’d give you reasons why it can’t be done. I am a Yoruba man, we respect our elders. We’ll keep the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos going. It’s only if you don’t have any business in Lagos and you are constituting a security challenge here that you will not be my friend. My style will be to remain a governor for everybody.
Insight into figures on the kind of treasury you would be inheriting
I don’t have the numbers yet. As a finance person myself, we just have to be creative. Money will never be enough, but we can’t be giving money as an excuse not to perform.