• At town hall meeting, Lagos gov interacts with residents, pledges to complete on-going projects
By Tope Adeboboye
It was another forum for the people of Lagos to interact directly with the state governor, and not a few people took advantage of the opportunity.
On Thursday, January 11, thousands of Lagos residents filled up the expansive Blue Roof auditorium of the Lagos State Television, Agidingbi, Ikeja. It was the first edition of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s quarterly town hall meetings with residents of the state in 2018.
The edition was particularly historic. It marked the 140th anniversary of town hall meetings in Lagos, as the first of such town hall meetings was held on January 28, 1877.
The question-and-answer session at the town hall meetings are usually the most important part. It is the session that allows many residents to ask the governor direct questions and get immediate responses. But before then, Ambode explained why his government has been working on so many projects at the same time in the state in the past year.
And in this season of killer cattlemen, when gun-wielding herders invade states and communities at will, killing people in their numbers, Ambode assured residents that his government had initiated robust security plans that would ensure that such terror and deaths were not transported to Lagos.
As usual, the governor began by reeling out some of his achievements in the past year. Among the many infrastructural projects being done by the state are the Oshodi Transport Interchange, Pen Cinema flyover, reconstruction of the Oshodi International Airport Road, construction of the BRT Corridor on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, over 20 Lagos-Ogun boundary roads and construction of bus terminals at Oyingbo.
He informed residents at the meeting that the government, in the last quarter, inaugurated the first state-owned DNA Forensic Centre in West Africa, adding that the facility would soon be upgraded to offer toxicology services, which would make it the first in sub-Saharan Africa. The state, he said, paid N635.5 million as bursary to 8,419 students in tertiary institutions, while equipment worth over N2.5 billion was procured for the health sector. He stated also that primary health care centres across the state were being upgraded even as three more technical colleges would soon be established in the state.
Other facilities inaugurated by the government last year, according to Ambode, include the LAMATA Place, Ojota BRT Depot, the Intelligent Transport System Centre and e-ticketing payment system, JJT (Johnson, Jakande, Tinubu) Park in Alausa, the new Tafawa Balewa Square bus terminal, new Ojota pedestrian bridge, Aboru-Abesan link bridge and inner roads, Ojodu-Berger slip road and pedestrian bridge, Jubilee bridges in Ajah and Abule Egba, Freedom and Admiralty Road in Lekki, new Lands Registry, newly upgraded Jubilee Chalet in Epe, and many others. Ambode explained that both the Onikan Stadium and Agege Stadium were being upgraded.
The question-and-answer session was, as usual, exciting and rewarding, as many residents got immediate and direct responses from the governor.
The first to speak was the treasurer of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Lagos, Rev. Stephen Adegbite. In his comments, the cleric praised Ambode for delivering on his promises and ensuring religious harmony in the state.
“Religious leaders from CAN and other Christian organisations meet regularly, and we now have NIREC at the local governments and LCDAs. He is fulfilling his promises. The governor does not need any campaign for 2019; his work has spoken for him. We will continue to pray for him. Ambode is fantastic,” the cleric noted.
A resident, Mr. Temitope Ibikunle, expressed concerns over reports of the continued acts of terror by herdsmen in Benue State and the seeming helplessness of the security agencies in tackling the menace. He wanted to know the efforts already put in place to forestall any of such attacks in any part of Lagos State by the herdsmen.
Ambode allayed such fears. He assured the audience that his administration had taken precautionary measures to ensure safety of life and property of residents.
His words: “We have already prayed at the beginning of this year, herdsmen would not be our portion. But after prayer, we will work. So, all the issues that you have raised, I am not taking them for granted, I will look at them and also make sure that all our security agencies are on alert and up-to-date to mitigate any action or intrusion that may arise from that particular quarter.”
Another resident, Tunde Odunsi, reminded the governor of a personal request he made in 2015 that was yet to be acted upon. And Ambode assured him that the matter would be addressed immediately.
Ojikutu Ahmed, a representative of the Ikeja Computer Village Community, commended Ambode for installing free wi-fi in the new parks and gardens across the state. He urged the governor to direct the Lagos State Public Works Corporation to fix the roads in and around Computer Village. And the governor assured him that it would be done. He also directed the agency to immediately start fixing the bad roads in Abesan Estate, Oriade, Abule Egba and many other parts of the state.
Surajudeen Abejamu, who came from Eti-Osa, complained that the Primary Health Centre at the resettlement area in Ajah-Ilaje, Eti-Osa Local Government Area, was in a bad state. Ambode promptly directed the Special Adviser on Primary Health Care to ensure that the centre becomes functional in two weeks.
Mrs. Risikat Philips, a market leader from Ikorodu, said the traders welcomed the redevelopment of the Ikorodu Market. But she said the traders ought to be given an alternative location before the demolition of the market.
The governor, who agreed with the suggestion, said a Market Development Board that would address such issues would be inaugurated soon.
Chairperson, Lagos Women in Sports, Tayo Popoola, praised the governor for doing a great job in the area of sports development in the state. She urged the governor to encourage more women in sports administration, noting that the exploits of Asisat Oshoala, the reigning African Woman Footballer of the Year, who, incidentally, is from Ikorodu and was also present at the event, had shown that several female sports talents abound in the state.
Governor Ambode also informed the audience that, as at last month, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund had disbursed a total of N4.5 billion to 5,500 beneficiaries who also received training in financial literacy and business management. In addition, keys were presented to the first set of allottees of the Lagos State Rent-To-Own Housing Scheme. Besides the creation of the Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the state was also beautified with the erection of monuments, parks and gardens, he said.
the governor noted that, in spite of the harsh economic climate in the country, the state generated a total of N503.7 billion revenue in 2017 while the overall budget performance stood at 82 per cent.
“The total recurrent expenditure was N281.33 billion, representing a performance of 92 per cent, while total capital expenditure was N387.60 billion or 76 per cent performance,” he said.
Ambode noted that the proposed N1.046 trillion budget for 2018 awaiting approval by the state House of Assembly would be judiciously utilised to complete all ongoing projects and consolidate on infrastructural development in education and transportation/traffic management, among others.
The governor promised that he would sustain the momentum of development and vigorously pursue all on-going projects, with special focus on health and education.
“I urge all taxpayers to be alive to their responsibility of fulfilling their obligations to the state,” he said. “Regular payment of taxes remains the major source of funding the infrastructure being put in place to ease transportation, provide security, build new roads and refurbish existing ones.”
Dignitaries at the event were Prince Tajudeen Olusi, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, former Deputy Governor, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, party leaders, lawmakers, top government functionaries, traditional rulers, religious leaders, youths, journalists and many others.