•Excitement as Ambode meets Oto-Awori residents
By Kehinde Aderemi
Millions of people residing in some of the rural communities in Lagos State were handed some good news last week and, since then, many of such rural dwellers and vulnerable persons have been exulting, raising their voices to God in thanksgiving.
On Friday last week, Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, led top government functionaries in the state to the Shibiri/Ekunpa area office in Oto-Awori Local Council Development Area (LCDA) at Ojo. The event was the second quarterly town hall meeting of the year and the seventh in the series introduced by the current administration in the state. The meetings usually afford members of the communities a chance to ask questions directed at the governor and get immediate answers from him. The governor also uses the opportunity to personally explain the programmes, policies and plans of his administration to residents of the various communities.
Incidentally, Ojo, venue of last week’s meeting, is the hometown of Dr. (Mrs.) Idiat Adebule, deputy governor of Lagos State.
In his opening remarks, Governor Ambode said he was excited to be in Oto-Awori to get first-hand information on the needs of the community and how his administration could respond to such needs. He reiterated his promise that no community would be left behind in the quest of his administration to ensure all-round development of the state.
The floor was then thrown open to members of the community. Community leaders, traditional rulers, market women, youth leaders and party leaders in the area raised a number of issues, and many got their queries attended to right at the forum.
A community leader informed the governor of the lack of adequate health facilities in the area, noting that the nearest general hospital was in Alimosho area.
In his response, Ambode assured the audience that plans had been concluded to construct three new general hospitals in the state this year, adding that Ojo would host one of such facilities.
The governor disclosed that his government was making efforts to improve health care delivery in the riverine communities in Oto-Awori. He said his administration was appreciative of the support from residents of the area over the years.
His words: “This area is traditionally and historically known to be a major supporter of government and then we must give them back for the support, which they have always been known for.”
Another resident implored the government to rehabilitate the access roads linking the area to the Alimosho General Hospital, which was the major health facility close to the area. And the governor directed the Lagos State Public Works Corporation to fix the roads immediately.
He expressed displeasure that so many road projects across the state had been abandoned by the contractors handling them and ordered such contractors to return to site immediately. He warned that his government would not hesitate to terminate their contracts.
Ambode noted that: “If we were able to do a link bridge in 11 months, if we were able to do the Ajah flyover in 13 months and the Abule Egba flyover in 13 months, and we are going to commission all of them next month, how can these roads be there forever? So, obviously, we should use the same spirit of delivering service to do all the outstanding roads. The Ministry of Works must go back to these sites. I must know what is going on within the next few days.”
He listed some of the abandoned roads to include Mile 10 Road, Mowo Road, Tedi Road, Ilaje Road, Goriola Oseni Road, Sabo Mosafejo Road and Imude Orisa Road, where the contractor covered just 1.5km of the road.
“These are contracts already awarded; it’s for our own contractors to go there and finish the job, so the responsibility is on us to make sure (we) deliver these roads within the shortest possible time,” he said.
Another resident, who complained about the lack of potable water in the area, also got a heart-warming response from the governor. Ambode said he had directed that all the 41 mini waterworks facilities across the state should be functional within the next 12 weeks.
Similarly, a representative of physically-challenged persons in the area lamented that the authorities were marginalising persons living with disabilities. In his response, Ambode directed the Civil Service Commission and the Local Government Civil Service Commission to ensure the employment of at least 250 physically-challenged persons into the state civil service. He also ordered the chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission to offset all arrears of allowances owed physically-challenged athletes in the state before the end of the week.
While recalling some of the achievements of his government in the recent past, Ambode declared that the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps was launched and provided with equipment to assist the police in combating illegal activities within the state. He said through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, N1.7 billion was approved as loans to 1,400 businesses, noting that N1.2 billion has already been disbursed to 800 people.
“By the end of this month, loans to another 1,000 businesses will be approved, taking the total loans approved above 2,000. To further serve Lagos residents, the fund will soon open the application process for skills development and training to help our unemployed youths take up existing jobs within the Lagos economy. I urge you to visit the fund’s website or their liaison offices in the local governments to apply for their various programmes,” the governor said.
Ambode also informed the gathering that the 167-hectare Songhai Model Farm in Avia-Igborosun, Badagry, was already being upgraded to encourage organic agriculture and train residents interested in agribusiness for local consumption or export. He explained that 540 fishermen across the state also received training in the recent past.
One of the community leaders in Oto-Awori urged the state government to utilise the 300 hectares of arable land in the area, even as the governor said he would soon lead a team of experts to the area to assess the land.
According to Ambode, a number of on-going projects and new ones, including the construction of 181 new roads across the 57 local governments and local council development areas, would not be abandoned: “Furthermore, we will commence the development of Heritage Centre for Leadership (Presidential Lodge), Lagos History Centre, J.K. Randle Centre, transformation of the Onikan Museum, development of tourism hubs in Lagos-West and Lagos-East, construction of six cultural theatres in Alimosho, Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu, Ikeja and Lagos Mainland, and continuation of Epe and Badagry waterfront development.”
Alhaji Abimbola Suraju, a market leader, lauded the governor for the visit to Oto-Awori.
“I want to sincerely thank Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for bringing this town hall meeting to Oto-Awori. I never believed that this place would host the governor and his cabinet members in my lifetime. Before now they would always ask us to come to Ikeja. But this time, they are here in our own community,” he said.