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Sanwo-Olu’s second term’ ll be laced with iconic projects’ completion

iconic

Gbenga Omotoso, Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State, in this discourse, speaks about governance in the state, iconic projects in the pipeline and those to be embarked upon, issues of security and other sundry issues bothering on Lagos. Excerpts:

During the last four years, Mr Governor worked with the THEMES Agenda, now he has added PLUS to make it THEME 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 one at the forefront, so there is no government that want 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 six thousand 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 thousands 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 avenue to display their talents in sports.

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And we are encouraging science and technology through the LASRIC fund, about 250 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 fund.

Everything that the government is doing is going to be geared towards encouraging our young people, so that is what THEMES plus is all about, social inclusion all of our brothers who are living with disabilities, there are not going to be left behind and the bottom line is that nobody will be left behind in Lagos State and of course Gender Equality, men and women are all going to be the same in this administration, equal opportunities for every body.

During the first term of Mr Governor, we saw iconic projects being initiated and completed. What other iconic or landmark projects should Lagosians be expecting 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 a 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. They are so many projects that are going to be completed this year, Massey Hospital by the time it’s completed its 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 Massey project, there is also 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 aspect of health that can be treated in general hospitals, but now, Lagos State government is paying attention to this very important aspect of health.

Mental health, truly, so many people are affected and its 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 be about 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 is expected to take pressure of the Muritala Muhammed Airport, it’s going to be built on like 5,000 hectares of land and it’s expected to take about 5 million passengers per year and it’s going to be able to help people to avoid Muritala Muhammed Airport, they can just go from that the eastern part of the 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 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, but 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 government, Kosofe, Ibeju-Lekki, Epe and Obafemi Owode in Ogun state, because it’s going to be running all the way from Abraham Adesanya in Ikorodu and bursting out around Lagos Ibadan expressway around Redeemed, 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 kind of bridge is built in the world, it is a that 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 have been completed have opened up the corridor and make 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 can 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 have about 7 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 make more popular, because on 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 smooth and jolly ride and in the first quarter of this year, the project will be open and 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 of the infrastructure needed by the Redline, everything 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 Redline has been done and very soon it’s going to be opened.

There is also the general hospital, the first to be built in Lagos in Ojo, is currently ongoing, there is Leather Hub in Mushin and other projects that we are going to be starting and completing this year.

Has the state been able to complete the budget cycle for the year 2023 and how will she implement the new budget cycle for the devt of all the sectors?

On how we are going to implement the budget, it is very straightforward, all of the projects that are doing now and the new ones will be fighting complete 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 it’s 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 2.2trillion, for us it’s something we need to work harder for the Implementation and we are assure it’s going to be implemented because it is only way to create jobs and deliver dividends of democracy and not just the renewed hopes that we are talking about, but to concretise all of the new things and bold the audacious project that we talking about

Security challenges are rearing its head in so many parts of the country. What measures are in place to ensure overhauling 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 a 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 it 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 stop 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 into traffic robbery, a few months ago, we all saw how 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 its going to be secured, 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 to be able to do their jobs as it is should be done. They are very well encouraged and we are going to do more.

Town Hall meeting

Talking about the Town Hall meeting, your observation was very correct, by the time we came in, we were trying to do these things, after COVID, there were so many other crises, we had Endsars and all of that among these crises, we cannot be thinking of a town hall meeting and all of the projects we have been commissioning has also been used as a way to interacting with them and to be specific before the end of this month, we are going to have a town hall meeting.

The Airport is not going to take time, it is expected to be finished in about a year or two and that is going to be on Lekki Epe corridor and it’s going to be an international Airport, that can accommodate about 350 Aircraft at a time. It’s going to take care of about 5 million travelers and we are already talking to investors, because it’s not what the state can fund from its balance sheet.

So everything that needs to be done by the Airport and every other iconic project that I have spoken of, like Food and Logistics Hub, 4th Mainland Bridge are currently on the table.

We are talking to investors from all over the world to come and take up these projects and they have seen that Lagos is where the investment destination is, the biggest in Africa if you look at the foreign direct investment, there is no state that march Lagos and if you talk about foreign direct investment coming into Nigeria, when you look at Africa as a whole, Lagos contribute about 80 percent of the one that is coming into Nigeria.

Recent house demolition in Computer Village?

On the issue of demolishing, we have to differentiate between demolition by the state government and the one done by some other agencies, about two days ago, there was demolition at computer Village and some mischievous people out it on the social media that government was to demolish computer Village and we have to send out a press statement that it was just a pure lies and propaganda to divide Lagosians.

What actually was that Police Officers Wives Association had a structure in Computer Village and they plan to rebuild the structure so they wanted to demolish it and they asked for permission because they are the owners of the structure and they brought it down by themselves, it has nothing to do with the Lagos State government.

All the other demolition that we are talking about in other places, they are structures that were built on a drainage and they were brought down and up till today, nobody whose structure was demolished has come forward to say it was illegally or unjustly demolished, because most of the structures that were demolish, all of them did not have any paper to show that they got approval from the state government to go and build those structures, so if such structures are being demolished of course there is nothing anyone can do about it because the laws backed demolition of such structures.

The ones at the Abule Ado are done by the Federal government and the government is asking only anyone that can show a paper of approval to build there will get compensation.

All of the people who lost their homes to give way to the Redline have all been compensated, and that was the largest compensation ever paid in part of any Nigeria, apart from the Landlords, even Tenants were paid for what they suffered and they got money to go and rent a new apartment and that is unprecedented in Nigeria, it has not been done before.

Anybody that has any reason to say that his or her property was brought down by Lagos State government unjustly can come forward and the person will have a good case.

On the issue of maintenance of public infrastructure

Every time we go on project commissioning, Mr Governor tell people that Lagosians should see the projects as their own and should not allow vandals to touch them and ensure they are well kept. So if you pass through a train station and you saw dust, it is because of the season we are now, it is not only structures that are feeling the weather, even human beings too, so many people are down with Cold and Catarrh now.

But I want to tell you that no particular train station in Lagos lack maintenance at all, there is company that is quite different from LAMATA which is incharge of maintenance of the train stations and other facilities and the facilities are more cleaner than the day it was opened and it will continue to be like that because there is adequate maintenance for that infrastructure, the maintenance culture is the work of all of us, we need to protect the project and not abuse it by dumping refuse indiscriminately and by comporting ourselves in a civilised way that Lagosians are expected to behave.

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