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Development In Focus As Sanwo-Olu Inaugurates Cabinet

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EKOEXCEL

By Gboyega Akosile

In fulfilling his electioneering promise that his cabinet would be constituted within 100 days of his government, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recently released the first batch of 25 nominees to occupy cabinet-ranked positions in the state. The list shows an administration that is ready to serve, given the pedigrees of nominees, most of whom are tested individuals with proven records of accomplishment of performance in their various fields of endeavour.

 

Three weeks after, a new list consisting 13 names of another set of tested and trusted individuals was released making the cabinet positions 38 in all. Expectedly, the two lists generated a lot of interest in the political circle as well as the public domain. Every Lagosian at home and in the diaspora is interested in who occupies what position.  You cannot query their interest. First, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s government came into power, with an emphasis during electioneering that inclusive governance would be the core of its administration. In addition, Lagosians see the enormous challenges that have confronted the State in the recent years and they know that only a focused, dedicated and forward-looking cabinet can help to deliver Governor Sanwo-Olu’s campaign promises.

 

Lagos has grown in leaps and bounds, with its population hitting almost 23 million people and still counting. This naturally comes with its challenges; increase in tons of waste generated, rise in the number of patients at various government hospitals and primary health centres, more pressure on the existing infrastructure-roads, schools and housing among numerous social amenities being provided by government. Lagos, therefore, cannot be administered in 2019 using a 1979 template.

 

The state has undoubtedly benefitted from its population growth-more revenue generation; physical development is recorded in different sectors making it a state on the move. At the last count, Lagos is said to have hit close to N30 billion mark every month in internally generated revenue (IGR), making it the most economically viable state in Nigeria and fifth largest economy in Africa. However, the State government has argued that this feat is still a far cry from what is required to run a megacity such as Lagos. For example, the budgetary allocation of the police department in New York City is $5.6 billion, when compared to the budget of the entire Lagos state, which stands at $2.4 billion; one can safely conclude that there is more to be done by government to get the state running.

 

Being the nation’s economic nerve-centre, Lagos is a city on the move but with enormous challenges. Apart from poor state of arterial roads that complicate free flow of traffic, commuters spend productive hours in chaotic gridlocks that are caused by failed sections on roads and disorganised traffic management. Many observers have opined that planning the best campaign strategies to win the governorship election was not much of a challenge before Governor Sanwo-Olu, as his party, APC commanded large following and significant popularity in Lagos to ensure his victory. What they say will be the most testing hurdle waiting to be surmounted by him was the strategy to deploy in solving the long-standing and emerging challenges facing the state.

 

When Sanwo-Olu emerged as APC candidate, Lagos had literally become a dumpsite as heaps of municipal waste littered the streets. The state agency set up for waste disposal had been disengaged in a curious and controversial circumstance, leaving residents to resort to indiscriminate dumping of refuse, which became a daily eyesore, even to the government of the day. The aesthetics of the environment was affected. All of these brought down the pride of Lagos, despite its growing profile as a hub for commerce, technology and innovation.

 

Sanwo-Olu’s campaign was premised on the need to address these challenges, with the aim of proffering short and long-term solutions to them. Project T.H.E.M.E.S that became the thrust of his campaign slogan was formulated as an operational framework to solve these identified challenges and sustain the profile of Lagos as centre of excellence.

 

Upon assumption of office as the 15th Governor of Lagos on May 29, 2019, Sanwo-Olu channelled his energy towards a process of scouting for visionary individuals from various areas of human endeavour that will help him midwife his vision and deliver on his campaign promises. He said, during the electioneering that ‘‘as Lagosians, we can’t be like people who cannot solve their problems. Therefore, we must find solutions to our problems because they are created by us’’.

As one who believes in harnessing the capabilities of homegrown professionals, Sanwo-Olu assured Lagosians that his Commissioners and cabinet-ranked Special Advisers would be drawn from local pool of resources and will cut across acceptable demographics. Besides, he promised his cabinet would be constituted within 100 days to set the ball of governance rolling.

 

In keeping the promise made to Lagosians, Sanwo-Olu announced the names of members of his cabinet exactly 47 days after his swearing-in. This is a rare feat for a governor serving his first term. The Governor said he understood the challenges confronting the state, noting that the selection process was a painstaking and laborious exercise, which aimed at introducing fresh ideas to governance. He said the team of professionals and politicians would be serving Lagosians in line with his administration’s vision of delivering a smart city-state that will rank among the top most liveable cities in the world.

 

His words: “We took our time to pick the best hands for the tough job Lagosians have elected us to do. The nominees for the twenty five (now thirty eight) Commissioner and Special Adviser positions include women and men who have made their mark and at the zenith of their professional callings.” Tough job? Yes, the tasks ahead are expected to be rigorous as Gov. Sanwo-Olu posited, given the challenges the state is confronted with and the expectations of the people based on the confidence reposed in the administration.

 

Infusion of technocracy and political know-how

 

Being the centre of innovation, Lagos has raised the bar of excellence with injection of fresh ideas and energy in governance. This tradition has been sustained in the last 20 years, and the young administration of Sanwo-Olu appears to be toeing the path, if the profiles of his nominees are anything to go by.

 

Of the 38 cabinet members cleared for inauguration by the State House of Assembly are active politicians who are equally professionals in various fields. The infusion of politics and professionalism is perhaps the unique selling point of the Sanwo-Olu Cabinet.

 A careful analysis of the nominees showed there is clear departure from the tradition of putting forward only politicians or only technocrats to fill up the state’s Executive Council. A private sector professional himself and having traversed the nook and cranny of the political space in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu understood the arduous task before his government, which possibly prompted him to go for politicians, professionals in politics and technocrats to drive the key areas of the public sector for greater impact.

 

Having worked closely with the Governor, one can safely say that he is inclined to work with technocrats, because he is a man that’s given to details-someone you can describe as ‘‘prim and proper’’ but one equally knows that he values the roles of experienced politicians, who are fully integrated in the new cabinet arrangement for political balancing.

The Governor is a politician himself and he quite understands the roles of politicians in governance and development process. Despite his inclination to work with professionals, he will not be leaving out politicians, especially those who have garnered ample experience in previous administrations, to join the team of key private sector players he has nominated to his cabinet.

 

It therefore came as no surprise that the name of Mr. Tunji Bello, the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, who had served three previous administrations, featured in Sanwo-Olu’s list of cabinet members. Aside being an influential figure in Lagos politics, Bello, a trained lawyer cum journalist, possesses vast skill on environmental issues and policies to help the administration have clear direction in this area.

 

Lagos is confronting fierce challenges of climate change, flooding and municipal waste disposal among other environmental problems. With him in the cabinet, Bello’s wealth of experience in climate issues and the environment would come as a great benefit to the Sanwo-Olu administration.

 

Gbolahan Lawal is another experienced administrator and politician that will be in the Executive Council. A seasoned development expert and social entrepreneur from the security background, Lawal has deep understanding of political economy for integrated development especially in low and medium-income economies. He has proven his mettle in previous administrations as Commissioner for Housing and in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

 

Same can be said of Wale Ahmed, a medical doctor turned politician. Ahmed is well grounded in the politics of Lagos State having traversed the different political tendencies in the state. He is no doubt a good pick by Mr. Sanwo-Olu to help create the political balancing that is required in today’s democratic governance. There are few other experienced politicians in the list of the new cabinet members.

 

Fair representation of women

 

Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, Lagos has been setting the pace for gender balance and women involvement in political process. The state became the first that elevated the status of women in the realms of leadership and politics, producing the first woman Deputy Governor.

The state had sustained the tradition of reserving one of the two topmost leadership positions for women. However, the political horse-trading that trailed the emergence of Dr. Obafemi Hamzat as Sanwo-Olu’s running mate in the build up to the general elections raised concern among womenfolk, giving rise to insinuation that Sanwo-Olu may be nursing an agenda to upset the progress made in the State in the area of women representation in governance.

 

In his response, Sanwo-Olu allayed the fear of relegation of women, explaining that the choice of his running mate was to display the dynamism of Lagos politics and present a formidable team for the tough job of governing a State with big economy as Lagos. He promised to complement the work of his administration with an improved involvement of women in decision-making positions. True to his words, the Governor, after being sworn in, surprised the womenfolk with his first appointment, picking Mrs. Folashade Jaji, as the Secretary to the State Government.

 

This was followed by nominations of thirteen women in the cabinet list, signifying the Governor’s conviction of getting women involved in leadership and decision-making. The number showed women make up 32 per cent of cabinet members in the State. This is 3% less of the 35% affirmative action for women in politics and governance. Again, Lagos remains the first and till date the only State that has moved closer to the number advocated.

 

Sanwo-Olu did not just pick any woman out of gender consideration, the Governor gunned for greater service delivery with the selection of seasoned and highly resourceful women, among who are engineers, lawyers, experienced politicians and development-driven individuals such as first-rate engineering project manager, Mrs Aramide Monsurat Adeyoye.

 

Mrs. Adeyoye, a University of Lagos (UNILAG)-trained Civil Engineer, cut her professional teeth at Julius Berger Nigeria Plc in 1988 and rose through the ranks to become the multinational engineering firm’s Project Coordinator in Nigeria’s West region.

 

The list also parades Mrs Adetoke Benson-Awoyinka, a public-spirited legal practitioner with 30 years post call experience in Nigeria and United States. Benson-Adeyinka was among the highly skilled team of the Governor’s transition committee.

 

Ms Ajibola Ponnle, another nominee, is an accomplished consultant, accountant and entrepreneur, with experience in transformational and result-oriented leadership in start-ups, volunteer/member-led organisations and multinational firms. Mrs. Lola Akande and Mrs Yetunde Arobieke are seasoned politicians who will bring their individual wealth of experience to the new drive to deliver a greater Lagos.

 

Other women in the list, with enviable track records in public and private sector, include Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, Ms Ruth Bisola Olusanya, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, Ms. Adekemi Ajayi, Mrs. Bolaji Dada and Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, Mrs Shulamite Olufunke Adebolu and Mrs. Sholape Hammond.

 

Key roles for the millennial

 

Having joined public service as Special Adviser on Economic and Investment at his youthful age, Sanwo-Olu seemed inclined towards engaging the youth with the aim of harnessing their energy to deliver his programmes and vision.

 

This may have influenced the decision of the Governor to nominate four young people under the age of 37 years for cabinet-ranked positions in his government. By the time the cabinet is constituted, these four millennials will be among those that would be driving the Governor’s policies in key public sector, creating a generational shift in governance. 

 

Olatunbosun Alake, a 35-year-old Product Development and Data Management Executive and three other young administrators will be in the cabinet to infuse youthful vigour into governance by bringing to bear his cognate experience in local and international telecommunications and innovative solutions.

 

Ethnic diversity

 

Lagos continues to blaze the trail in ethno-religious diversity. The State in 1999 under former Governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu appointed non-Yoruba professionals into the Executive Council. This great feat has been sustained and almost becoming a norm. Govenor Sanwo-Olu, during the electioneering, unequivocally promised to reflect ethnic representation in his cabinet. In keeping to his word, erstwhile spokesperson for the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe and a strong grassroots politician Architect Kabiru Ahmed made it into the cabinet of Lagos State.

 

Following their legislative ratification by the Lagos State House of Assembly, the 38 cabinet members will be sworn in on Tuesday. With this, residents of the state will begin to witness dynamic governance being driven by fresh, energetic and passionate team of professionals drafted to the Executive Council by equally adroit game changers – Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.

 

Gboyega Akosile is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu

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Opinion

Osun: The Storm Foreseen (1)

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Osun

By

abiodun KOMOLAFE

 

To a casual observer, the philosophy of maize signifies that the process of life is gradual. The first thing you see in maize, when it is growing, is the root, followed by the shoot, before the leaves eventually appear.

 

What this simply means is that, when Gboyega Oyetola came on board as governor of Osun State, he had three notable groups of Nigerians to contend with. The first comprised a cross-section of the people – the agitated, who were banking on the wholesale application of the ‘philosophy of what works’, to demand change ‘with immediate effect.’ To the second class of people, ‘life itself is gradual.’ Therefore, the governor should be given a chance to build development, because ‘destructive change can lead to the disruption of the social order.’ The third category is comprised of the anarchists and pessimists who, right from the first day, have been fortified with the notion that time moratorium is futile; ‘chance or no chance, nothing good can come out of this government.’ In the eye of the objective observer, therefore, how has Osun fared in the last one year, in the context of the hypotheses above?

 

Well, for those who want ‘immediate change’, it is a lose-lose situation, because, effectively, nothing so spectacular has really changed, except, of course, that civil servants are now paid as and when due, which, in practical terms, is one of the cardinal duties of any responsible government. Talking to facts, policies of government must work; and must be seen to be working. Therefore, the issue at stake is beyond policy formulation because no insight is so far gained or meaningful benefits achieved from the application of sophistry or brand manipulation of government policies.

 

The most unfortunate thing about the second class of people is that, from the look of things, this set of people will also have to wait, possibly, till ‘Thy kingdom come’ before they begin to see some meaningful development. And the reason is simple: it takes leadership, good vision, foresight, accommodation, resilience and good politics to achieve development in any given society. For Osun, the sad narrative is not about the dearth of competent hands or attributes of leadership. It is, most unfortunately, about a palpable lack of cohesion in the policy machinery of the state. For instance, the newly-appointed commissioners, in spite of an elaborate retreat organized for them at the inception of their cabinet responsibilities, still work as if they are alone, striving individually, rather than as a team, to ‘please Mr. Governor.’

 

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For the third category of people, history over the time, has shown that, unless something concrete and tangible happens to mitigate their agitations, they are likely to win the day! It is therefore for the government of the day to prove them wrong!

 

Far from waxing lyrical, the troubles with the current administration in Osun are many, some of which may not have been initiated or caused by the incumbent occupier of Bola Ige House. Nonetheless, failure to address these thorny issues with tact – and holistically too – may spell doom for both the ruling party and the sitting government. To put it mildly, one of its shortcomings is that there are too many neophytes, who call themselves politicians, currently in government. When you have cabinet members who do not enjoy robust political patronage amongst the indigenous people; or, widespread legitimate acceptability; or, whose acceptability profile is defective, such a government will be unstable, lacking genuine respect of the use of state’s unquestionable authority! And, that is dangerous for a transformational democracy like ours!

 

Well, it is possible to carelessly tag the agitations of the ‘old-guard politicians’ as being inconsequential, but they sure know what it means to lose political capital and commanding influence; more importantly, how to gain back any ‘lost’ political goodwill, more than the greenhorns. The general feeling out there is that the old politicians are no longer relevant and some identifiable groups of people within the ruling party, who sincerely worked for its victory in the last governorship election, are currently left in the cold.

 

The orthodox market women, aka Iyalojas, are no longer dancing while the usual handshake between the street and the Seat of Government has become a thing of the past. The ‘State Boys’ are reportedly trapped in the nightmares of their neglect while erstwhile conversations between the clerics and their long prayers for the state no longer find accommodation in the government’s scheme of things. The political hangers-on are hungry and are ready to write the prescriptions, even, administer the dosage for an ‘Us vs. Us’ implosion in obedience to the intensity of their resentment. Strangely, too, the opposition, though still licking its wounds, is busy strategizing how to capitalize on the alleged political naivety of the government. To a vast majority of these aggrieved blocs, the unbearable realities are showing on their faces and this may have negative effects on the very foundation of governance in the state if either of two things is not opted for.

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The first is to accommodate the old structures with tact and caution and learn how to manage them, especially, taking into consideration the place of August 9, 2014 in Nigeria’s rich political history. As a remarkable Nigerian and an accomplished politician, a time like this presents a tempting opportunity for Oyetola to reach out to the useful ones among existing structures, buy them over and make them work for him. After all, politics is about the people; and policy without the people is a nullity! Interestingly, too, winning elections and governance have obviously moved away from party issues. I will return to that later!

 

In the alternative, the administration may need to talk to the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to give state heads of security agencies needed directives and incentives to do the bidding of the governor wholesale. Of course, this may be more costly and unhealthy, especially, in a country buffeted on all sides with problems of insecurity, economic underdevelopment and over-politicization of all sociopolitical issues.

 

Yes! The political power and influence of the sum total of the diverse politically aggrieved groups of people in Osun may not be able to successfully challenge the state. Nonetheless, the dark side of politics is that, collectively, they stand formidable; and could probably slow the pace of development, or, altogether, render the state impotent. Also, the rightness or otherwise of the structure and relevance of what the active actors do will depend, largely, on who is doing the appraisal or attempting a definition.

 

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!

 

(To be continued.)

 

*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk)

 

abiodun KOMOLAFE,

020, Okenisa Street,

Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.

 

 

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Opinion

ACTING NDDC MD JOI NUNIEH: A NATIONAL DISGRACE UNFIT TO EVEN HEAD A WHATSAPP GROUP

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JOI NUNIEH
My integrity means more to me than any fame or money. When I say something, I want people to take it to the bank that I mean it and I believe in it. – Tim Tebow
In a sane society, the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Mrs Joi Nunieh should be facing interrogators for bringing shame to herself, deceiving the nation and earning fat pay for the few days she has been in charge of the juicy interventionist agency.
But this is Nigeria where might is right and criminals are allowed to flourish and even given protection by the powers that be. No one really knows much about the lady in charge of NDDC. Despite her long years in the corridors of power, right from former President Goodluck Jonathan days, no one has a biography of her.
Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Mrs Joi Nunieh

Her educational background is like a secret cult, just as her work history is shrouded in secrecy. We need not talk about her alleged marriage to three men as that will be passing through the camel’s eyes. The only thing known about her is that her father was a Senator and indeed, the man was a man of integrity.

How he ended up fathering a lady who lacks what he cherishes most should be a debate for her family. For weeks, she has been accused of not possessing NYSC certificate. She has not only been accused but dared by the accusers to produce it if she truly has one. There is no denying the fact that she is a lawyer, which in my view is still subject of contest.
In Ogoniland where she hails from, her only claim to fame is being among the lawyers who defended Ken Saro-Wiwa, though a baby lawyer then. It was not a case they won and thus she could not have been celebrated as one of those who stopped the evil Gen. Sani Abacha from killing the hero of Ogoni. It is not just enough to ask accusers to prove their case. I refuse to agree with my senior and respected colleague; Ibanga Isine who is her Special Adviser on Communication that her accusers should bring forth proof to show that she does not possess a valid NYSC certificate.
No, she is a public office holder and owes us explanation on what happened that she could not serve her fatherland in her youthful age. For someone that schooled in Nigeria and graduated before the age of 30, it was mandatory that she passed through the one year of National Service. She has an explanation to give to her accusers, President Buhari who employed her via the surrogate called Godswill Akpabio and indeed the Nigerian people.
If the number six man in the country, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege could be dragged before the public, which prompted him to bring a superior court judgment all the way from California, as well as the Speaker Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the number four public officer in Nigeria, there is no reason under the earth that Joi Nunieh who schooled in Nigeria cannot tell us what happened to her NYSC certificate.
Did she serve and it got lost in transit? We need to know. Did she serve and she was expelled before the end of service year? We need to know. And if indeed she served but cannot find her discharge certificate, we will sympathize with her. However, she must have taken pictures during her camping days as well as written down her name inside the NYSC book of life.
For instance, I cannot find my own certificate but I am not bothered because I have more than enough proof that I served in Maiduguri. We must stop the practice of encouraging public officers like Joi Nunieh to get away with misdemeanour simply because they control public funds to throw around.
The honorable thing for her to do is take the Kemi Adeosun route – RESIGN and apologize to the country for taking us for a ride. If she fails to resign, the President should immediately fire her and get a replacement before handing her over to the security agencies to probe.
There are over one million qualified Niger Deltans without scandal to head the IMC, before the new board is constituted. Nothing about her has really been fantastic right from the days of old. Perhaps, she should tell us what happened at Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), a multi billion agency where she was also made the Acting Coordinator. Her stay there was filled with corrupt practices, illegal award of contracts, high-handedness, favoritism and even insubordination, so much that she began to fight her godfather, Ambassador Abdulkadir Musa, who was then the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum, just as she’s fighting her surrogate father now, Godswill Akpabio.
The messy details of her years in HYPREP will be opened in due course for Nigerians to know that NDDC is not safe with her. The truth remains that Joi Nunieh has her ways and has mastered the act of staying on top even when there are allegations against her. NDDC will not be the first place for her to exhibit such propensity but it can be the last place. Her plot to stylishly stay for over a year in the name of forensic audit is well known. It is all in a bid to rake in money from the commission. Or is she there to break the jinx of ‘Acting’ and scheme her way to be nominated as the substantial MD in the new board that is to come?
She was acting coordinator in HYPREP and now an Acting head of an IMC. Is this a conspiracy theory about to play out in the Joi Nunieh movie script?
It is befuddling how Mr President was deceived into allowing a lady with vested interest in NDDC to sit over the same agency where she’s a contractor. How can an offender be a judge in her own case? She is known to have used her company Cyprus and Jenny Limited to secure contract worth N326.3 Million on 29th of November, 2016 for emergency repair of Beeri Internal roads in Khana LGA. This contract was not paid for in the last NDDC administration but as soon as she was made the IMC head, she paid herself, despite the company not having compliance papers.
The CAC search of December 2019 still has her as a director of the company, which is against the public service rule that demands her resignation of any company which she is a director. The interim board since inauguration operates without a budget which is also against the law, but she is Joi Nunieh, a goddess, who is above the law of the land. Self styled as the Esther of Ogoniland, the Acting MD should not be allowed to sit over this forensic audit, with such motley scandal dangling over her head. Her usual cry that those who are against the audit are sponsoring write-ups and protest is a stale tale told to idiots.
Is it Senator Peter Nwaoboshi who sees me as his number one enemy for dragging him before the EFCC and exposing his corrupt practices through the media that she will finger as sponsoring this? She is not only a major beneficiary of the system she seeks to audit but lacks the complete academic prerequisite which ends with going for NYSC to supervise any audit companies.
The law is no respecter of persons and this is what President Muhammadu Buhari must display by telling her to resign like Kemi Adeosun or fire her. If the President could face the pressure from Nigerians to bring his affidavit when he lost his WAEC certificate, a Joi Nunieh should not stay more than month, keeping quiet and telling us to go to hell. She should bring an affidavit if truly she did her NYSC and we will accept it after due diligence.
The board needs someone who has not tasted from the waters of corruption, bitten from the seed of compromise nor bathed from the rivers of ethnicity. Sadly, she is a beneficiary of them all and like Jonah who will cause the ship to sink, she should be let go; go to where she practices her law trade and will not need her NYSC to work, lest her past dealings in HYPREP comes haunting. Let her go, President Buhari.
By Fejiro Oliver
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Opinion

Ban On Okada, Tricycle: Lagosians Express Concerns, Gratitude

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Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

Countless people at bus stop struggling for few available buses, some walking long distance to get to their destination and a sudden increase in traffic on roads have become a common sight in Lagos State since the commencement of restriction on commercial motorcycles, popular as Okada and tricycle also known as Keke NAPEP in the state.

On Saturday, February 1, the Lagos State Government commenced enforcement of restriction on commercial motorcycles and tricycles and has since seized several of them.

The restriction took effect in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 10 major highways across the state.

Okada

  1. A statement by the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso attributed the ban to scary casualty figures from accidents on Lagos roads between 2016 and 2019.

While announcing the decision of the government at the State House in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos on Monday, January 27, Omotosho said: “After a robust assessment of the debate on what has been widely referred to as the motorcycle (Okada) and tricycle (Keke) menace, the Lagos State Government and the State Security Council have decided that the security and safety of lives of Lagosians are paramount.

Spoil

“The figures are scary. From 2016 to 2019, there were over 10,000 accidents recorded at the General Hospitals alone. This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as of date.

“Also, the rate of crimes aided by Okada and Keke keeps rising. They are also used as getaway means by criminals. Therefore, after consultations with stakeholders, the State Security Council, in compliance with the extant Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, has decided to commence enforcement of the law which bans the operation of Okada and Keke in six Local Government Areas and nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).”

Two weeks after the restriction kicked off, there have been mixed feelings about it. While some people have embraced the idea, describing it as timely, others have frowned at it, saying that it was a short-sighted decision.

Reacting to the restriction, Prince Abimbola Sunday Abimbola, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Epe Branch said: “Laws are made for humans and humans make laws to guide them. Beyond sentiment; the menace of Okada riders on the major road is not good enough. If you look at what they do to other road users if you go to hospitals and see the number of amputations recorded per day, banning them on major roads would be considered a good decision. It did not start now, and that is what a lot of people are not acknowledging. There was a law during the government of Babatunde Raji Fashola. Now, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has only enacted it. They relaxed the law and another governor has come to dust it up and implement it. Why is it now that people are making noise, when the law was made, it went through readings in the house, stakeholders were there, so why are people now shouting? As for Gokada, Opay and the likes, they are mature, but of course if you open the door for one, what happens to the others? The law says no bikes, tricycles on the highway, are we now going to relax the law for one, the government would have breached the law if they do that? So, until the law is amended it stands.”

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For Lawyer, Busola Mayegun (not real name), there are two sides to the issue. “There is the good and the bad side. The ban will increase the level of security awareness in the state. Strange looking people are all over Lagos, they could be from Niger Republic or anywhere, but they find their way into Lagos with no record of where they live. Some work as cobblers in the day and sleep in the house where their brothers work as security. And these people have a way of dominating any place they settle in. This could lead to a bad security situation, especially with the Boko Haram menace the country is facing.”

Further, she said: “Aside from this, most of these Hausa people who ride bikes jump on them without training thus endangering the lives of those they carry. There are places where Okada was banned and they have moved on. Okada was banned in Abuja and heaven did not fall, people eventually moved on. People might be complaining of a shortage of buses right now, but they will adapt and move on.

“On the other hand, a lot of people have lost their jobs. We have to also look at the economic angle. Gokada and Keke NAPEP riders who have lost their jobs will want to resort to crime to survive.”

On his part, Dr. Api, a traditional medicine practitioner, whose office is located at Ibeju Lekki, Lagos State welcomed the idea, describing it as timely.

Speaking with Saturday INDEPENDENT, he said: “Do you know the number of people coming into Lagos State daily? Trucks with bikes and riders some of whom are not even Nigerians come into Lagos State and these people easily get integrated into the society either as bike men or cobblers. They do the oddest of jobs, so they easily find something to do. The other day, we saw a report on how the army arrested over 400 people suspected to be militants. They were arrested in Abia State along Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway. People reportedly travelling at 2: am, where were they going? Imagine if these people with sinister motives had found their way into Lagos State, do you know the crime and havoc they would have wrecked? We are all at risk. I am sure that the decision was taken based on intelligence report. So, the development is a positive one.”

There is no doubt that the sensitivity of the state government has been questioned with clamours that an alternative means of transportation ought to have been provided before the ban on Okada and Keke NAPEP.

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However, the state government has described the position as “uninformed criticism” and an attempt to blackmail it, stating that ferries and buses have been provided to ease the difficulty being witnessed by members of the public.

A statement credited to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu stated that over 500 buses would be deployed to the routes listed in the restriction directive as an alternative to ease movement. Gov. Sanwo-Olu also stated that the launching of commercial operations on waterways by Lagos Ferry Service (LAGFERRY) was another programme introduced by the Government to address congestion on the highways.

However, there have been questions regarding the effectiveness of ferry services to transport people going to areas such as Ojodu, Ikeja, Gbagada, Oshodi, all none riverine areas.

“Don’t mind them, they are just telling us that they are the only one who is educated, they are proving that they are the government of the day. How do you restrain bikes and tricycles from roads in Ikeja and Ojodu when you know that it is one of the most effective means of transportation? They said that they have introduced ferries and buses, do the buses ply these routes, can a ferry take me to Ikeja if I reside at Ojodu, did the government consider this?” says an undergraduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye.

Saturday INDEPENDENT’s visit to selected parts of Lagos State such as Ikoyi, Lagos Island, Obalende, Iyana Oworo, and the Mowe axis of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway revealed stranded passengers with most of them walking to their destinations.

The situation is not going to change anytime soon, as the state government has stated that there is no going back on the restriction.

Explaining the decision at an event, Sanwo-Olu said: “I agree it’s a tough decision we made regarding the restriction of Okada and Keke in some parts of Lagos. But I want to say some facts, which people can debate. The restriction that we have done is primarily based on security and safety of lives of residents. We took the decision based on the level of danger we have seen to have happened to our people.

“As a responsible Government, we will not fold our arms and allow Okada riders put our lives in danger. One life is more important to us than all the economic benefits to be made if we allowed them to continue. We understand that investment too can be critical, but keeping people alive and safe is more germane.”

With only a handful of buses noticed on the restricted areas, fares going at almost a hundred percent higher and traffic persisting, there is no denying the fact that Lagosians are in for a very rough time as far as transportation is concerned.

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