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Lagos Matters

Election year will not slow down governance in Nigeria

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Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Thursday allayed the fears in some quarters that the electioneering activities in 2018 might slow down the tempo of infrastructural development being witnessed across the State, assuring that his administration will complete all ongoing projects and implement new ones.    

Speaking at the opening session of a three-day retreat for members of the State Executive Council, Body of Permanent Secretaries and heads of government agencies and parastatals held at Jubilee Chalet, Epe, Governor Ambode said rather than allow campaign activities to relegate governance, the State Government would stay focused on plans and programmes for the people and ensure that steady progress was achieved.

The Governor said though a lot had been achieved with the active support and collaboration of the participants at the retreat since his assumption of office, a lot more still needed to be done to ensure continuous prosperity of the State and residents.   

According to him, “Clearly, we have recorded some modest successes and consolidated on the status of our State as one of the foremost commercial and social hubs in sub Saharan Africa. We are gradually changing the face of Lagos through our aggressive infrastructural development, urban regeneration and sectoral reforms. 

“All the development indices, both local and international, reflect the fact that we are making steady progress with very bright outlook for the foreseeable future. This progress is not the result of only one person’s efforts. It was not achieved by only Akinwunmi Ambode. It was achieved by all of us in this room with the cooperation of many others outside. And for this, I commend each and every one of you for your diligence and contribution to the progress made thus far.

“However, there is still a lot more to be done. I hear people saying that this is an election year and that governance will slow down but let me assure you that in this State, we will stay focused on our plans and programmes and ensure steady progress is achieved,” Governor Ambode said. 

Alluding to the fact that the theme of the retreat – “Effective Strategic Planning For An Emerging Smart City,” was carefully selected, Governor Ambode charged participants to start thinking of the next level even as his administration was making efforts to complete all on-going projects, just as he said that the retreat was designed to take stock of past achievements and brainstorm on the challenges ahead. 

He said it was certain that Lagos was emerging as smart city, but that the challenge on effectively and strategically planning to actualize the vision considering the peculiar challenges of the State, adding that to plan effectively and strategically required thinking not just outside the box but globally and acting it locally.

To this end, the Governor said participants must look beyond the borders of the State for ideas and consider all local situation and as well do things differently and ready to be called names and to encounter resistance, saying they must however remain steadfast and let posterity judge their actions and intentions, adding that someday, the resistance would become support and endorsement.

“We are all well-aware that the last Two and a Half years have been borne with a lot of sectoral reforms and majorly successful. However, reforms are not static and they require continuous review as the society we live in is also not static. Some of our reforms remain challenging because of institutional difficulties and corruption. We presently experience this in some of our on-going reforms.

“My message remains the same. Our conviction is resolute. We are totally for inclusive governance. This is a people-government and what would be of benefit to the majority of the citizenry should be our primary goal. Building effective and efficient institutions should be our goal henceforth. The institutional framework that will drive a successful MDA is what should be of concern to all of us. Institutions that are enduring should outlive me or anyone of us, likewise our reforms in the various sectors,” the Governor said.

Besides, Governor Ambode lauded the harmonious working relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government in the State, just as he assured that the State Government would give special attention to energy, environment and education sectors in the next nine months. 

“If you look at the landscape of Nigeria presently, the best collaboration between executive and legislative arms of government is from the Lagos model because we are all supporting each other and that is why you see that there is remarkable progress in Lagos. That is also why we think most importantly that the energy sector, the environment sector and education sector are the key areas that we should look at in 2018 and what you will see in the next nine months, you will be proud of Lagos,” Governor Ambode assured.

On her part, Head of Service, Mrs Folashde Adesoye said the retreat was organised for all the MDAs to come together and brainstorm on how to achieve the set goals for the State in 2018, and also do more for the people. 

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Lagos Matters

Senate okays bill seeking to upgrade Yabatech to varsity status

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The Senate, on Thursday, passed the City University of Technology (Est, etc) Yaba Bill, 2018 for second reading.

The decision followed a motion by Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) at the plenary presided over by Senate President, Bukola Saraki in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill essentially sought to transform the Yaba College Technology (YabaTech) in Lagos State, to the City University of Technology Yaba.

Leading the debate, Ashafa, who represents Lagos East Senatorial District, argued that if the bill is considered, it would enhance the capability of the institution to achieve its objectives.
”Nigeria’s steady march towards education for all in the shortest possible time has taken a giant leap with the introduction of this bill.

”I am personally excited by the prospect of transforming this polytechnic to a university of technology because it will motivate both students and academic staff.
”It will also upgrade the facilities and enhance it capability to achieve its objectives.
”Similarly, the new university of technology will encourage the advancement of learning and hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction the opportunity of acquiring a higher and liberal education,” he said.

Citing instances, the lawmaker noted that in similar circumstances in the United Kingdom, most of the polytechnics were upgraded to universities.
”If Nigeria has plan to become one of the world’s leading economies as currently being pursued by government, we must be ready to adjust and position our educational institutions so that its products are geared for the technological challenges inherent in such projections,” he said.

According to him, the attainment of university status would definitely enhance the operations of the Yaba Polytechnic and clarify its mission and vision.
Lawmakers, who contributed to the motion, also supported it.

When the motion was put on a voice vote, it was unanimously adopted by the legislators.
Saraki, therefore, referred the bill to Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further legislative action and report back within a week.
Similarly, the Senate also passed a Bill for the Establishment of Federal Polytechnic Iwerekun, Ibeju-Lekki Lagos, sponsored by Ashafa for second reading.

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Lagos Matters

Promises on social media purportedly from me is fake — Sanwo-Olu

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The Governor-elect of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, yesterday met with a group of journalists in Lagos to debunk, as fake news, a long list of promises which has been circulating on the social media.

There has been a long list of 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’s just a wish list. it’s fake news. It’s 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. We should be beginning to see huge solutions to traffic management, for instance.

Also, in terms of areas where we need to improve on waste management solutions, we would be working on that. The Apapa traffic gridlock, I believe we have solved it but the sustainability is some of the things we need to do. We’ll also have to work around the civil service because all these things we are talking about, we need professionals who are in the civil service to work with. So in terms of capacity building and skills gap, we need to identify where the right professionals are in our civil service so we can utilise the right competences, the square pegs in square holes to work on all these solutions we are talking about.

On power, within 90 days, I imagine we should have had a clear-cut policy working with the power distribution companies, the generating companies and all other key stakeholders on how we must ensure that Lagos is powered up very, very quickly.

How would you rate the progress of Lagos State in the 20 years of return to democracy?

I will say it’s been worth it, for us as progressives in Lagos and for residents of the state. If we want to be fair, today’s Lagos is not the Lagos we had 20 years ago. Lagos was not the fifth or sixth largest economy in Africa 20 years ago; neither did it have 23 million people. Lagos didn’t have a lot of what it has now, in health, in education, in infrastructure. Of course, we can say Lagos didn’t have a lot of traffic it has today and didn’t have lots of refuse. So, Lagos has grown to be one of the megacities in the world within that 20-year space.

Of course, that huge development has come with a lot of opportunities, as well as lots of challenges. But the progressive leaders have held their turf; they have done very well within the period. They’ve created wealth for a lot of Lagosians.

They have built structures- bridges and extensive infrastructure, and have done a lot of work on education and health building schools and hospitals. There has been quality representation.

When they started in 1999, the state was generating just a little over N600 million but now the state is generating billions of naira every month.

What are your plans for the SMEs in the state?

On my campaign trail, I met quite a number of very intelligent, young Nigerians, about six, seven thousands of them at various fora. One of the things we discussed we’d be looking at is the incubator centres we need to create for them; there will be clusters of incubator centres we can develop. The tech-up side, we’d begin to work on that. 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’s 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’s roads, it’s power, it’s housing. On roads, there is so much of so 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’d 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.

Would you be giving priority to uncompleted projects the outgoing government began?

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.

Every administrator has his style. What would be yours?

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.

Could you give us a peep 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.

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Lagos Matters

I am wiser now, says Ambode

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Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos state, says he has been describing himself as techno-politician but having spent four years on the saddle, he is wiser.

Speaking with state house correspondents during what he referred to as a “thank you visit” to President Muhammadu Buhari for inaugurating some of projects in the state, Ambode said politicians learn everyday.

Asked to state what lesson he has learnt as a politician in Lagos and in a very unpredictable terrain as Nigeria, the governor said: “You see, every politician learns every day. The fact remains that I came in as a technocrat, so I use to call myself a techno-politician but I think I am wiser now. I am more of a politician than a technocrat.”

Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, Ambode goes into history as the first Lagos governor not to serve two terms.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor-elect of Lagos, beat him to the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year.

APC leaders in the state, including Bola Tinubu, a former governor, supported Sanwo-Olu over Ambode.

On what he wants to be remembered for after bowing out of office in two weeks, the governor said: “Well, in another 16 days or so we will be leaving office but what is important is that I was able to have that opportunity to be elected as governor of Lagos State and to touch humanity in a way that I deem it fit.

“We did our best and most importantly the projects we did were people friendly and people central. I just think a lot more people have enjoyed the benefits and dividends of democracy than we actually met it. And that gives me joy that we were able to touch lives.

“Wherever you find yourself just make positive difference to people and Nigerians, that is the whole essence of service. I’m grateful that I had that opportunity.”

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