How has it been after election?
I moved into this new office after my victory at the polls to have a comfort place. The office has its own fair share of pressure, because it was initially designed for twenty (20) people.
But, we discovered the office now hosts more than 100 people on a daily basis, which points to the fact that Lagosians are intelligent and believe they have contributions to make to the incoming government.
We have been hosting brilliant and intelligent people who have great ideas and suggestions for the government that is coming in. As we promised during the campaign, we are going to run a listening government. We will open our doors to anyone who truly has ideas or contributions to make. These people have been coming on their own will and we have set up various sub-committees on each of the pillars in our manifesto called ‘Project Theme.’ And people have gone into areas where they feel they are more comfortable. The have brought out great ideas after days of deliberations. Some of them learnt the process of governance and how not to over-promise, knowing the realities on the ground.
Over the period, we have had several government agencies also come in to also share ideas with us to tell us the realities of their areas of activities and some of their intending programmes. These interactions have made my job as governor a bit bigger, but a lot more strategic and focus. I am going to be owning all of the ideas and suggestions as the leader of the incoming government.
What is your assessment of the progressive administration in Lagos in the last twenty (20) years?
It’s been worth for us as progressives, and more importantly, ifs been worth it for Lagosians. If we want to be fair in our assessment, 20 years ago, this is not the kind of Lagos we had back then. Lagos was neither the 5th nor the 6th largest economy in Africa 20 years ago. Lagos did not have this kind of larger population and the state didn’t have a lot of the things that it has now in infra-structure, health, education and of course, this kind of busy traffic was never there back then.
Under our watch, Lagos has grown to be one of the biggest megacities in the world. This has come with huge opportunities and, of course, a lot of challenges. The progressives have held their turf very well. The progressives have created wealth for Lagosians; they have built structures and bridges and other infrastructure all around Lagos. They have developed people and condition of health facilities have improved. The revenue of the state has astronomically been enhanced through quality governance and representation. When they started in 1999, history showed that there was only a little over N600 million that was generated. Tens of billions have been generated now. The question is, are the generated revenues are enough to cater for today’s challenges? It is not. But, in terms of growth, we have seen leaps and bounds of growth. People are coming from different parts of this country to live and stay in Lagos as a choice. The truth is that, it’s been good to all of them. The first government that governed Lagos in this republic was the government of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which brought first class technocrats to government and you all saw the results. You saw the great things all those technocrats did and I can humbly tell you that I was part of that team. That team of technocrats has thrown up people at the highest level of decision making in this country. Some have moved on to become governors to run states; some others are in higher level of governance. If we look back and see some of those great things that have come out of this small Lagos, whose size is lesser, then you can say that the progressives have done well. But, can we do better? Yes, that is why I am sitting here. I believe we can deliver more great things quicker and faster.
How would you manage public expectations, given that some of your campaign promises won’t be achieved immediately?
I saw the checklist of to-do projects that is being sent across to people, with the notion that such list emanated from my office. The reality is that, the list and the timelines attached to each item did not emanate from my campaign office; it is fake news. But, don’t see it as bad thing when people push you.
The truth is, you allow a child to crawl before he walks. However, we will not shy away from our promises to the people. I can assure you that, in the next 90 days, we will have a working government. In all the cabinet appointments and other appointments we need to make, we will do that very quickly.
We should begin to see huge solutions in our traffic management scheme. That are some that we would have solved in the first quarter, and there are some we will still be working on. In infrastructure, we are entering into the season of rain. If we want to do some extension or some layby, rain cannot allow you so much. When it is raining, you can’t pour concrete. When you do that, you need the sun for it to dry. So, some of these issues will come up. In terms of design and those corridors that need traffic improvement, we would have done all of that. In terms of places we need to increase waste management solution, we would have done all of that.
In the first three months, we would have rolled out loads of waste bags which people will see. Like I mentioned during the campaign, sorting of waste materials will start from our kitchens. When we bring them out and we have a work in progress by the PSP, I imagine we would have made some capital expense in terms of procurement of new compactors. But, that will take a while to come into the country; however, we would have made some commitment within those time.
Like I also said, the solution to Apapa gridlock. I believe we would have solved it. But, the sustenance of it, if we are not careful, the trailers would keep coming in and out on a sustainable basis. It is going to cost the Lagos Government more money to put-people on the axis to prevent trailer; from blocking the way. We will also be looking at the civil service, because all the lofty programmes we are talking about will be implemented by professionals in the civil service. In terms of capacity development and skill gap, we need to identify young people in different sectors and value chain to ensure that they are doing everything by themselves. There will be incubator centres and there will be clusters that we need to develop. We will work with Central Bank, because some of the things that slow down the progress of these innovators are not within the government’s control. How well will all of the grants and loans which the Central Bank has been talking about; how accessible are they? The commercial banks that have SME packages, how truly well are they going to support this cause? Those conversations must come from that angle. If you are just having a small tailoring service at your house, it may be difficult for the governor to solve your own immediate problem, which could be lack of power supply in your small shop. To pull resources together and create a tailoring section in Obalende, for instance, many small-scale tailors would have access to the facility and get their jobs done.
This is the kind of innovative solution we will do. We will for a place where 300 tailors are clustered around a place and can share resources. We can develop a power solution for them, as against developing a power solution to each one of them. So, we expect these people to identify key players in the sector they belong and create partnership. One they come together, it is easier for the government to intervene and engage them collectively.
One accountability and openness in our fiscal policy, I believe the government has started publishing its budget.
We will sustain that. Beyond that, we will quarterly review our budget performance. People can ask us questions about things we said we are doing every three months. In terms of transparency, Lagos has a procurement law and agency. It is for the people in charge to ensure details of the state finances are made accessible for the public. The moment you let people know how you are running the government on quarterly basis, Issues around transparency reduces. Before you get to the end of the second quarter, ensure that you where we are in our public service, so that we can put right people and develop right competencies that will take ownership of all these solutions that about. In areas of health, we are talking about. In areas of health, education an infrastructure, we would probably have rolled out a more de- tailed plan, as to what we need to do right to ensure growth in our education is improved.
A strategy would have been clearly crafted out to show us what we need to do as soon as children come back to school in September of 2019. In the health sector, the collaboration we need to have with the private sector to ensure that health is accessible will be in a place; affordability of it might still be a challenge in terms of identifying the vulnerable people. But, accessibility is something we need to deal with very quickly.
On infrastructure, I believe within the first quarter, we would have a more developed plan as to what areas, which new road we need to build and in what area. At that time, we will certainly be planning for next year’s budget. All of those plans will begin to be implemented very quickly. In the power sector, I imagine that in 90 days, we would have had a clear-cut policy with all the DISCOs and the GENCOs on how we must ensure that Lagos gets powered efficiently.
Multiple taxes have been said to have discouraged the growth of MSMEs, How do you want to institute accountability in the fiscal policy of state?
During the campaigns, I had the opportunity to meet a large number of young people who are innovative. I had interaction with about 6,000 of them at different for a. One of the things we said to them was that, we would be looking at the things within our control as a government, such as incubator centres that we need to create for entrepreneurs in the tech area. In terms of financing and supports, how well do we get out state-owned employment trust fund to quickly identify more serious beneficiaries and support them with grants or loans they require. I believe we need to increase our numbers.
We should be able to put these innovative have audited account.
In terms of multiple taxes killing MSMEs, I don’t believe that is true. It is a matter of perception. It is not true.
There is no tax that doesn’t have a law component to it. Taxation is a function of the law. If the law is faulty, let’s go back to it. Maybe you can talk about the mode of collection of these taxes; it might be what we need to change. That has to do with culture. So, we need to correct the narrative that there is no multiple taxation anywhere.
You must have been briefed about the list of uncompleted projects that will be left behind by the outgoing administration. Would you give these projects priority when you assume office?
There have been several interactions we have had with the outgoing government through the transition committee and we have seen documents terms of projects being undertaken by the government. The documents didn’t give us clear indication of the state of the projects. But, let me leave it as that.
However, in terms of completion, it is certain that we will accord priority to these projects because what doesn’t get completed doesn’t get done. We will ensure that we complete them.
There has been anxiety among Lagosians about the Land Use Charge. Do you plan to review the law when you come on board?
Yes, we are going to look at the-law again, but with a lot of consultations. It has to be collaborative by ensuring stakeholders’ engagement. We are going to look at it in such a way that all players in various sectors will sit together and find an agreeable solution. But, people must know that we cannot eat an omelette without breaking the egg. For us to be able to achieve all the lofty things we have rolled out in our plan, revenue has to come from somewhere. We will certainly not do things that will have negative effects on our people. So, we will review the Land Use law positively and this will be done in consultation with stakeholders.
What kind of style should Lagosians expect from you as their leader?
At my age, I don’t think it is right for me to change what people have known about me because of an office. I have no other style to bring forth than to be humble and remain accessible. I will be very engaging. I want people to have a voice in my government. Once people have their say in government, it is the duty of the leader to take people’s suggestions and ideas to introduce a new dimension to issues.
If the suggested ideas won’t make any meaningful impact on the process of government and the wellbeing of the people, I will take my time to explain why such idea would not be entertained. We will maintain the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos, by fostering respect and harmony among all shades of people who are resident In Lagos. I will be a governor to everybody living in Lagos.
Your government is taking off on a note of a lean treasury…
I don’t know what the numbers are, but as a financially-savvy person, I believe we need to be creative in our fiscal management. No matter how prosperous a state or a nation might be, money will never be enough. But, we cannot continue to give excuses to the people who elected us. There are creative ways in which you can source finance to achieve all the things you set to achieve. For as long as you are sincere and people can see four charge out, money will look for you. Globally, that is how it moves. Money will move from people that they believe need it most. All they need to do is just a risk assessment of the person getting the money, the project being financed and the environment in which the investment will be made. Once you are able to reduce or mitigate against some of those risks, funding will come.
What are your plans for agriculture?
We have been a mono-product economy, but the Federal Government has made a few attempts in the last four years to diversify the economy. I believed those efforts are beginning to yield some result. I think we need to comment the Federal Government for that, especially in agriculture. The outgoing government in Lagos State too took a bold step to introduce a 32 tonnes per day Imota Rice Mill. That has started.
For me, I believe that project will be very critical in our agriculture value chain. We need to look for re-sources to complete that project very quickly. I understand there are huge containers of equipment littered in the port. We need to quickly fix that. What it means is that, if we have that mill working by the end of this year or next year, 32 tonnes means that we actually can produce rice which not only Lagos will be consuming, but one or two other states will consume too.
The feedback of that in the value chain is that, we will now need to have parley with neighbouring states, since Lagos doesn’t have agro-area due to the size and pressure on our land. We will collaborate with our fellow government in the South- west and see how we can share boundary land and produce rice. We can reduce the cost of having to bring rice from up North. If we do it well, that is a major economy we are developing. We can move to the next one, which is aquaculture, poultry, and fishing. There is an opportunity with the Central Bank, and I have read their books. All you need to do is to put people in clusters and let them be able to access single-digit funding to upscale their capacity in production of these agro-products.
How would your government tackle flood and fix potholes and cause major traffic?
Lagos is below the sea level and there is naturally going to be element of flood. Communication is critical to enable people become aware of this fact. It is only when the media helps communicate it to the people rightly…
Lagos is below the sea level. Fundamentally, flooding is Lagos is natural and nobody has control over it. This means that Lagos is a terrain in which rain will fall at some tin the year.
Rain will be heavy from May to October or November. Once it rains, there will be what is called flash flood. And this happens everywhere in the world.
This flood is not meant to last beyond five hours. So, how do we ensure this flood won’t remain on the road for four, five days? That is what the people are within the manholes on the road. The blockages arise from our habit. The kind of refuse we generate and we do not dispose of very well. We drop waste indiscriminately in the canals and drainage. We have to change our attitude. We will be solving this problem with our environmental solution. I understand there is little challenge within Lagos Public Work Bureau. We need to fix that and if it requires them to work overnight to fix the potholes left on our roads, we will do it.
What strategy do you have to end the Apapa gridlock?
It is not out of place that Lagosians have been crying. And out of expectations, people have also mentioned that I have said I am going to solve the problem in 60 days. I haven’t made such statement as to the timeline to clear the gridlock and I need to challenge that. But, for people to give timeline, we must know that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. These trucks need to move out. I can assure you that I will give all support required to ease this important axis of gridlock.
Lagosians will see a permanent solution to this problem.
Can you share an insight into the nature or cabinet Lagosians should expect? How will you conduct the continuous agitation for special economic assistance for Lagos from the Federal Government?
With the cooperation of the entire political leadership in my party, I should have a cabinet running, maximum, within the timeline that I have given to you. As to the quality of the cabinet, you need to know that Lagos does not lack intelligent and smart people. It is for us to be able to identify them. Some of my cabinet appointees could be full time technocrats, some could be quasi-politician and technocrats. The bottom line is that, we must put round pegs in a hole. Whoever will be working with Dr. Hamzat and I must share our vision. We must be on the same page from Day One. The moment an appointee is confirmed, he must see himself as a servant of entire Lagos and not for a clique or an area. Performance will be for the entire citizens of Lagos. Those are the basic things we should expect and we are not going to compromise on that. We have to have a shared vision and common purpose, so that we will wrap up our expectations of those portfolios to be filled up.
Our appointees will undergo a crash programme for them to understand where we are going. The moment we all see the commonality of our purpose, it would be easier for us to drive a common agenda. I can assure you that Lagosians will be happy when we bring out the names of our appointees.
On special status for Lagos, my government will continue to push for it. I hope that the Speakership of the House of Representatives will be given to one of our representatives vying for the position. This may help us to realise this agenda. We are hoping that the federal lawmakers will see reasons, rather than politics, in the point of need to get a special status for a place all Nigerians call home.
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