Why Lagos is insulated from horrendous oil crash – Ayorinde
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde, is a seasoned journalist, author, writer and former editor. In an interview with TUNDE BUSARI of The Tribune, he speaks on the membership of Lagos State Government in the Oodua conglomerate, owned by South-Western states, as well as other issues of interest. Excerpts:
There was a media report on the interception of a group of Boko Haram escapees by the police on their way to Lagos. What are some of the measures the Lagos State Government has taken to prevent such threat?
We are glad that the security agencies are alert to their duties. We are aware that this is not the first time such interception would occur. You would recall that in October and late November last year, we also had reported cases of similar interceptions. This goes to say all hands are on deck. It is a joint effort among the law enforcement agencies. On our own part, we are to work with the security agencies to ensure the safety of lives and tackle robberies, violent crimes and all forms of anti- social behaviours. This is evident in the government donation of security assets worth N4.8 billion to the Police and RRS (Rapid Response Squad). This is a landmark in the history of state government intervention. No other state can boast of a security helicopter. Patrol vehicles, gunboats, APC s, power bikes, bulletproof vests and other items were supplied to the security agencies. Governor Akinwumi Ambode believes so much in equipment as a means of having the best of security agencies. What we are doing essentially is to work not only with the police, but also with other security agencies. On monthly basis, the governor meets with all the heads of security agencies, including the commissioner of police. And the governor on Tuesday, at the second edition of the quarterly meeting, told us that the statistics confirmed a significant drop in crime rate by 65 per cent after the handing over of the equipment. Also for five days, we held the Lagos fiesta in five locations: Epe, Agege, Victoria Island, Ikorodu and Badagry. The result of the fiesta showed the effectiveness of the security measure we have put in place so far. But, we would not rest on our oars. We will continue to support the security agencies.
Why has it taken so long for Lagos State to join the Oodua conglomerate?
The decision has been on for more than four years until the fives: Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states, finally absorbed Lagos State to be a part of the group. History shows that Lagos State is one of the six South-western states, though as the administrative capital of Nigeria, which, thus, enjoyed special status. What we are looking at is regional integration.
What value is Lagos State bringing into the group?
The benefit is both economical and infrastructural. It will be mutual. I must say without sounding immodest that all the five states will enjoy Lagos membership. It is going to demonstrate the real concept of regional integration. Lagos State, being the heartbeat not only of Nigeria but Africa, is going to add great value to the group. If Lagos State were a nation-state, it would be the second largest in West Africa with its GDP equal is to 42 African countries combined. Coming at the time things appear a bit tight now, in terms of economy, the five states stand to benefit from the integration. Essentially, what we are looking at as the vision of the group includes railway, independent power project, food storage facilities, all of which will make the group a model for others. As at now, Lagos is the only one with light rail and massive street lights. There is no way other members would not share from the advantage of these. It is a platform for member states to sit, discuss, exchange note and see how to network among themselves. It has been predicted that oil is going to be discovered here in Lagos. Adding this up to it gives South-West two oil-producing states. The values Lagos is bringing are enormous and limitless. I think it is better late than never best captures the development.
It is argued that state House of Assembly operates at the mercy of the executive. How true or otherwise is this?
I would not think so. Take the Senate President Bukola Saraki as an example. As arguably untidy his emergence might seem, the Presidency did not muscle him. The independence of that arm of government has not been tampered with. And both have succeeded so far. On the issue of budget, an alarm was raised on two versions. The Presidency had to explain with a letter of clarification. It did not accuse the Senate of anything. Another example is on the list of the cabinet members, which Governor Ambode sent to the State House of Assembly. The governor wanted an expedite screening, but the House insisted that they needed more time and that they would do two layers of screening. The House had its way. We were made to pass through two different screenings. Every nominee had to address each committee. There was no rubberstamp. They ensured that those screened really deserved to be commissioners. Of course, there would be an area of disagreement. It is a disagreement on principle, which shows democracy is working. But after every disagreement, there is always a meeting point, where issues are resolved for the interest of the generality of the electorate.
The pulling down of some structures at Oshodi generated some noise. How did government find the reaction?
It is funny that some people would want to test the patience of the government. But, I must say that we have put the incident behind us. The truth of the matter is that Rule of Law is never convenient for some people, especially law breakers. But when you remind them their limitation, they put up a resistance. That is where a government must show a will power to implement policy, because what a responsible government must not do is to condone irresponsible behavior. Before the bulldozer moved in, we had reminded them of the need to move to the alternative place we have made available at the most ridiculous rate. We ensured the rate is very affordable to them. Yet, they discountenanced the call and later painted it in ethic colour. This did not matter anyway because they know we were resolute. Something about this government is that we have a governor who is very compassionate and also determined to improve the life of the citizenry.
Is that the reason some people say he is slow?
Not at all, if such perception is ever there! He is not slow. I have two words to describe him. One, he is a good manager of resources. Two, he is compassionate. His style of governance is all-encompassing. In other words, he is running a government of inclusion. He is being caring and not slow. For the first time, we had a fiesta in five locations with huge success, unlike when the fiesta held in one place leaving out others. In less than one year, we have done about 114 roads, which simply means no single LCDA (Local Council Development Authority) is left out. We have two per local government. Again for the first, a governor visited Aboru. The residents could not believe it. But, Governor Ambode was there, and saw the situation of the community. During the last Yuletide, he said the government would not spend a huge amount on Xmas decorations. We rather encouraged banks to do it and it was successful. Also, one of his demonstrable compassion is that he lives at Government House in Ikeja, a departure from the era of governor living at Marina. Lagosians appreciate the pace at which he goes as long as it is bringing result. We also have what should be called the peoples’ budget; 58 per cent of the budget goes to capital expenditure. This goes to say that Governor Ambode runs a people-oriented administration. We have more to spend on infrastructures and education. We provide Ibile tablets for students, while 70 per cent of our revenue comes from IGR (Internally Generated Revenue). This is saying that Lagos State is insulated from any turbulence in horrendous crude oil crash.