Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in an interview on Channel Television, speaks on the two years of his administration. BOLA BADMUS brings excerpts:
You and some other governors will be ending a second year in office. Based on your campaign promises, if you look at Lagosians in the eye today, would you say you have delivered what you promised?
With every sense of modesty, I can also look you in the eye and say to you that if I am supposed to mark my own script, which I would rather want people to do, we have not gone short of strong deliverables. We have actually up the scale and we have delivered significantly. I will give you some of the statistics. We promised Lagosians on THEMES agenda and if we go to the second pillar, which is health and environment, we are currently building the biggest child hospital. We had a whole year of pandemic; you know what COVID-19 did to us. We were able to rescue this nation out of issues that COVID-19 would have crashed us. Let’s say it; that is what it is. We remained the epicenter of everything regarding COVID-19 and we led from the front. We were able to hold it, arrest it and keep it at bay. We spent our resources; we were not waiting for resources. We were doing testing; free testing for every of our citizens for the first 10 months. Even till today, we are still doing free testing. We didn’t have the rate of fatalities that is being recorded in other parts of the world. We have had opportunity to also scale up infrastructure in all of our hospitals. Right now, we are building an infectious disease centre so that with the learning and experience of COVID-19, we don’t need to run helter skelter to know how to design or look for scientists that can help us design our own vaccine. Those are some of the capabilities of what we are doing.
Education and technology is the third pillar of our THEMES agenda. In technology, we are building the backbone for what we call a metropolitan fiber optics. We are building 3,000 kilometers of fibers around Lagos. We have done 1,800 kilometers as we speak now. By June 29, I would be commissioning direct fibers in 100 schools. We would have connectivity to all of our hospitals. We are building the backbone for the private sector to come in; MTN, 9Mobile, Airtel for them to be able to deploy their last mile in another one year from today. We have given them the capability. We have two sub-marines that are going to land in Lagos in the next three to four months. We are giving them the capacity to be able to do it. Data and fiber is the next hub. So, Lagos is getting ready for that. On top of that, we are building a security system. We have deployed over 150 cameras, which we are going to launch by June 29. We are going to 2,000 cameras.
In education, today we have delivered about 250,000 new benches and chairs to schools. We have added about 300 new classrooms to all our schools. For the first time in 15 years, we are building three new schools; three brand new schools from scratch. We have renovated 96 primary schools; we are not leaving it to State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and we are not saying because it is with Federal Government or Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). We are doing it directly with them. We have improved admission and bed spaces in our model schools; about 2,000 new bed spaces were built for our model schools so that they can have boarding facilities. We have recruited over 1,200 new teachers in less than two years.
Talking about what we are doing in housing, we have delivered over 4,000 new houses in less than two years. We have two, three other ones that we are going to commission before the end of June 2021.
Talking in term of funding for those who fear that you might have been borrowing more than the states can cope with, how would you react to that?
There is creativity everywhere. Part of my famous life is that I am an investment banker. So, I understand the value of money and how money moves; the circle of money. If you go and check the sustainability model of all the states in the country, Lagos is top in terms of sustainability. How resilient, sustainable you are. You need to be able to take some audacious decision and be able to plan the infrastructure of your people for the future. If you don’t take it now, it gets worse further down the line for you. If you borrow and you are not borrowing to pay salaries or buy cars and you are not borrowing for consumption sake; if you borrow to do investments and infrastructure, you are actually building a tomorrow for the generation that is coming behind you. But the question you now ask yourself is how sustainable is my appetite in that?
So, you look at your opportunity metrics and you say that for every of these things, at what cost am I getting it? What is the opportunity cost of this borrowing? Yes, Lagos has a distinct borrowing portfolio but the truth is that we are less than one-third of even what we should be borrowing. So, I can assure you that we are not even near it at all. But we are also being very responsible to be able to create that tomorrow for the people that are coming behind us. All of the things that we need to do, let us create that platform; let us give that infrastructure that they require today because things are not going to get anything cheaper. Things you didn’t do 10 years ago, you know what the currency is doing now. So, we need to take it and we need to be able to deal with it.
On the issue of security, you recently launched body worn cameras for Lagos State funded security organisations and outfits like Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps and others. They are supposed to go through training for three days in May. Why didn’t you extend it to the police in Lagos?
Those are the kind of conversations that we need to make quick decision on in this country. We are supporting the Lagos State Police Command in all spheres and ramifications but as it is, it is still a federally controlled police force. There is a limit to which we can intervene in their modus operandi and their rules of engagement because we said we need to stay along the line of where we have comparative advantage. We want our own security operatives to be accountable; hold them accountable for their actions and inactions. So, they are expected to go through the protocols. We cannot force the Nigeria Police; we can only persuade them. We are trying to encourage them but it also has consequences; one is that they need to also be accountable for this and know that in the event of cases or issues, you will be held accountable. So, they are looking at their own protocols and internal issues with their own internal structures; maybe they will come back to us. So, let us not give excuses all around; let us start with the one that are within our own control; that is our own attitude. Let us start and let us deepen it.
Is this your administration’s way of saying Nigeria should make state police happen?
It is long overdue; we should make it happen. In fact, that is really one of the critical things that I believe will help us. It has been said over and over again.
Does it frustrate you like some of your colleagues who are frustrated that they cannot take 100 per cent charge over security and the state of affairs in their states?
It does. It is a massive frustration. It is a very simple thing that we are trying to address here. We currently support the Lagos State Police Command in all spheres; vehicles, petrol, ration allowances and all sorts of encouragement. We recently gave them 1,250 Police Constabularies and we are paying their salaries. We pay for everything, uniform, food and everything. So, we are actually incurring those expenses already. It is not going to have any bigger hold on our numbers because that is what we are doing. But it will help us once we know that there are State Police. What we will do is that somebody who grows up in an area will understand that area. You know where Okokomaiko is. You understand the issues around Ojokoro, you know what the problem is in Lagos Island once it is domesticated. But how do you explain when a DPO that is just settling down in Oke Arin Police Station or Lafiaji Police Station or Adeniji Adele Police Station and you change him and bring somebody that is 7,000 kilometers away from the place? It is a very simple thing. And if there is an emergency, the guy doesn’t even know how to navigate the streets and the corners. That is the whole concept around community policing. That is what neighbourhood community policing is all about.
You already have Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps, which looks like sophisticated kind of the vigilantes that we see in rural areas and some communities. There is Ebube Agu in the South-East and Amotekun in South-West. By the way, why is Amotekun not effective in Lagos?
I understand and appreciate everything that my colleagues are doing but they also commended and appreciated that we have Neighborhood Corps already. I have over 7,000 neighbourhood watchmen who are doing exactly the same thing that we have Amotekun doing. And the whole idea around it is that they are meant to be doing border patrol and all sort.
The only border that I have in Lagos outside of the Atlantic Ocean is Ogun State, and so we are collaborating. All of my neighborhood watchers are there at the border posts, giving us intelligence and daily monitoring; monitoring what is happening in their localities and feeding it back to the central. They are the ones that are feeding the police and DSS and also feeding us with information, but they cannot carry arms and cannot prosecute people but they can give intelligence report.
But what magic is the body worn camera expected to perform?
It is a citizen kind of ownership and accountability that we are trying to ensure and this is something that I am very passionate about. We want our officers to also act responsibly and be accountable to the citizens that we are serving. Once you know that your acts or inactions can also be documented, not only will you behave very well but you will also have a source of deterrent for yourself and for whatever engagements that you are involved in. And it becomes a piece of very simple information or investigation that can help us track some of the challenges that we see around; cultism, domestic violence and all kind of things because they would be recorded and these are kinds of things that they can now play back and see indeed who has done what. Like I said, it is also being able to hold our own officers accountable to the citizens as well.
Nigeria is at that point where we are searching for solutions to our security problems. What would be your own panacea to resolving the security problem?
It is actually multifaceted like I said in a meeting a couple of days ago where this was discussed extensively. There are different modules of challenges that we have in different parts of the country. So, one typical solution cannot fix everywhere. The challenge that is facing Lagos in terms of security is quite different from what you have in the North-West or North-East. So, we need to also think global but act local in all of those perspectives; the one that are within our ambit. I am in a cosmopolitan state, what are the challenges of security that I need to address. I need to be able to account for people that are coming into my system. I need to have database and know the people that are coming in. I need to provide overnight surveillance for everybody that is moving in the city. I need to be able to ensure that my police are well motivated in whatever name we call them. And I need to ensure that I have a strong technology. Technology is one of the things that we are trying to develop here in Lagos; CCTV cameras, body cameras and be able to process all of those things behind the scene.
The final one is that your citizens must trust you. They must also be able to give you information; where do they need to pass the information? There must be an avenue available for them. So, we are developing what we call a Citizens Gate network, where people can call us in and say to us these are the kind of things we are hearing. So, for us in Lagos, we need to be very methodological about how we resolve our own security issues. Like I said earlier, our own security challenge is different from the challenges in the North and other parts of the country. We don’t have that expanse of forest or big places where they can hibernate. So, we need to be able to think through our own local environment and have solutions that are domesticated and that are in tune with the challenges that we face here.
We face a lot of cult issues that we are trying to solve with community engagement; speaking to all of the leaders in those communities, engaging them and creating youth centers where the youths can come in to. We have a lot of drugs issues that we are trying to deal with which can lead to crime and security breakdown. We are building a brand new mental health facility in Ikorodu to be able to take about 3,000 to 4,000 people and rehabilitate them. These are some of the issues that you have in urban cities, which could lead to heavy security issue. These are some of the things that we are trying to do. We have Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) where we are trying to deploy Lagos Residents Identity (ID) card. The moment you know that you will be in Lagos for more than three months, you should be able to come and register so that we can account for you. We will know where your address is. It is very simple thing so that we can plan.
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