As the administration of Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, marks its seventh month in office, Steve Ayorinde, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, lists several reasons that suggest that the Epe-born cerebral technocrat may be an overnight success.
As Nigeria’s economy suffers a near recession due to the falling oil prices, with 27 out of 36 states in the country needing bail-out funds to offset salary arrears, Lagos has been witnessing an unprecedented influx of people from far and near, thereby putting pressure on social infrastructure and security. Crime rate naturally increased momentarily but Governor Ambode rose to the occasion with an unprecedented donation of assets worth about N4.8 billion to the Nigeria Police. With three patrol helicopters, two gun boats, drones, patrol vehicles and powerbikes, armoured personnel carriers, bullet-proof vests and other security gadgets while also rebranding the Rapid Response Squad as the “good guys” with insurance schemes against incidentals. Ambode’s gesture has returned confidence to Lagosians and investors alike. He has taken the state’s Security Trust Fund to a new height and has smartly shifted the burden of responsibility in terms of policing Nigeria’s most-populated and prosperous state to the Police, which is no longer expected to offer excuses of being ill- equipped.
One of Ambode’s greatest assets is that he listens and is very responsive. He inherited a state whose inner roads were in a very bad shape. In an election year, road infrastructure tends to suffer since attention is usually given to political campaigns. The rains also compounded the woes in a state that is already below the sea level. There were complaints and they got to Ambode. Rather than fret, however, he responded swiftly, first through Operation Zero Tolerance for Potholes across the states and then by reconstructing hitherto abandoned roads. He has fully delivered the Ayobo-Ipaja Road and Ikotun-Ejigbo Road. Brown Street at Oshodi is half-way done; while a lane of the Okota-Ago Palace Way is ready for use this week, preparatory to its full completion in February 2016. More than 300 roads have already been repaired and rehabilitated across the states through the Public Works Corporation, thereby easing off traffic. Nowhere is neglected, from Akilo Road in Ogba to Opebi Road in Ikeja and then all the way down to Oyinkan Abayomi Drive in Ikoyi, Ambode’s “roads to greatness” are visible. Together with the 57 Local Council Development Areas, a total of 114 inner roads – two per LCDA – have been awarded for completion next year and to crown it all, the governor has approved the construction of flyover bridges at two of Lagos’ most problematic traffic zones – Ajah and Abule Egba.
One key antecedent of Governor Ambode is the fact that he was instrumental to the frog-leap of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue from a paltry N600 million to N6 billion while he was Accountant General. And so, a competent manager of resources is expected of this Fulbright scholar. In seven months, he has sufficiently demonstrated his mettle in this regard, by first restructuring the state’s exposure to commercial banks, thereby saving the state about N3bn monthly in debt servicing. He has re-jigged the Lagos Internal Revenue Service to do away with multiple taxations but expand the tax net instead so that those hitherto not captured will be brought on board. He has sent to the House of Assembly the Employment Trust Fund Bill through which the newly created Ministry of Employment and Wealth Creation will administer a yearly N6.3 billion intervention soft loan to stimulate to economy, sustain small businesses and create jobs. Lagos Global, the office saddled with investment drive in the state has demonstrated capacity in making Lagos the bride to which every global investment suitor is attracted. Ambode has paid more than N11 billion in pension arrears and benefits to retirees and has streamlined the issuance of Certificates of Occupancy to land owners. And, in ending the year, the governor practically wowed Lagos with a budget proposal of N665.588 billion with a capital to recurrent ratio of 58:42 that proposes N383,678 billion for capital expenditure. No other state, not even the Federal Government, has been this proactive with capital expenditure ratio in their budget forecast.
Social infrastructure has always defined the success of successive administrations, particularly in Lagos State. Ambode is on a smooth ride here with the commissioning of Bus Rapid Response (BRT) extension from Mile 12 to Ikorodu. Through the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Ambode in November commissioned a project that included the widening of the 13.5km road with two additional lanes and the placing of BRT lanes in the middle of the road with over 400,000 passengers now being transported daily on the more than 400 brand new, high-capacity buses (which residents now joyfully call Ambode’s Buses) which now ply the corridor from Ikorodu to CMS.
Street Light Projects
When words filtered out that Governor Ambode might not approve the staggering N500 million for Christmas decoration contract this year since the economy is such that requires prudent management, many thought he would be seen as not keeping faith with his promise of continuity. But it has turned out that not only is the governor a prudent manager of resources, he is also getting his priorities right. He encouraged corporate players like banks to beautify Lagos with Christmas decorations as their own Corporate Social Responsibility while he chose to focus on an enduring beautification project for Lagosians – to light up the city-state. And to fulfill his promise, the Lagos metropolis has been lit up in the past week with Ambode’s street light project brightening up major parts of the metropolis from Victoria Island to Ikoyi, all the way down to Third Mainland bridge, down to Alapere, Berger and Ikeja-Ogba environ.
One Lagos Fiesta and inclusive government
One of the campaign promises of Governor Ambode is to run a government of inclusion and bring governance back to the people. He demonstrated this in September when he flagged off his quarterly town-hall meetings that saw him render account of his stewardship directly to the people. He has promised that the town-hall meetings will move from one senatorial district to another in order to constantly feel the pulse of the electorates. But the governor has added to the layer in this yuletide season by expanding the erstwhile Lagos Countdown Concert to a five-day, five-venue all-inclusive celebration tagged One Lagos Fiesta. Rather than have it in one day and at the Bar beach as was previously the case, Ambode has creatively decentralised the concept of fun, entertainment and culture. Each division in Lagos-Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja and Lagos Island – are now experiencing simultaneous end-of-the-year merriments with local as well as popular artistes sharing the state. Even politicians, traditional rulers and every stakeholder are now taking ownership of the project in their zones. ‘One Lagos’ has since become the buzzword all over town with the governor, who has now finally taken up residence in his official Alausa, Ikeja abode, personally witnessing the flag-off of the fiesta on Sunday at the Agege stadium where the Ikeja zonal fiesta is holding.
Healthy Lagos, healthy workforce
Governor Ambode recognises that health is wealth and here is one area where his impact is being felt in spite of the huge challenges occasioned by the influx of people from other states and neighboring countries on Lagos hospitals. The governor has improved on healthcare facilities in the state by injecting additional 46 ambulances to the existing pool with an additional 14 new ambulance points thereby bringing existing ambulance points to 25 all in a bid to reduce maternal mortality and tackle emergencies. The governor has brought peace to the lingering crisis within the medical circle. He has stopped the contentious casualisation of medical doctors who were employed some years ago as casual workers by regularising their employment status in the state civil service. But he’s also aware of the need for a healthy and motivated workforce which is why he has also extended the Accident Insurance Policy for its workforce to cover accidents recorded outside working hours.