Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu was recently on a television programme where he recounted some of the positive steps taken by his administration since May 29 2019, even as he expressed optimism that he would be re-elected governor next year. He also spoke about the EndSARS crisis, security situation, ban on Okada, Amotekun, N50 billion monthly IGR, the Blue and Red rail lines and other issues.
How have you been responding to the security situation in Lagos?
If you look at my THEMES agenda, the last word here is security and governance. So, it’s not something that we’re just waking up to. It was something that we thought of, something that we dreamt, and we knew what to do with it. I was opportune to be the first interim chairman of the security trust fund, and I was part of the board for four years when we set up that in 2008. Therefore, what you see in Lagos, outside of the regular Lagos State Police Command, is that our government has been able to strengthen the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).
We have about 2500 men that are in the RRS. We also have about 500 to 600 men in the task force, apart from the fact that we have access to two or three MOPOL formations in Lagos. Lagos also has over 15 Area Commanders, about 110 Divisional Police Officers (DPO). Therefore, what it means is that, you know, in that small space of 3,650 square kilometres, you have this whole entire gamut of security architecture.
In the last three and a half years, we have also been supporting all the security architecture in the state, not only the police. We’ve given them over 260 vehicles in the last two and a half to three years. We have also extended similar gestures to other security architecture, like the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, and Nigerian Air Force under operation OPMESA. We also support with equipment.
We are not waiting for anybody in ensuring that we do what we need to do in Lagos to make sure that they are motivated, with the required equipment to work with, as well as logistics support, and wherewithal and access to me. Therefore, that is what has helped us to speak to the issues and deal with it in the aspect of architecture. As I said, what we have done is to come out of the regular police architecture to other security agencies in Lagos like NDLEA, Civil Defence Corps, Correctional facilities, Nigerian Immigration Service and the Neighbourhood Watch.
The entire tripod is now activated to see something and say something. This is to ensure that everybody has a responsibility to ensure that whatever is noticed or you observed in our respective neighbourhood is escalated to the appropriate authorities.
You placed a ban on Okada, that is, commercial motorcycles, in some parts of Lagos, citing security reasons. Do you see any more danger in the usage of Okada in Lagos?
On the Okada thing; we have seen tremendous improvement in the areas in which it has been banned. In fact, people have written to me to commend me. Not only are we seeing a drop in issues around security and traffic robberies etc, we do not see people being maimed, cutting of limbs in hospitals again, because these were reckless driving that usually terminates people’s lives unexpectedly. Therefore, we have seen tremendous improvements in that area. In terms of rate of mortality in the last two months, at the peak of it, we were seeing about 550 Okada related accidents per month. Now, it has come down to 100 direct accidents. It has significantly gone down.
People say you did not support the Amotekun security network, which seems to be working in some parts of the South-West, all because of politics. How true?
It (Amotekun) is a great initiative. It is a great idea and I was part of it. I gave them, even the template, in terms of the law. We have the Lagos State Neighbourhood Watch. These almost 7000 men have been trained and energised. They are working on a day-to-day basis in the state.
It is not about the colour of the uniform. It is about efficiency and effective security thing. We believe that almost 7,000 of them are working closely with the Nigerian Police Force. I get important information on a weekly basis in almost all nooks and crannies. You know, they escalate these things to the Nigerian Police. And that’s one of the things that has helped us to be able to directly intervene and meet some of the things that you probably also would not have been aware of because I get the report on a daily basis.
You are spending a lot of money on rail services in Lagos. Are you considering measures to protect the rails from attacks like it happened on the Kaduna-Abuja rail?
We are on our journey to having a rail infrastructure in place by December. It’s on track. This is different from the Kaduna-Abuja rail. This is an intra city rail network. It is not an inter-city, it is not a 200-300 Kilometre rail. This is a 30-35 kilometre city rail infrastructure. What we need to do is to ensure that in each of the train stations, you have sufficient CCTV cameras and keep records properly. Is your payment system something that you can track at the back end? You are not going to come and pay by cash on the counter. You must have a prepaid card and the rest of it. These are some of the things, in our view, that will deter would-be criminally minded people. Secondly, the entire rail tracks are going to be fenced up. We are insulating them from possible attacks. They are going to be walled off. Vehicles are not going to be cutting those rail tracks. We have done bridges in Mushin, Ikeja, Yaba and Apapa road and so that’s the kind of thing that’s also going to happen on the Red Line. The Blue Line from Mile 2 to Orile to National Trade Fair has been walled off completely. We are going to do the same on the red line.
We have the best professionals on our payroll already. We even have a team of police officers that are dedicated on the blue light rail corridor, even before it gets started, to clean up in order to ensure that there are no miscreants. There are also cameras that are going to be installed along the routes. The Blue Line will be up by December, while the Red Line will be on by first quarter of next year, but the entire infrastructure will be ready for the end of the year. Phase One starts from Mile 2 and terminates at Marina. Phase Two will now push you back from Mile 2 all the way to Okokomaiko. For the red line, it starts from Agbado, which is outside Lagos, to Iju – Agege -Oshodi – Mushin- Yaba and Ebute Meta. The phase two of that one will get out to Marina sometime in the future.
You promised that you are going to fix Apapa gridlock. What happened?
I can boldly say that I have fixed Apapa gridlock. NPA has written letters to commend us. All of the major businesses in Apapa have equally written. I get daily video recording of what is happening in Apapa.
What used to take two hours, three hours now takes people 15-20 minutes. But what is the remainder of the problem? The Federal Government is doing the route from Sunrise in MTN from the Mile 2 end and going towards Apapa. That is a portion that has not been completed; I think it is a stretch not more than a kilometre. So that stretch needs to be completed for you to have a complete clean-up of it. However, we still have trailers on some of these routes. In the system that NPA has set up, which is actually working, there’s been a lot of sabotage. Then they do not have enough trailer parks that can take these trucks off the road. We’re building one for them by Orile. We have signed a concession with someone, which is to relieve about 2000-2500 off the road. Secondly, inside of the terminals themselves, Apapa port and Tincan, when they call trailers to come, maybe like 200 to 300, they need to have enough space in their facility to be able to take those 200. These are the conversations that we are trying to clean up with them. But in terms of the real blockades where citizens or residents or businesses cannot access Apapa, we have done a good job.
What are you doing in terms of water transportation?
One third of the state is water, by the way. In the last three years, we have built 15 terminals concurrently. As I speak, seven are ready. Liverpool, Ijegun Egba, Ilashe, Ita Omu, and two in Badagry are ready. The others are about 60-70 per cent ready. It is open for mass transportation and to the private sector.
Have you been able to quench the anger from the ENDSARS protest?
It is a work in progress. Everybody will have one thing that they want or the other. If you look at the generality of our citizens who are young people, they feel us. We have trained over 400,000 people in digital skills alone in Lagos, because that is what they want. I have enabled many people with LASRIC, Lagos State Science, Research and Innovation Council, where we are giving them grants on innovation on technology. Time heals. In the last few years, people are more discerning. We are not taking anybody for granted and we are not taking anything to chance. Conversations are going on and what they want is not about what has happened, it is about what government is doing to improve the lot of each one of us. It is about what opportunity this person has given to us as young people and given us a space for us to be able to flourish, and get to the highest level of whatever profession we will find ourselves. In addition, that is the conversation we are having.
That is what we are doing. Take my cabinet for instance. My Commissioner for Finance is 34, my Commissioner for Agriculture is 38, and the Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology is 33.
We understand that Lagos IGR is in the region of N50 billion per month. The question is, what do you have to show for it?
What we have to show for it is that on a monthly basis, I manage the emergency of the city. Today alone, four emergencies have been reported. I have recruited over 650 newly recruited fire service men. I have bought 64 brand new trucks, and I will invite you for its commissioning.
I spent over a billion to take off the refuse in Lagos. We are creating a sanitary landfill site. That is what we are doing. We are building 16 to 18 kilometres of rigid pavement route that runs to tens of billions. We are building the biggest market in the country in Lagos. That is what we are doing.
Do you think Lagosians will vote for you to get back in office?
They have seen the experience. At 3am, whom would you call? A man that has experience, that has been there, that his hands have been dirty and has rolled off his sleeves to keep the biggest city in the country a safer city, the city that gives the best opportunity on a continuous basis for three years. That is Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
The PDP governorship candidate has picked a popular Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele as running mate. Do you see that as a threat?
As I said, if you have an emergency at 3am, whom would you call? What are your chances? Do you call the man that understands what the issues are, appreciates what challenges you have at that 3am, even give you a chance?
Or would you give the chance to someone that does not even know where the dial is, or what the issues of governance are? This is Lagos. This is an informed audience. This is not a tea party. We are talking about real governance. We are talking of life of over 20 million Nigerians, bigger than the economy of Ghana and Kenya. Lagos itself is a country. It is not a circus. It is a real thing. I do not want to disparage anyone. I have the greatest respect for all of the candidates that have emerged and the candidates of the particular party you are talking about.
How do you even begin to start? What were the pedigrees? You do not run a business that has hundreds of people, you want to run an economy that has this number of people? The governance of Lagos is not a trial-and-error stuff.