Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in his second term in office has continued with his developmental strides in Lagos State. In this interview, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso spoke extensively on the Governor’s plan to reposition the state. Excerpts:
Security challenge is rearing its ugly head in so many parts of the country. What measures are in place to ensure the overhaul of the security architecture of the state in the New Year?
On the issue of security, you will agree with me that we do not just say that Lagos is the most secure state in Nigeria. It is, and considering the kind of pressure that we are having, people coming into the state every hour in their thousands, for us to be able to keep this state the way it is then, we deserve kudos. Let me tell you, it’s not because of the fact that we talked about it that the state is secure, it’s because some people are not sleeping while you and I were sleeping. What you do about security is not what you put on the television and splash on the pages of the newspapers. They are strategic and something that must be kept close to your chest. Security is a business of all of us where everyone is reporting issues of security to the government. But the kind of things that I see in Lagos is what we see in all cities of the world. I tell people, when they come to Nigeria and say they are worried about security and I tell them that when I go to some other places like New York, London that I too get worried because people don’t get stabbed at the bus stops in Lagos. They can pick your pocket and all of that, if you’re not attentive enough, and that is not enough for people to say there is a security challenge in Lagos. All of the guys who were involved in a traffic robbery a few months ago, we all saw how the Police paraded all of the people that they arrested and every time it is being reported by posting photographs on how Mr. Governor organises his meetings. There is a kind of synergy that you have amongst the security agencies in Lagos, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Civil Defence and our own Neighborhood Watch, which is very effective, because you find them everywhere. They give intelligence information to all the security agencies and besides, Lagosians are also united to ensure that the state is secure. So, I feel that Lagos is very secure and it’s going to be secure. Mr. Governor is putting in a lot of resources and attention and you can see that our Neighbourhood Watch, RRS, the Police Command, all their vehicles and equipment are able to do their jobs as they should. They are very well encouraged and we are going to do more.
During the last four years, Governor Sanwo-olu worked with the THEMES Agenda. Now, he has added PLUS to make it THEMES-PLUS Agenda. Can you tell us what the Plus entails and how is it going to benefit Lagosians positively?
When Mr. Governor delivered the budget speech, he spoke about THEMES Plus Agenda and when he delivered his speech during his inauguration for the second term, he also spoke about it. It is very simple. Mr Governor felt he should add something that may not have been very well catered for in the THEMES Agenda. So he brought on board the Plus and it is simply about social inclusion, gender equality and about the youth. That means in this second tenure, we are going to be doing many things. Attention will be paid to our young people, because they say they are leaders of tomorrow, but this administration believes that it is not even a question of tomorrow, that they are leaders of today. You can see that in all of the things that we are doing in Lagos, we talked about entertainment. The young people are the leaders, when you talk about science and technology. They are leading the way, when you talk about sports they are the ones at the forefront. There is no government that wants to brush aside all that the young people are doing. So in Lagos, we are giving them all the opportunities that they need in the creative industry where over 6,000 of them have been trained in film editing, acting, script writing by some of the giants in the trade like Del-York, Ogidi, Ebonylife and you can see what we have done about 18 vocational centres that Lagos State government runs. Over 16,000 of them have been trained and after passing out of these schools, they were not left on their own. They were given equipment to go and start their new trade. As I speak to you now, we are building about nine mini stadia in some parts of Lagos so that young people can have avenues to display their talents in sports. And we are encouraging science and technology through the LASRIC fund. About N250 million has been put there so that young people who have ideas, innovation and who will need to push through their dreams about this innovation will have no problem sourcing funds. Everything that the government is doing is going to be geared towards encouraging our young people. That is what THEMES Plus is all about – social inclusion. All of our brothers who are living with disabilities are not going to be left behind and the bottom line is that nobody will be left behind in Lagos State. Of course, gender equality, men and women are all going to be the same in this administration, equal opportunities for everybody.
During the first term of Mr. Governor, we saw iconic projects being initiated and completed. What other iconic or landmark projects should Lagosians expect from this administration during this second term?
The Opebi Ojota Link Bridge is going to be completed. We were there recently to see the level of work and we have seen the transformation that the bridge has brought to that area. It means that when it is completed, people will no longer be missing their flight when they are going to the airport when there is traffic congestion. The traffic gridlock around that area will definitely fade away. It’s going to be significant, it’s like somebody is flying from Opebi to Ojota, Odo Iya Alaro Link Bridge and Maryland. There are so many projects that are going to be completed this year, Massey Hospital by the time it’s completed, it’s going to be the biggest paediatric hospital in Africa and if it’s not in Africa, but it will be the biggest in West Africa. And apart from the Massey hospital project, there is also a Mental Health hospital that we are also building in Ketu Ejinrin Epe. It’s a mental rehabilitation centre, because people don’t pay so much attention to mental health. People only talk about other aspects of health that can be treated in general hospitals. But now, the Lagos State government is paying attention to this very important aspect of health. Mental health, truly, so many people are affected and it’s like they don’t know but Lagos State government knows through its data and realise that this is one of the problems we are facing not just in Lagos but in the country. That hospital is going to be about a 500 bed hospital and it will treat people with mental illnesses and will be a rehabilitation centre. There are other numerous projects like the Lekki International Airport that are expected to take pressure off the Murtala Muhammed Airport. It’s going to be built on like 5,000 hectares of land and it’s expected to take about five million passengers per year. It’s going to be able to help people to avoid Murtala Muhammed Airport. They can just go from that eastern part of Lagos, Epe, Lekki without any stress to fly to their destinations and of course, the food and logistics hub is also ongoing and we hope to complete it this year. There is also the Omu Cricket Project, which will be connecting a virgin area of Lagos to Epe, Itoomu among others. There is also the 4th Mainland Bridge, At the moment, a company has been selected for it and any moment from now, we are going to be doing the ground breaking, even as the state government is seeking muscle to do all these mega projects.
What are the likely impacts of these projects?
The most important thing that I will want us to talk about in all these projects is that, they are not just about the matter of infrastructure, they are geared towards creating jobs for our people because you are building the 4th Mainland Bridge, you are talking about a project that can generate about 10,000 jobs. It is a road that is stretching for about 37 kilometers all the way from Abraham Adesanya passing through four local governments, Kosofe, Ibeju-Lekki, Epe and Obafemi Owode in Ogun State. It’s going to be running all the way from Abraham Adesanya in Ikorodu and bursting out around Lagos Ibadan expressway around Redeemed Church. It is a project that will generate huge job opportunities and it will also serve as an opportunity for our young engineers to see that that kind of bridge is built in the world. It is a kind of a bridge that we have in London that is called M25. For us, it’s not just about all these projects, it is about creating employment for our young people and boosting their skills. The Blue Rail, which is also part of what we have completed, the last aspect of it from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko.
You have seen how the phase that has been completed has opened up the corridor and made life so simple for people who come in from Mile 2 to Marina. So, it is going to be like that from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko. It is at the very heart of all of the things that we are doing, the inter-modal transportation; so that anybody who is interested in going by road, rail and water will be able to navigate the city seamlessly. So all of the jetties that we are building, about 15, I think almost everything is completed now. By the time Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu came in, we had about seven ferries. Later, it increased to 14 and very soon, we will be bringing in about 12 more ferries so that water transportation can be expanded and made more popular. Because of the water, there is no traffic congestion, it is smooth, healthy, fast and comfortable. Part of the projects that will be completed is the Red Rail Line System, which will be running from Oyingbo in Lagos to Agbado in Ogun State. A journey of about three hours will be reduced to about 32 minutes. It will be a smooth and jolly ride and in the first quarter of this year, the project will be open. Mr. Governor has said that he is going to prevail on Mr. President to come and be the one to cut the tape on that day. We are looking forward to the day. All infrastructure needed by the Redline has been completed except for one to the bridges in Mushin for people to see how ready we are. That Red Line was conceived and started by Mr. Sanwo-Olu on April 21, 2021 and he promised that before the end of his first tenure, that it was going to be commissioned and today, to the glory of God, it’s over 90 percent completed. So, everything that needs to be done about the Red Line has been done and very soon, it’s going to open. There is also the general hospital, the first to be built in Lagos in Ojo, is currently ongoing. There is the Leather Hub in Mushin and other projects that we are going to be starting and completing this year.
Has Lagos been able to complete the budget cycle for Year 2023? How will it be able to implement the new budget cycle for the development of all sectors in the state?
On how we are going to implement the budget, it is very straightforward. All of the projects that we are doing now and the new ones will be fighting completion time, because we believe in the completion of the projects to create wealth and opportunities for the young ones, and bring comfort to Lagosians. Lagos has a history of implementing its budget. I think the last budget we did, by September/October, we have done over 80 percent and by November, we were about 90 percent. So for Lagos, it’s going to be exciting to implement because it’s an ambitious budget of about N2.2trillion. For us, it’s something we need to work harder for its implementation. We are assured it’s going to be implemented because it is the only way to create jobs and deliver dividends of democracy and not just the Renewed Hope that we are talking about, but to concretise all of the new things and bold the audacious project that we are talking about.