Obafemi Hamzat, Deputy Governor of Lagos recently fielded questions from journalists on different salient matters in the state. They range from politics, infrastructure, to law enforcement.
As 2023 is inching closer, the Deputy Governor gave reasons that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) cannot win elections in the state.
In his words: “What has our party been doing that has made it retain the seat of governance since the advent of the Fourth Republic? We have been offering qualitative leadership and we intend to continue delivering good governance that has touched and still impacts the lives of many people. It is this impressive performance that has made the people of Lagos continue to vote for our party. We have been making some milestones in every sector of the economy.”
Despite several measures taken, the activities of Okada operators in Lagos are a source of concern. How would the Sanwo-Olu administration tackle this problem?
As we all know, the law is there, but that law must be implemented with the support of security officers, especially the police. One of the things we must do is to make sure we get every person involved in terms of implementation. It is unfortunate that at a point when we were enforcing the laws, people were saying the state government was clamping down on okada operators. The law was passed long ago. As a government, what we intend to do is to keep enforcing the law. To do that, we have security meetings with representatives of the military, the police and other security agencies. One of the reports we got was that a good number of the motorcycles being used for okada operations belong to some law enforcement officers. We had an internal discussion with the law enforcement officers. We told them they need to enforce the law without bias. This is the law, and it must be enforced. That is ongoing as well. Under whatever circumstances, we cannot allow lawlessness in Lagos and we will continue to put all machinery in motion to ensure that law and order prevail in our state.
A few weeks ago, Lagos ratified the anti-grazing law. But, some herders are still abusing this law. When will Lagos begin implementation of this law?
Our people are still stuck in the idea of migrating cows for hundreds of kilometres. In other jurisdictions, such conduct would be regarded as animal abuse. People go to jail for such offences. There is a young boy that follows the herd all through. Where do the herders sleep? Where do they eat? Where do they go to school? As a people, we must ask these questions: why do we treat ourselves this way? Something is wrong. Unfortunately, we weaponise issues in our society. We do not even look at issues rationally anymore. If you milk a typical cow in Nigeria, it would give you about two litres per day. If you milk a typical cow in The Netherlands, it would yield almost 18 litres. Besides, the meat is tender because the cows are massive. We can see ranches all over the world. So, we should do better for the animals and the people in doing that business. Let us just do the right thing as a people and forget about fighting.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) is preparing to wrestle power from your party in Lagos. What are your plans to ensure that APC continues to occupy the seat of power?
What has our party been doing that has made it retain the seat of governance since the advent of the Fourth Republic? We have been offering qualitative leadership and we intend to continue delivering good governance that has touched and still impacts the lives of many people. It is this impressive performance that has made the people of Lagos continue to vote for our party. We have been making some milestones in every sector of the economy. Before becoming the deputy governor, I have been part and parcel of the APC administration in Lagos at one time or the other. Without any fear of contraction, we have been doing a lot for the people. Ours is collective governance and this strategy has been our strength, through which we have impacted positively on every sector – education, health, information and communication technology (ICT), housing, road network, waste management, agriculture, job creation and poverty alleviation to mention a few. During the inauguration of this administration on May 29, 2019, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu pledged a greater Lagos through the T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda. The acronym T.H.E.M.E.S. represents the administration’s six strategic development agenda; namely Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism, as well as Security and Governance. Since then, we have been measuring our performance alongside this plan. Without being immodest, with the numerous challenges, I can say that we are delivering based on the mandate the people of Lagos gave us and the covenant we made with them. I am sure, with our footprints everywhere, the people of Lagos will continue to vote for our party. However, we are still far from fulfilling our desires, but we are hopeful that, as the people continue to support and cooperate with us, we will deliver more dividends of democracy to them.
Some roads in Lagos are death traps. Can you give an update on what this administration has been doing in terms of road infrastructure?
I have listened to statements describing our roads as death traps. People use that statement to describe a bad road. If you look at it critically, it is not bad roads that kill, but our wrong use of the roads. I read reports of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) quarterly. Based on FRSC reports, 67 per cent of deaths on roads are due to drunkenness while driving. If you go to any part of the world, especially New York, New Jersey and other states in the US, they do auctions of accident cars every week and yet, their roads are good. So, the question is our driving habit and the way people drink alcohol causes death. If you are going to Abuja through the airport, you will always see scenes of accidents. In terms of road infrastructure, we decided to concentrate on high traffic moving areas and opening new roads. For example, we are expanding the Lekki-Epe expressway from Eleko junction to Epe. That is about 21 kilometres. Currently, it is a one-lane road, though it is two lanes in some areas. But we are turning it into a six-lane highway with about three to four bridges. So, the essence is that we must start to move traffic away from the highway. We are also expecting Dangote Refinery on that corridor. We must make sure we expand that road. That is a concrete road, and we are turning it to six lanes. It is a money guzzler; it is expensive, but it has to be done. As you said, our city is growing heavily. Therefore, we have to focus on the main load-carrying capacity roads, so that we can distribute traffic effectively along the corridor. We have awarded the regional road.
There has been so much noise about the proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge. Why is the project yet to take off?
Yes, the plan to deliver this project is on, but there is a reason it has not taken off. All investors are looking for what is viable. They are not going to bring their money to just build roads for us. They will build with a projection to get something at the end of the project. If it is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), investors must know what is in the project for them. The Lekki-Epe is a Grade-7 road. What it means is that the road can take the maximum number of vehicles it can take. If we build Fourth Mainland Bridge that takes traffic from it and also brings traffic from Ikorodu back to it, you are populating that road. Therefore, there will be gridlocks at both ends if we are not careful. And as such, we need to build another road that is a bit parallel and that will take off vehicles to other places. That is why we are embarking on that road. It is massive. It is about 10 or 11 kilometres. It allows taking traffic from the Lekki-Epe highway and makes Fourth Mainland Bridge very viable. We are rounding the process of concessioning the bridge. We have three concessionaires shortlisted for the project. They are all international companies.
There is not much concrete information in the public domain about the project. Can you give further details on the Fourth Mainland Bridge project?
There are processes for concessions. It is not civil servants that are handling it 100 per cent. Experts are working on it. So, the Fourth Mainland Bridge may cost as much as $2 billion. It is not a project that I can say I know enough. We brought in experts from different parts of the world to come and manage it. They brief us once in a while. It is not a process that is 100 per cent managed by us. We are working with our consultants to make sure that the project succeeds. Initially, there were about six international companies that expressed interest in the project. So, it is difficult for me to mention a specific company because the process is still ongoing. Even now, the companies are coming together to handle the project. There is a Portuguese company. There is a Chinese company. I think Julius Berger is also part of them. I assure you that we will make everything public by the time the final concession is done. Let us wait for the outcome of the process.
To what extent is Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration reconstructing some other roads in the state?
We are focusing on roads in other areas. For example, the road that comes from Deeper Life to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) is one such road. We have a lot of institutions along that corridor –UNILAG, Federal College of Education, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) and a few others. It allows moving people from one end to another end. So, we are looking at strategic areas, where we can move people en masse. As we award new road contracts, we are also fixing existing ones. As of June, Public Works Corporation had rehabilitated more than 198 roads, apart from those we did at the ward level. One of the things we did was to call all the councillors. We have 377 councillors in Lagos. Since they are the closest to the people, we asked each of the councillors to tell us a specific project that is most needed in his ward. We asked them to consult with the people. The majority of it turns out to be roads, though some wanted schools, viewing centres, public healthcare centres. In terms of roads, we are doing a lot to make sure we meet the transportation needs of the state.
Lagos State subscribed to the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) scheme, codenamed Operation Amotekun. Lagos is the only state that has not set up its Amotekun corp. What is delaying it?
If you notice the Amotekun laws in other states, you’ll discover they took their roots from Lagos State. You can call it any name. The law itself is an offshoot of Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law. The law is working very well. It is almost the same as Amotekun law. The essence is: What do they do? They collaborate within the region.
If the states lose the VAT battle at the Supreme Court, what other option would they resort to, to fulfil the desire of getting a greater share of the revenue?
We all signed up for constitutional democracy. The court will interpret and adjudicate and everybody will abide by the judgment. If the court rules in our favour, we abide by it. If the court rejects our plea, what can we do? It is about the interpretation of the constitution. Let the court interpret. We must have this type of discussion in our country. It might be tough, though. But we need to have it. I do not see any problem at all. Let the court decide and then we move on as a people.
During the #EndSARS protest, a lot of public assets were destroyed. One year later, these assets have not been refurbished. What is the government doing about it?
I will let you know the history of other democracies. In the south of the United States, you notice that there are no public transport buses. It was during the riot in that region that those buses were burnt. The government decided that if the people did not want buses, they should all drive and you can guess the impact of that action on society. Most of these assets were done to better our lives as a people. It cost the government and all of us a lot to deliver some of these projects. To reconstruct them means the government will have to use money meant for other developmental projects, but unfortunately, government earnings do not expand. Some of these projects were financed through borrowing and irrespective of the damage, the government had signed an agreement with her partners and cannot turn around now to renege on the agreements. Apart from structures, we also lost huge archival materials. But as a responsible government, we are in the process of fixing those assets and some people have been saddled with that responsibility to come up with a plan to rebuild those projects. However, I am happy to say that in terms of functionality, all our high courts are operational, though not in the same place. For the materials, we are working with lawyers to retrieve some of these documents. During the protest, people displayed their anger against the police and the state and that led to the death of some police officers.