Lagos State is determined to retain its leadership position, says Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to a group of jornalists including Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha at a recent meeting at State House, Marina to highlight the mix of optimism, anxiety and challenges that mark the second anniversary of his administration
How have you been able to implement your campaign manifesto since you assumed office?
It’s been almost two years since I assumed office and I know what it means every day to sleep and wake up and you have that huge challenge. It’s a challenge of honour. It’s a challenge of immense trust. It’s a challenge of a sense of the believe that people have in you. As tough as the job is, looking for that job and asking God to give you that job is also a very difficult job. Two years into it, how will I, with a sense of humility, rate and rank myself? We started this government with an economic agenda, under the T.H.E.M.E.S programme. And we all went into it with a full sense of purpose, that we will break barriers, make audacious decisions and raise the level of governance. Unfortunately, COVID came in about 15 months ago, slowed us down in some areas, extensively, because Lagos remains the epicentre, but it actually has not stopped us from achieving a lot of the things we had wanted to achieve. Because we realise that stories and excuses cannot be a thing that we’re going to put forward. If I take each of the pillars, you will see that indeed we had intervened extensively in each and every one of them. And the very first one which is traffic management and transportation, was something born out of what we ask our citizens during this time, what would they want us to do first, and their answer was for us to give them means of moving from one area to another very quickly and efficiently. So what have we done? We have in the last two years created on an ongoing basis, an opportunity where we can utilise the three modes of transportation that is available to us in Lagos: rail, road and waterways. We have not completed rail but we are certain that before the end of our four year tenure, rail will move in Lagos. Why do we say so? We’ve spent more money in the last two years than what we’ve done in the last six years, and we’re confident now that we’ll take that project, two of them; in fact, the first which is the blue line has one, and the red line. We will take it to completion because we have seen what they call a financial closure. We have a direct inputs into how we can raise money to complete it. We’ve ordered rollingstock, especially for the blue line, which is the one coming on Phase One from Mile 2 to Marina. The two terminals that are remaining are the Marina Terminal, and the Mile 2 Terminal. When you’re driving, immediately after Marina, you see that there’s a big hole, a big trench that they have started excavating, that is actually the construction for the terminal for the Marina. You can see that it has extended to the front of the State House, that will be the last parking point for the Blue Line. We’re convinced that we will see rail. For the Red Line which is even the most audacious one, we are certain that in those two years, we would have completed 10 stations, we have approved to build four overpasses, the Federal Government is supposed to build another four for us but we’re convinced because we’ve raised finance to build our own four overpasses, and the plan around the rollingstock is completed and finalised. We’re saying that in two years time, we believe that Lagosians will be moving on rail. For buses, which is the BRT vehicle. We have commissioned over 600 bosses in the course of two years. Before the end of this month, we are also launching 100 new high capacity buses. We’re introducing what we’ll call the last mile process. There are about 500 buses but we are launching with the first 350 next week. If not for these two public holidays, the buses are here already. They are small, eight/nine seater buses. They are called First Mile, Last Mile. We also launched Lagos Ride, which is the Lagos taxi scheme. The first set of 1000 will be arriving in June, latest July. So, we are intervening in the three components of road infrastructure. There are high capacity, medium capacity, and the taxis, which are the least. We do not say that we have all of the money, but we want to continue to be an enabler in all of these things. So we believe that before the end of these two years, by the time we add another 100 to it, we will have about 700 high capacity, about 450 Last Mile and the Lagos Ride that is coming. On the Lagos Ride, we are actually building a small assembly plant into it where it will be produced. The plan is to have about 5000 at the end of the day. Same with the Last Mile buses. And the work plan is out, you can sew it too. The third component of transportation is waterways. We’re currently building 15 terminals concurrently in different parts of the state. We have in Liverpool, Ebute-Ero, Igbese, Oko-Ajah, in fact we have two in Badagry. Six or seven should be completed before the end of this year, and which we will commission. We see an integrated mass transportation system where our citizens will have the option of if they want to go on a bus, rail or on the waterways. On the waterways as well we’re dredging, we’re putting balls on the navigational system so that people will know how to navigate. We’re also building a command and control centre for the waterways because we know that it is important. We have actually bought search and rescue boats for Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA). The command and control centre will have cameras on some of the strategic waterways, so that, indeed, people can be safe and be sure that we are not just throwing people in the deep body of water. We have to be able to utilise all of that very well. That’s traffic management for us, where people will be able to determine and safely say that a 30-minute journey should not be more than 35 or 40 minutes. It’s not one and a half hours. On top of that, is all the road and traffic improvement. We are removing all the roundabouts, we are putting traffic signs, traffic lights, and junction improvement so that in places where we have gridlocks, we can remove or reduce all of these things. All of that is going on concurrently. We are obviously looking at a single payment system in our transportation master plan where a single card can take you on a bus, on the rail, and on the waterways. We have a carry card that Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA ) has launched. There are about 8000 already available. The plan is to have like 200,000 in over the next couple of months. Moving away from traffic management and transportation, we talk about health and environment. COVID has been both a positive and a negative for us. We are the epicentre so we had to put everything we have into it, and thank God that we, if we must say it, we think we did a fairly good job, because we’re the ones that saved the larger part of the country, proactively taking some decisions, and everybody also following suit. We’re out of the second wave completely, we are just monitoring and ensuring that we don’t have a third variant of wave so that’s why you see that we’re leading the conversation to help Federal Government block people coming into our international border post and other critical decisions just make sure that we do not have any variant that will make nuisance of our vaccines. So, as bad as COVID is,it also gives us a learning experience around ensuring that we can improve our infrastructure in the health space. Not only have we recruited more doctors and nurses, in the last one year than we’ve done in the last six years, we’ve also been able to up infrastructure in almost all of our secondary health facilities. We’re currently rebuilding about six of them right now. We have opened Badagry, Eti-Osa and we’re going to open Epe. We’re building brand new hospitals across the state including the Massey St. Hospital, a general hospital behind the Ojo Cantonment. Apart from that we have the Radiology and Orthopaedic Hospital that we’re going to be opening before the end of this month. We’re currently doing extensive innovation at general hospitals such as Lagos, Isolo General Hospital, Ebute Metta General Hospital, concurrently where the capacity is developing in terms of infrastructure that we have, and which are some of the fallout of COVID knowing fully well that we don’t have any place to go. And we’re also asking ourselves how can we ensure that we reduce medical tourism in the country. So these are some of the things that COVID has helped us with. We’ve also partnered with the private sector to open the first real Cancer Centre in this country and the new specialist hospital in Lekki. As a government too, part of the things that we’re working on the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) model to up the equipment, the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), so that we can have a model where they can supply more of the CT scan, MRI scanner, all of those high end equipment, and have them in our hospital.
Environment is still about ensuring that we can work. We’re shutting down two landfill sites. We’ve done extensive renovation with them, one at Olusosun and Egbeda. In Olusosun, we are spreading laterite on it. We hope in three years time, it will come down. Beyond that, we have 100 contractor trucks which are going to be launching before the end of this month. We have also imported and fabricated 150 dino bins, which are also going to launch before the end of this month. So, these are all things that are in the cooler, and that we’re going to see. There is direct intervention in the environment. We have ordered 40,000 waste bins that we’re going to give out to tenements in front of their various houses. We will continue to ensure the PPP model that we’re using and ensuring waste collection and management is in place.
People come around and say that they can do waste conversion. I’ve had over 20 presentations but I’ve not seen the person that will write the cheque yet. If I see somebody that wants to do waste to energy today, I’ll give them the concession, but a lot of people come and say that they can do it, but nobody has actually signed it up to be able to do it, so that’s why we have not done full waste to energy conversion. But we’re doing a lot of waste management in terms of plastics and recyclable ones.
On technology and education, we’ve had over 1000 projects in educational space. Recently, I commissioned four schools concurrently. In the course of this week, all the cabinet members will be going out to different local government areas to commission schools because there are too many. We have increased about 500 new classrooms, we have built over 2000 hostel accommodations in our boarding schools. We’ve had over 100,000 new benches and tables in our schools. We’ve done almost every impact that we can, so all the commissioners will just go there and be cutting tape because there are so many of them. For the first time we are actually building brand new schools. There are three brand new schools that we’re building. There are two in Badagry. Those are some of our intervention, infrastructure, in education. We’ve recruited about 1500 new teachers. We’ve started what we call Eko Excel, which is a tablet or handheld device at a primary school. We’re not leaving primary school to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) or local government, we’re actually directly paying more money there than any other person has done in the last 10 years. So we have a tablet now they’re using, Eko Excel
The whole idea of the Eko Excel is that all of your primary school teachers can have a single means to identify what their curriculum will be and be able to also time. At the back end, you will know which teacher in the class actually uploaded and treated those lessons, so that you can monitor them off site. Outside of that, we’re ensuring that we can use technology as a strong enabler for our schools. I’m sure you’re aware about our 3000 Metropolitan fibre optics for fibre in Lagos. The red, yellow, green cable on the road is a 3000 kilometre fibre grid that we’re putting in this city. We have done 1800… it is PPP, but we are the enablers. We gave them all the right of way, concessions, and the approvals that are required. Even while we were building our routes, we were creating the dots for them. What that griding will do for us is that the first 100 schools that will have fibre in the schools because we are launching before the end of this month. I have a list of the schools already, at least I have a list of 80 schools already. We will have about 100 fibre in those schools, enhancing internet capability. It is meant to go around all our privates, all our public secondary schools, and of course our hospitals and our public buildings, that’s the plan that we have. Once you have fibre, which is the new oil, that’s data, before the end of the year, in the private sector area, there are two Marines that are lagging in Lagos. The amount of 4G, 5G that’s going to come into our system will allow internet and data availability. We’ve seen what COVID has done for all of us, we all know that data is one of the things that we must do, so we’re building that infrastructure to be able to help that sector.
Last year we also supported techpreneurs. We gave out grants over N250 million using the Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC). It is headed by the Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos. We have the grant and someone even got a grant of N25 million, and some of them have actually been recommended to hire things now on tech space. This year, they are asking for N500 million but I think we’ve given approval for up to N350 million. Let them go and identify young, vibrant tech startups that we can support and we can be an enabler for them. So these are some of our own direct interventions, we’re building the real Yaba Tech Hub. Google, Facebook are working with us on that. We have issues with land acquisitions and all of that so we are just meant to pay off all of the families around that place and we’ll have the land. It is on 7.5 hectares of land and so we’re building like a campus for techpreneurs and startups to support that industry. We believe that technology also can be a strong driver of our government policy. In Alausa, we call it Alausa Campus Infrastructure campus infrastructure, where all our offices we’re using ourselves as a test case that we have there. On top of our 3000 fibre optics is also what we call the Safe City Project, which people have said that some people have attempted to do. We are actually doing it, where we said that we’re going to build a smart city. The first set of 120 cameras are live as we speak, in different parts of the city. We’re going to 2000. That’s why we don’t make any noise about it yet. So, it’s something that we are funding directly, and it’s supposed to help us on security, on traffic management, on investigation. A city like this must use technology as a strong enabler to reduce crime. And so we believe that that’s the way to go. So all of these are sitting on our technology infrastructure.
In making Lagos a 21st century economy, we will look at infrastructure, housing, energy, agriculture, and each of those sectors, there are lots of things.
On Infrastructure, I can tell you with all sense of modesty that we’re intervening on the roads. In fact, people have complained that we’re doing too many roads concurrently and we’re not shying away from that. We believe that’s the way to go. We believe that road is one thing that, even if you don’t use my hospital or school, you’ll use my road. It’s a strong enabler. From Ikoyi to VI, from Ikorodu to Epe to Badagry to Ojo. We’ve done the same in housing. In two years, we’ve commissioned about eight housing projects. And so we have about 4000 housing blocks and there are still so many that are working-in-progress that we haven’t commissioned yet. This, we believe, is just a dot. All of these things are meant to be enablers. It is really to work with the private sector, and get them to do a lot quicker and faster than us. We’re giving out a sizable number of lands to serious and identified private developers that we can partner with, and they can use their own equity and their own funds to be able to provide houses that are affordable and accessible. So these are conversations that are going on.on agric, we just launched our five-year roadmap. Tough area for us but we said that even with our small size, we cannot fold our hands and not intervene. You know about our rice mill, we will complete it this year. We’ve gotten three state governments that are doing massive rice farming. The states are in the north central and they are supporting us extensively. On the meat value chain, we consume about 60 to 65 per cent of total meat that has been brought down here. So we said, let’s even know what is happening. Let’s be able to know where these meat are coming from. Let’s even have our own means of breeding. We set out 100 hectares of land that we’re going to turn into feedstock. The land is being cleared as we speak. They even offered to give me two hectares, which I’ll be checking just to encourage us. Here in the State House, we have a snail farm, poultry, fish and small farms. And we eat some of those things and that’s part of what we are trying to promote. Urban farming. So that we can reduce dependence on external feeding in our culture.
On energy, that’s one area we haven’t done as much as we wanted. The reason being they are still heavily regulated. They will tell you it is deregulated but it’s not true. We’ve had plans with the Discos to intervene, but each time we do it, we meet a brick wall. They’ve said to us that there’s so many stimulus that we put together, but they will tell you that you still need to enter their own system for it to work for you. So we continue to have that negotiation. We have brought out our own energy master plan but in terms of engagement with them, we are still fighting but they are our friends. We will continue to engage. We have 20,000 metres that we have ordered that we want to use to send metres to people’s houses. Twenty thousand we have ordered and we said to them that we want to put those metres out there and they said to us that if they do, they will be the one to put the energy there, so who owns the metres. These are some of the hiccups that we have in that sector, that is not allowing us to intervene as much as we will, but on our own, our Lagos electricity port, we’re doing 1200, which will fit in right around Lagos. You will notice that the LED that you have on Third Mainland Bridge, there are bright white LED lights. We just started installing them, and you will see those installations in the next three months. They’re massive. In fact, because I tested it, I turned off my headlights while driving and I could still see. These are high, LED lights that we believe that our citizens need, and we’re doing it on 1200 roads, in all of our highways and streets. So these are part of our interventions on energy.
On entertainment and tourism, entertainment is a place where we see a lot of employment being generated. We see a lot of people that if we enable them, they can create employment for a lot of our citizens. What have we done? We have directly looked at the sector and decided to work with the private sector. So we set up the Lagos Ebony Academy. Lagos Ebony Academy is training film producers, film editors. It’s all grants that we put on the table for that sector. It’s been run by EbonyLife. There’s also another company called Del-York Academy. We signed an online training for 1500. We launched it about two weeks ago, they are treating them right now to develop content everywhere in the world. And at the end of their exercise, they’re going to do real creative stuff, in which they will turn to producers or movie directors. Just last week we also set up another committee where Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) is the chairman. We’re also again, giving them grants for people that have strong storylines, but they don’t have producers, they don’t have sponsors that will take those storylines into filmmaking. So we’ve set up a grant, like we did with technology, where I said that we’re giving people money. The committee is meant to support owners of scripts with the grants, just to be able to employ Lagosians and people in that sector to be able to take their film, either to the cinema or to Netflix. So, these are some of the problems that we know they have in that sector. One of the things we said to them when we started, we can bring a lot more private sector, to say that the government has put this, it is live, real and working. That we also support this industry, because that’s really what they need. If we can support them, they can employ a lot of people, and that’s one of the places where we believe we’re helping out. We have a one billion Naira tourism fund. We realise that a lot of them might not be able to access it because of all of these small conditions that are inherent but the fund is there by Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. On the tourism side is to look at it and let’s continue to be an enabler. We have 18 different sites in Badagry that were completed and are tourist places for the future of the tourism industry in this state. There are also one or two private sector led beach lines that are currently being constructed and we have given them next to nothing in terms of fees or charges just to support them, or be able to create that tourism ecosystem for our citizens. So we believe in these places too, the government cannot be into everything but we can intervene.
Finally, it is around security and governance. All of these things will amount to nothing, if it’s not in a safe or secure environment. And so security continues to be a major deliverable for our government. We’ve had a major security stakeholders meeting in which all security architecture was in Alausa and it was more about how do we continue to keep Lagos safe and secure. And so we will not stop at anything, and they are aware, using Lagos Employment Trust Fund, what are the things we’re using to support the security architecture. Like I mentioned, technology is one of the ways to go. And we have started that. The CCTV that we’re building is not for us. It’s also for them. We have enhanced and improved our control and command centre. You are also aware that we gave the Constabulary 1250 of our neighbourhood watch, we donated to Nigerian police. So, these are parts of our intervention and we did everything to support the idea around Constabulary, and community policing. Of course we have been an advocate of state policing and we will continue to be an advocate. We believe it’s the way to go, and the right thing to do. I will not stop. But whilst we are at it, we need to support all of the things that we have on ground. We’re planning to also further recruit more people under our neighbourhood watch, which is a strong, information gathering network initiative that is helping our entire security architecture. So, the things we are doing for them is to continue to do it. Before the end of this month, I say to you also, humbly, we will be handing over almost 200 vehicles to security architecture in the state with other supporting infrastructure, which we will handing over to the Nigeria police and other security operatives, just so that we can continue to keep Lagos, safe and secure. For governance, it is to say that we realise that we’re not the only one in the room. There’s legislature, and judiciary. All of us have different roles to play, and we will continue to ensure that everybody plays their own part, independently. Lagos, and I’m repeating Lagos is the only state that has continued to remain autonomous. Our House of Assembly is the first autonomous house in the whole country, same with our judiciary. We believe our judiciary is extensively autonomous. Why do I say so? All of that recurrent expenditure, we did not touch it. They get it as a first line chart on a monthly basis. Their capital, now because of their capacity that they also need to generate, once they request for it, we give it to them. Once they make provisions for it. All the things that happened during EndSARS that we needed to come and support, to rebuild and to work with them and ensure that they are not left. We are building in about three different places for them, where we can take the courts. So, we believe in the separation of power and will continue to hold, and keep that. We believe in accountability, and transparency, and our website is always open to all of the things we’re doing as a government. Our accounts, public procurement law, right, and all the people that are in the procurement agency, are people that have impeccable character in their own space and they continue to do their work. There’s so much that we’ve put into the funnel, and we’re expecting so much out of it. So like I said, they are done, some are work in progress, and not a lot that we have that are not brought up. The ones that we have not completed for example, Fourth Mainland Bridge. I’ll keep talking about it and I said to you that I did not promise it in my election but I will deliver it. I’m repeating myself before the end of this year, we will take Fourth Mainland Bridge to a financial commercial closure where we can break the ground and see the construction of a 37- kilometre kilometre, it’s like an N 25, a ring road being started. That process has had to go through an extensive pre qualification process, and we’re happy with the level at which it is. They’re going to the final bid submission, sometime in June or July. And we’re hoping that it will take about three months for us to complete that and thereafter, it will just be the financial closure. So I’m still hopeful that before December 31 we should do groundbreaking for Fourth Mainland Bridge. These are some of the big items that are still within our two year deliverable plan, which we believe that our citizens do require and we are committed to.
What is Lagos State stance regarding the South-west vigilance group Amotekun?
Security is not just a name calling. Security is action. Security is not around a perception, security is real. You need to feel it, you need to see it. I believe in the thoughts around a regional security support architecture. So I was part of the conversation but even while we’re having the conversations, my colleagues did mention, and clearly saw that Lagos you have, what we want to replicate, which is your neighbourhood watch. It is pretty much around that. Secondly, it was also an idea born out of forest and border issues, Lagos. Fortunately and unfortunately has only two borders: Atlantic Ocean and Ogun state. Ogun State is not in any form a forest, it’s all a community built up and the terrain of Lagos, also does not even support heavy forestry. So in terms of the structure and what is meant to achieve, we do not fully fall into that geographical enclave. But we are in sympathy support of it and we actually also bought our vehicles. One of the problems of governance is building structures and layers upon layers and replicating the same thing. And so, are we going to kill my neighbourhood watch, because I want to create a name, and just have a 200 or 30-man, the answer is no. What exactly are they meant to do? There’s nothing that Amotekun is doing today that my Neighbourhood Watch does not do. It is all intelligence gathering. It’s all a support arm for security architecture, to be able to give them adequate information, timely information and be able to make support. They are not even to arrest, they can only just say this is where it is. We gave police 1250 able and capable men. We are the only ones from my Neighbourhood Watch, and they found each and every one of them capable of being able to work with them. And so that number for example, we need to put it back. So we’re going to recruit about 2000 men. They are about 4000 and we will need to get that back to 6000. These are people that are in our various border posts and that are giving us weekly, monthly intelligence of what is happening in their community. They are right there in the community and they’re feeding us back intelligence and information. So pretty much that’s what it’s about. That’s where, it appears as if there’s a disconnect, and my colleagues, they understand and they appreciate that. That’s what they do, please continue to do it. If there is other support that I can give, I will give. So it is not a conflict at all. It is not an attempt to say that we’re not in support. We are fully in support, But what I’m saying is that it was conceived as a forestry Border Patrol Force and handing over information.they’re not uncaring, They’re not arm carrying So there is nothing that we are currently doing. That is intelligence. From Berger to Mowe, there’s really nothing. It’s all infrastructure that has been built there. So we can do that with the current, security architecture that we have. So, we’re not in conflict at all. They are also the ones that saw us doing training. They are currently training for body cameras. They are the ones who can use it. I cannot force Nigerian Police for example to carry body cameras. I can only use my own security architecture like LASTMA, and they know the implications of it, that they will be held accountable and responsible for it. So they are currently going to train and we are building the back end of it, because you need to build the backend of where all of the data can go on storage. If there’s a need for you to call upon them, they’ll be available.
What are some of the measures that you are putting in place to be able to generate more money to carry on these projects or is Lagos just lucky to have money available already?
Not at all. Recently I was with a group of well-known Lagosians. They were Muslims and I broke fast with them to fraternise with them. And the conversation on the table was that I’m doing so much for them in Ikoyi. In fact, they wanted me to increase the Land Use Charge tax. Go and see the value of the real estate we have given Milverton, Latest Jakande, and we are pushing to Thompson, and probably Queens Drive. So, Land Use Charge is one of the ways to go. And that’s why we’re ensuring that you know we built the infrastructure and, like I said, even if you don’t use any of our government facilities, you will use our road and that has increased the valuation of your own assets. So the least you can do is to support governments in that area. And so, that’s one area in which we’re going to come out a lot stronger, and how can we do this? Only by technology to ensure that the officers that will be going have handheld devices that shows the real value, and current state of that of that property with the surrounding infrastructure that is there as the basis of valuation to determine what the true value of the asset is. As it is done anywhere in the world, it is the rich that need to come out, come strong and support the weak and the vulnerable in our society. That’s how it’s done everywhere in the world. They are the ones that control 10 and 15 figures that we can use to do other things. So investments are also not lacking in that neighbourhood. It is to make sure that we speak to ourselves, and we use them, you know, as an intervention to say that these are the returns you’re getting on your assets, the least you can do is to keep your environment safe but keep others safe. GIS is one of the things we’re doing, where we’re almost completed our full land data documentation, but we have not done very very well in terms of how quickly we give out approval. We can do a better job in terms of the timeline around construction approvals. We are still very far behind. So we can use technology to strongly…and if things can be done transparently, a lot more people will come forward, get their building approval and the government will be able to get more revenue. Thereafter you can do the transaction exchange that involves the movement of property and land. This is oNe area that if we do well, we can indeed, double the current revenue of the state, while not increasing any fee or charge of anybody. Just the amount of transaction you can generate, the amount of time, the experience you have each time you come out at Alausa and for as long as it is a positive experience, they will come back again, a repeat job. There are so many banks that have title documents that are meant to be perfected. What they do is they get all the documentation that can make them perfect it. Everything is there, but they keep it in their safe for two reasons. One, they don’t want to pay the fees to the government. And secondly, they probably will think that it will take a long time before they get it perfected. So now, we are saying to them to bring it out, we’re ready to give it to you within a short while. You can even upload all of your documents online and print it out, because it’s not a legal document until you have the government’s seal on it. So it’s only when they now have a problem that they start running helter skelter to make it legal. So these are some of the transactions that we need to ask them to bring from inside their safes and let us do it and the revenue of Lagos will certainly go up. There’s that capacity and tendency.
In all these ambitions and projects, what is the place of the local government?
We appreciate and understand separation of power. And we believe that people want service. It becomes very difficult for ordinary citizens to be able to say that this road, or this thing is state government or local government. They carry all of it together and say it’s Sanwo-Olu. From that standpoint, first you have that burden of responsibility to want to carry it. It’s engagement that all of us should continue to have, and to ensure that we put in the right people that truly have the sense to sell, and have the capacity to do, to put them there. There’s another election that is coming up now. So you have the pen you have the opportunity to educate both the citizens, the electorate, and the aspirants and ask indeed if they know what it takes. Do you have what it takes? Do you understand what is expected to be done? For example, not one kobo of local government money have I touched. And I’m saying it repeatedly. I’ve never, I’ve never asked them, in fact they are the ones that I support. But in my security, I have asked them to support me, not by taking their money. I don’t even know how much they earn. I have not even seen their list of what they make. They have their meetings and I don’t intervene. But the point is not lost on me to ensure that I will continue to collaborate and engage with them and say we all have a role to play today. You have your own role, understand your own role and please play your own part and let the state government do its own bits.
You’ve done well in rehabilitating the Trade Fair Road along the Lagos/Badagry expressway, when are you taking it to Badagry and when do you plan to resolve the Apapa issue?
The problem in Apapa is not the roads but the gridlock. Let’s be fair. Between Lagos state and Federal Government, a lot has been done on the roads. But to assure you that Badagry and Ojo are also not forgotten. We will start work on Buba Marwa that takes you to Ijegun and we are also starting Ojo, Navy Town. Both of them have been awarded and I’m sure if they are not there now, they will be there anytime soon. Straight to Badagry, we are doing four roads inside Badagry. But that carriage way, let’s say it the way it is. Lagos state chewed more than itself. This is a federal government highway, a transnational West African road corridor. Two weeks ago I was still in a meeting with the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing. Lagos State does not have the responsibility to carry that burden all throughout to the end. I was here when that decision was taken to move that road from Iganmu from two lanes on each side to five lanes. That’s more than 100 per cent what we currently have. A lot of people don’t know we are building ten lanes. The Badagry expressway is 10 lanes from four. That’s what we are building. It’s massive. What the Federal Government now says is that from Okokomaiko, they have awarded it to Agbara. Even for them, it’s a big embarrassment because on the West African route, there’s meant to be a commitment around it. They assured us that the contractor is there, but I don’t know how their own numbers work. Sometimes, they spread it within, they could be there for as long. That’s what I said earlier. People don’t know whose responsibility it is. All they know is that they don’t fix the roads and it’s your name alone they know. So we will continue to carry that burden and have that conversation with the federal government to see what can be done. But inside Badagry itself, we are doing great. And we have not stopped on the Badagry expressway. We are pushing it. We are in front of LASU now. While we appear to be slow is because there’s a bridge that we are doing now. A massive bridge in front of Ojo Cantonment and LASU. It’s a massive bridge because they need to do connections and all sorts. The bridge is there. That’s what has slowed the work. So from there they will move to Okokomaiko. They have done the drainage. We have pleaded with them two weeks ago that the rainy season is coming, let them go and do the necessary palliative so that people can have relief while we look for money to do this. We are also coming to Alaba and Trade Fair. That road that leads from inside Trade Fair into the market, we are going to do it. And I will charge my Igbo brothers to do it for them.
Containers are the issues in Apapa. I will be the first to say that we are looking at that problem from one angle. Either, it’s more than one angle. There’s a second angle that is equally as tough as the first angle. So we all said that it is the containers, it’s Apapa Port, it’s Tincan Port that’s causing the problem. Not only are they the problem which we are attempting to solve but the tankers are the ones that nobody usually talks about. All of the pictures that have come out in the last three months are all tanker drivers that are mostly on the roads. Eighty per cent of those pictures are tanker drivers and what is the problem? Seventy per cent of PMS, H20 in this country come from that axis. That’s where the water is, the tank farms are, that’s where the infrastructure has been built. Seventy per cent that goes to every part of this country, they take their products from that place. So on a daily basis, you have about 3000 to 4000 tankers or trailers that need to be loaded or something. From an engineering perspective, It’s a major infrastructural problem. From the fact that we are not producing the oil to the fact that the tank farms are built around the same corridor that we have the ports. That’s where all of them are. Before you say Jack Robinson, they say they are going on strike. NUPENG. And nobody wants to hear about there’s no fuel in this country. It’s a sabotage. Consistently, I have had that conversation to say that the same way we are controlling byhe flatbed that are carrying the containers if they don’t have this or that…they are very strong unions. Calls will come from everywhere. Because indeed if it might not be a Lagos tanker, it can be going to other parts of the country. If the truth must be told, and so we ask the DPR and NNPC, how do you give approval? Are they not meant to have enough parking space inside the tank farms which is what is supposed to have been done. I’d you have the capacity to be able to take 500 trailers or tankers, you should at least have 400 parking spaces but they don’t have any. So everybody is now on the road. The Call-Up system that we introduced with NPA is only for the flatbeds. There is no Call-Up for tankers. All the things that we have been talking about are containers, enter Tincan Port, enter Apapa Port. Similar problem, because once any of the ports do the Call-Up for 200 trucks, you must have a means to keep the 200 inside because once the Call-Up is done, that 200 trucks must leave and enter the premises. Not that they will get to your gate and you start bringing long story. And that’s what happens. It’s supposed to be electronic. It’s supposed to be on your phone.. just scan it and boom. But our typical Nigerians, we bombard them with questions. Even the fact that you are having a five-minute conversation with that trailer driver is queue because you’ve called all of them. And it is the call up that the security operatives and our LASTMA have allowed them. So when they get there, they get stuck. They cannot go back, then the gridlock starts. So once you do your Call-Up, you must have the capacity to take that number inside of your premises.
What are the solutions?
It’s you and I that will review it. I’m not throwing in the towel but I’m being fair. It’s a hydra-headed problem. Nigeria’s problem is pretty much complex because we are not even producing refined oil. So my take is this, a fairly short to medium term solution. Dangote is building a refinery, he’s saying that half of the things he can help us distribute. We don’t need to come into…he’s building pipes to take it to different locations, so it’s just plug and play so wherever it’s taking it along the waterways. Secondly, we are also building Lekki ports.. Lekki ports for us will do two things, it will take bigger vessels that we currently have… example is Apapa Port currently has 4000 MTU, Lekki port will do 18000 MTU, meaning it will take four times the vessel that currently passes Apapa now. Bigger vessels will drop these things quicker, but the idea is that it turns to a container terminal so that it can also supply and hold. And we are progressively doing the road from Eleko Junction to Epe, we are turning it to six lanes from two lanes. And from Epe we have done the road. Ogun state is also doing its own from Ijebu-Ode to Epe. So right from Eleko Junction, you make a right, you can get out of Benin Express road in no time. Epe residents are my greatest friends now.
Is there a timeline to implement the Lagos State law on Okada ban?
We are going to be hard but we also want to be fair. And the fairness is to give a human conscience to this thing. We are fully aware of the security and health implications: the accident, danger to life that it has caused all of us. So the conversation is going on. For me, it is really to show on the fair side that even if it’s not fully adequate, there is a plan for an alternative. The full implementation around the Okada ban and the rest of it is going to come out after our launch of the First Mile and Last Mile buses next week. We need to wrap up what our issues are. Who are the culprits and what are their sources. Who are the owners? Where are they from and what are they doing? All of that intelligence is currently going on so that indeed it can be an exercise that has full compliance. I can assure you that we will leave nothing to chance to ensure that we get this right out of our system. It is too much and we need to get rid of it this month.
How much have you done in the area of sports?
To be honest we are doing quite a lot in sports, not necessarily even just because of youths but because it’s the right and wise thing to do. I’m currently developing a grassroots masterplan which will come out this year where we are going to be starting an inter-local government sporting competition because we believe it has to be grown organically. We have also identified four mini stadia that we want to build. There are four youth centres, two of them have been commissioned. One in Akesan and the other in Ikorodu. Two others are coming up and are huge centres with complements for sporting, computer, exercise. They have everything there and we will just hand it over to the community and we will put a facility manager there to take charge of it. We are looking at mini stadia in Ajeromi Ifelodun by Maracana, Badagry, Igbogbo (not sure) Ketu, All of the infrastructure are going on but in terms of engagement, we have a sports commission and a new board is about to be inaugurated but every one that is there are youth-driven and I have charged them this is the only opportunity you have to ensure that you maximise it to reach out to every available sport you can bring. Football is always the easiest one. I have signed with NFF to have the Super Eagles matches that will take them to the World Cup to happen in Lagos. All of their matches. There is also a six African nations female competition that is coming up in October to happen in Lagos. It’s not only football that is sports. I have charged them and they have all my support in anything they can do to make sports accessible. One of the things that we are doing in schools is that they have a sport complex just so that we can organically grow interest in sports and sporting activities in the state. And we are paying all the allowances to the athletes and this can be done by showing that you have more competitions for them and they can begin to utilize their energy positively. It’s probably not an A-star for me but I can assure you that you will see tremendous improvement in the coming months.
Would you say you have raised the IGR of the state in two years and how are you addressing the mounting debt profile of the state?
We have increased the IGR of the state. I can share the numbers with you. We have grown from early 30s to 40s in terms of numbers. We are actually doing a lot more but it’s not still within the target budget we set for ourselves. We have still not hit our full budget potential that we believe we can do. So there’s a lot of room for us to improve on our numbers. It is service essentially. If you don’t have a robust experience when you come to Alausa for your land approval or something else, you’ll probably not come back. And that’s what we are trying to encourage. That people have a good working experience so that they can repeat the journey and make more money and you can do it in a timely manner. All of that is going on. And our IGR is better than what it used to be two years ago. In terms of debt profile, that’s an interesting conversation because you need to look at what we call a sustainability model. How sustainable is your debt to your current GDP and to the potential that you have in your space. Numbers have shown that in terms of our debt sustainability ratio, apart from the fact that we are the best in terms of sustainability in the country, we are far below what can even hit us at all. The World Bank says that the debt sustainability ratio should be about 40 per cent to your total revenue. We are doing 24 per cent. So we are not even close to it. Secondly, our debt to GDP ratio is very low because we have not utilised that understanding well so that’s why we are also scared of debt. So what are these debts? If I raise a debt to develop capacity in core infrastructure, that’s a fantastic debt because I’m creating wealth from that debt but if I’m going to raise debt from paying salaries or to buy in vehicles or consumption payment, that’s when debt will become a burden and it’s bad because you have not created that capacity where that debt can be able to generate economy value. A simple analysis: if I have borrowed money to have done Thompson or Lugard Road and I said that their values have gone up, when I come the next day, I increase their Land Use Charge, they’ve seen the value of it, they’ve seen the property value gone up and they will pay me more money. It’s a place that I will not come back to repeat it for another 10 years. So I have created value for the citizens, I have improved aesthetics, I have reduced carbon emissions and beautified the place and I’m getting more money to repay the debt as opposed to using it to buy fuel or pay salaries so we must ensure that’s the kind of debt that we create. A debt that can improve quality of life and create value. The other part of it is that things don’t get cheaper. What you don’t do today, by the time you return three years time, you will be wondering if I should have just closed my eyes and done it now. Because that road or school will not get cheaper. Hit it and be audacious with it. See your plan and know that you are building for the future. You are building an infrastructure so that people coming behind will see the infrastructure that you are building for them because if you don’t do it, they will build a more expensive model in the future.
What other strategies have you adopted to mitigate the effects of climate change in the state?
I will not say that we are the best in the world but I will say that we are aware of it. We are fully aware and we are doing a lot of interventions to ensure that we reduce energy emissions in our systems. What do I mean? Almost all of the buildings that we are doing now, we are ensuring that they are low energy buildings in which we can reduce greenhouse emissions and all of that. The hospitals that I mentioned earlier, they are all well ventilated where you don’t need all of the energies or generators. So we are developing smart buildings to ensure that they are green carbon compliant and in future you can actually present them and get some carbon credit and grant coming from it. They will probably not be full green buildings but at least they will form as part of the things you can showcase that these are buildings that are resilient and they are future buildings. But largely on waste management, it is to say that everything we are developing is to take waste management to the schools. We have several kids that we are using as waste ambassadors and we are taking this conversation to their homes because sometimes it is the children that are very ways to change. Once they buy into it, they correct their parents who are quite set in their ways. They are different colour waste bags that we have launched and still driven people to embrace and to be able to utilize and that’s how we can begin to get that culture back in. There are so many interventions that we have set about cleaning pep bottles and biodegradables that we can take out of our system and utilise. So everything that we are doing to ensure that we are unmindful of the environment that we all live in, especially for the future.
What has your administration been able to do with the Lagos Employment Trust Fund?
I have given LSETF more money in the last two years than previous four years when they were set up. Directly. This year alone I have given them about N1.5 billion. So when I said the tourism fund, it is with them. We jointly funded Access Bank for N5 billion and FBN N5 billion, all last year. A lot of entrepreneurs and businesses that suffer from EndSARS and were given N5 million were grants directly. We have given them more money. And it is one arm of our government. Even with the current board, they are doing very well.
I will not say that we are the best in the world but I will say that we are aware of it. We are fully aware and we are doing a lot of interventions to ensure that we reduce energy emissions in our systems. What do I mean? Almost all of the buildings that we are doing now, we are ensuring that they are low energy buildings in which we can reduce greenhouse emissions and all of that. The hospitals that I mentioned earlier, they are all well ventilated where you don’t need all of the energies or generators. So we are developing smart buildings to ensure that they are green carbon compliant and in future you can actually present them and get some carbon credit and grant coming from it
Fortunately and unfortunately has only two borders: Atlantic Ocean and Ogun state. Ogun State is not in any form a forest, it’s all a community built up and the terrain of Lagos, also does not even support heavy forestry. So in terms of the structure and what is meant to achieve, we do not fully fall into that geographical enclave. But we are in sympathy support of it and we actually also bought our vehicles. One of the problems of governance is building structures and layers upon layers and replicating the same thing. And so, are we going to kill my neighbourhood watch, because I want to create a name, and just have a 200 or 30-man, the answer is no. What exactly are they meant to do? There’s nothing that Amotekun is doing today that my Neighbourhood Watch does not do