By Lukman Olabiyi
Mr Gbenga Omotoso, a communication expert and current Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State, has said that Lagosians would not only vote for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his second term re-election bid, but would also vote massively so that he can win with wider margin at the forthcoming general elections in 2023.
In this interview, Omotoso bared it all on the administration of Governor Sanwo-Olu, revealing his giant strides in the state.
He said that the good work of the governor in Lagos State would speak for him at the poll. Excerpt:
With the current state of things in Lagos State, is the state making progress?
What is currently happening in Lagos today goes beyond progress. Let me take you back some few days before now, Mr Governor said considering the situation of things all over the world, inflation rate, rise in prices of good and services and
disruption in supply chains, everything tight all over the world. Scarcity of gas supply occasioned by Ukraine, Russia war, among others; he felt it was time to for us to raise the salary of civil servants so that one will not wait for them till they start to complain by threatening to go on strike before doing that, he said we are doing this because this is Lagos and we are in Lagos. It shows that Lagos is making progress. He is saying people should be excited because the gesture will put more money in their pockets and this will have effect on those offering goods and services and the general economy of Lagos. Considering the welfare of workers and infrastructural project done in Lagos, I think Lagos is making steady progress.
There are insinuations in some quarters that the salary increment is political gimmick, what is your reaction?
First, let us say that no matter what percentage we are talking about, if it’s not zero per cent, I think anyone that is putting more money into your pocket now is doing you a world of good. He is saying that we appreciate the service you’re providing and despite the fact that thing are so hard you’re still carrying on and you are putting smiles on the faces of Lagosians who are coming to the government offices. No matter how low or high the percentage may be I think the symbolism is that at this particular time, Mr Governor feels that workers deserve a raise and he has pronounced it. And if you listen to him very well, he said he has instructed the office of the Head of Service, Establishment, State Treasury Office to come together to look at the these and see what the numbers are and see how we can go, but that workers are now going to have a pay rise is a forgone conclusion. I think the whole world is hailing him for doing that, but if people are now saying it is for political reasons, let so many people in position of authority also do so for political reason and raise salary. What people are looking for is someone who recognises the fact that they are toiling and that they deserve what they are getting, so whether it’s politics or not they don’t care and I feel that is the spirit that we all have to see in the gesture that Mr Governor has made.
Transportation in Lagos State has gone sour following the ban of commercial motorcycling (Okada ban), what’s your reaction?
The Okada matter is emotional and troubling matter because considering the progress we have made in Lagos, we are still talking on ban of Okada, but that is the situation we have found ourselves. The Okada when it was first pronounced, Mr Governor said it was going to be a phased ban because we do not want people to start complaining that we are taking their means of livelihood without giving them something in replacement, or that their means of transportation is taken away from them or an action that is targeted at a group of people. We want people to see it as an action targeted at making Lagos safe and good for all of us. It’s not that we are saying that those areas that the ban has not covered, that it will not get there, it’s a question of time, because we have stated it that Okada is not on the transportation plan that we have for Lagos, but because people are saying that it is a means of livelihood for some people and we are also trying to convince them that when you have clash of a livelihood and lives that you have to choose lives. And most Lagosians have chosen lives because so many have been coming that they don’t want Okada in thier areas. It’s not the government alone that is seeing this big pictures that we are talking about, the danger to lives, safety and security that Okada constitute, so, it’s not just that Okada will be allowed a free reign in Lagos, that they can ride anywhere they like, where they have been asked not to go, they shouldn’t go there, and at a point in time, all of us should have it in mind that a decision will be taken about them. We are happy that the rate of accident has slowed down and the number of crimes that people are committing through Okada has reduced. The result of ban of Okada in 10 local government areas has been yielding fruits and the compliance level has been encouraging.
Enforcement is not easy, but the police and community leaders have also helped to improve the situation.
What about traffic gridlock, shortage of first and last miles buses?
When you think about getting to somewhere fast, and you see your leg hangs somewhere in the hospital, that is not good, government wants Lagosians to commute in decent buses that make you leave your cars at home to go and ride. The first and last miles buses, by the last count, we have pushed out 400, though government promised 500. Any moment from now the 100 buses will be released to the system, in terms of security, you have to put necessary gadgets in it, that is what caused the delay. Traffic situation; there are over 9,000 roads in Lagos, there is no way government can fix all roads in three years, we will continue to fix all of the roads through the public works, but the most critical thing about traffic is the human element part, people don’t obey the rules. If we can obey the rules there is no way we will have traffic, people don’t want to use the layby to drop passengers, once we remove the human element, the traffic will reduce drastically.
There is also increment in BRT fares and shortage of buses?
Government considered the fact that there was enough notice, the governor had to do that because most of the buses run on diesel and the prices just went through the roof and there was no way they could cope. BRT services is for profit making, because if you’re talking about profit and you give it to private sector people who want to charge appropriate rates, many Lagosians will not be able to afford them.
What’s the progress on alternative means of transportation in Lagos?
We are building the infrastructure for the Blue line Rail system that will take passengers from Marina to Mile 2. We also have the Redline that will convey passengers from Oyingbo to Agabado, both of them will be ready at the end of this year.
Few days ago, we saw the trains for the Redline arrived at the port, that shows that rail project that we are working on is an alternative that we are talking about and it’s a linkage among all models of transportation. If you check the records you will see that more people are now using our waterways because they have seen that it’s safe and faster and we now have more routes and we are also building more water jetties, in Badagry, Ikorodu and other divisions of the state.
People are saying that road construction and rehabilitation in Lagos State has slowed down, what’s your view on this?
If anybody thinks things have slowed down in the area of road maintenance, the person is not right.
Public Works Corporation works 24 hours; day and night and people attest to this through feedback that we are getting. If you get on the social media, you will see where our agency are working and how they are swiftly intervening to potholes across the state. If anybody says they are doing that because of political campaigns have started, the person may be a politician.
What’s the update on Lagos and Ogun MoU, what has been the gains so far?
It is not everything that government does that it puts on the pages of the newspaper or television.
When we had a crisis on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Lagos was there to clear the blockage that we had on our roads, it was a security matter too when they said people were being threatened on that road, and Lagos and Ogun security officers joined hands to ensure that the place is safe till date. Also in the area of traffic we are doing a lot together to ensure it was cleared, we have a smooth ride on that road now.
The Adiyan water works is also there, they have an agreement that Ogun will support Lagos to complete the project and some Ogun State communities that are supposed to get money from Lagos State because of their property that will be affected by the construction along that corridor, are saying they should be given water and not money. Don’t forget the road from Ijebu-Ode to Epe has been completed and we are doing our own too from Lekki-Epe expressway, we also have another link road in Ota, in Ogun State. You will see that the commission is working, especially in the security aspect.
How many projects are waiting for commissioning?
We have over 30 schools to be commissioned, we also have housing projects to be commissioned before the end of the year and jetties are also included.
In the past there used to be town hall meetings, where Lagosians communicate with Mr Governor directly, what happened?
It is not that the town hall meetings are dead, it’s seasonal it’s just that its season hasn’t come. Remember, immediately after the slow down of COVID-19, Mr Governor was in Ikorodu and Ajeromi and this kind of interaction took place and it was supposed to continue, but other things crept in. The interaction between the government and the people is still on, but not in its usual format.
Can you boastful say that Lagosians will vote for Governor Sanwo-Olu for second term?
Considering the way Lagosians view all that he has done, over 1,049 school projects, 635 road fixed, thousand of teachers who have been trained in Lagos through Eko Excell and if you go to our hospitals now, they have been upgraded, for the first time we are building a new General Hospital in Ojo Local Government, we have Oba Sekunmade Road in Ikorodu, Buba Marwa roads, Food Hub in Ketu/ Ejinrin, Mental Health Center, that we will be commissioning before the end of the year, Lagosians are people who appreciate good job. If you go and ask about street credibility of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, they will tell you it’s very solid. I believe Lagosians will tell Mr Sanwo-Olu that you have done well.
What is the payment of taxes in Lagos like?
Let me just thank Lagosians that are paying theirs taxes, people always talk about Lagos being very rich and what are you doing with the money? Lagos has about 6 million tax payers out of about 25 million population and of this 6 million, only 4.2 million are active tax payers. And most of them are from what you get from LIRS, people who are working for companies and their taxes are being deducted from their pay, we call them pay-as-you-earn. That is where the bulk of the tax is coming from. There are still so many big people who don’t pay taxes in Lagos and there are so many companies that try to dodge taxes, but LIRS is working to see that their tax net is expanded to see that those that are supposed to pay are paying. It will be nice to know that many Lagosians are coming up by themselves to seek information on how to pay taxes, because they have seen the projects that the government is doing with the tax collected. I feel a lot can still be done to bring more people into the tax net.
How far on Lagos CCTV project?
The smart city project will allow the laying of the cables which will boost the technology and the Close Circuit Cameras (CCTV) can be more functional and Internet can be faster so that everything that needs to be done to enable communication can be easier.
What’s your message to Lagosians?
Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is quite appreciative of their support and he is never going to take it for granted and they should continue to support him.
He has the interest of the people at heart and his own is that Lagosians must be happy and Lagos must be put in the right place as the pride of the back man and that Lagos will continue to succeed so that all of us all over the world we can be proud that we have a state that is economically stable, with true leadership, leadership that loves the people and anytime he calls on them to do one thing or the other for him they are going to back him.