•Relives battle against Okada, pin-down tactic
•’How I fixed Apapa gridlock’
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu speaks, in this interview, on the October 2020 #ENDSARS protests in Lagos State almost two years after, insecurity, achievements and his re-election chances next year. Excerpts:
Security in Lagos, what are the proactive measures in place?
Security is the bedrock of good governance because what we preach is that we want to ensure that we save the lives of the people; properties and life. These were some of the things that we campaigned on. And if you look at my THEMES agenda, the last letter there ‘S’ stands for security and good governance.
So, it is not something that we are just waking up to; it was something that we thought of and something we dreamt of and we knew we wanted to deal with. But to answer your question is to look at the security architecture in Lagos. I was opportune to be the first Interim Chairman of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund and I was part of the Board for four years after we set up the fund in 2008.
So, what you see in Lagos outside of the regular Police Command is that our government has been able to strengthen the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). In fact, we have about 2,500 men in the Rapid Response Squad. We also have about 500 to 600 men in the Taskforce apart from the fact that we have access to about two or three MOPOL formations in Lagos. Lagos also has about 15 Area Commanders and about 110 Divisional Police Officers.
So, what it means is that in that small space of 3,650 square kilometers you have this whole entire garment of security architecture.
We have three layers of intervention in Lagos. The regular police in the event of day-to-day issue that everybody wants to relate to, but when you have a tactical intervention, the men of the RRS are usually the ones that you see coming out first.
And when it has to do with direct intervention from the Governor’s Office, then you can also see the men of the Taskforce. So, in the last three years, we have also been supporting all the security architecture in the state. We have given them over 260 vehicles in the last three years. We have also extended similar gesture to other security agencies: Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force under a programme called OP MESA.
So with all of that, they continue to speak to each other on a panel of state security and we continue to also support them on equipment because we know security is not cheap. We make sure that they are motivated, they have the equipment to work with, they have logistics support and they have access to me. That is what has helped us pretty much to be able to speak to the issue and deal with it when they do occur in the terms of the architecture.
What we have also now done is coming out of the regular police formation, to also extend this same security architecture to other security agencies in Lagos: NDLEA, Civil Defense Corps, Correctional Center, Nigerian Immigration Service and, of course, the Neighborhood Watch that we also have. We need to share information. If you observe something, escalate it and we are also taking it to the citizens. Our CDCs and CDAs are people that have been working with us. They have over 1,100 of them in various associations and these are the people that we take intelligence from.
We have seen tremendous improvement in the areas where Okada has been banned. In fact people have written to me to say that “not only have we seen a drop in issues around security, robbery in cars and traffic robbery, but we have also seen a significant drop in accidents”.
It has dropped in the last two months. We saw about 550 Okada-related accidents at the peak of it in January/February per month, but now, it has come down to less than 100, direct Okada accidents that we have seen in our hospitals.
There is also a reduction in a robbery in traffic; it has significantly gone down. One of the things we also tell RRS is the need to have a lot of pin-down positions because it is with Okada they use to do all the maneuverings. So, they do a lot of pin-down and pedestrian monitoring. They just need to park and walk around, make sure people can see them and can feel them.
It is a great initiative. I was part of it and I commend my colleagues for this. But this is what we forgot. I gave them the template for Amotekun in terms of the law. We have Lagos State Neighborhood Watch; these are almost 7,000 men that have been trained, energized and working on a day-to-day basis in the state. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Today (last Sunday), I have been on the road. I went on the Red Line rail inspection. I started the journey from Agege and all the way to Ebute Meta with six stations and four bridges/overpasses. Our journey to ensure that we have a rail infrastructure ready in Lagos State by December is on track. This is different from the Kaduna-Abuja rail because this is an intra-city rail network. It is not a 200-kilometer rail; this is a 30-35 kilometers in a city rail infrastructure.
So, what you need to do is to ensure that in each of your train stations, you have sufficient CCTV cameras and documentary of who has come into the station and you also have scanners when people are going to board the train. How do you record the movement of people so that you have a robust counting system? How is your payment system? Is your payment system something that you can track at the back end? We are putting a payment system that is cash-less; you are not going to come and pay cash on the counter. You must have a prepaid card and the rest of it. So these are some of the things in our view that will deter would-be criminally minded people because they would not be passengers. That is one.
Secondly, the entire rail tracks are going to be fenced off. They are going to be walled off. We are building vehicular bridges in the stations and insulating people from possible attacks. We are even insulating vehicles; vehicles are not going to cross on the rail track. We have done bridges in Ikeja-Along, Mushin, Yaba and even the difficult one, the old Apapa Road; we are doing a bridge there. So, vehicles will go on top, passengers will go on top and have the opportunity to do a complete wall off of the rail tracks.
If you go on the Blue Line from Mile 2 to Orile to National Arts Theatre, that is being walled off completely and so that is the kind of thing that is going to happen on the Red Line. Once that is done and you have sufficient security monitoring, as people are coming into the stations and they are getting out, if anything happens, you can also go back and check it.
We have the best professionals on our payroll already and we have thought through the entire end-to-end possibilities of things that can happen. We even have a team of policemen that are dedicated to the Blue Line rail corridor even before it gets started to clean up and to ensure that there are no miscreants and hoodlums on that entire corridor.
We are being very creative in our financing. A lot of our budget is there but we are very creative with the loan. The loan is a single-digit opportunity there. We got the loan from local banks in Nigeria.
Apapa gridlock, has it been fixed?
I have fixed Apapa gridlock and there is no apology for that. What we have done, even Nigeria Port Authority wrote to commend us; all of the major businesses in Apapa also wrote to us.
I get a daily video recording of what is happening in Apapa between 7 am and 9 am, and between 1 pm and 3 pm. What (journey) used to take two to three hours now takes 15 to 20 minutes.
But the remainder of the problem, we are doing the road from Sunrise, Mile 2 end going towards Apapa and that is the portion that has not been completed. I think it is a stretch of not more than a kilometer. However, you still have trailers on some of these roads and why so? You have trailers because the ETO system that NPA had set up is actually working but there has been a lot of sabotage. That is number one.
Number two is that they do not have enough trailer parks that can take the articulated trucks off the road. We are building one in Orile for which we have signed a concession with someone. It is supposed to take about 2,000 to 2,500 trucks off the road.
So, one of the things we said is that if you have an effective call-up system, what you should do is that if your truck has not been called, you don’t have any business coming into the Apapa area. That is the only thing that has not been fully implemented.
Also, inside of the terminals themselves, Apapa and Tincan Island ports, when they ask trailers to come, maybe about 200, they need to have enough space in their facilities to be able to take those 200 inside their facilities and not leave them on the road. Those are the conversations that we are trying to clean up with them.
Once you give instruction and you said at 9 am, I want 200 containers trailers to move, you must ensure that you have enough facilities in your terminal to be able to take all the 200 of them off the road and put them in your facility so that once they take their containers or drop their containers they can leave.
Those are the little challenges that we need to finalise with them but in terms of the real blockages where citizens, residents or businesses cannot access Apapa, we have done a good job.
On EndSARS recovery process
There are two sides to it. I would say that we have recovered psychologically from it but we are still working out the infrastructural recovery because infrastructure is not something that you fix in one day, so the infrastructural renewal is still an ongoing budgetary allocation. For example, regarding the major court in Lagos, the Igbosere High Court, we are developing a 15-storey edifice that will take about 60 courts.
That is the kind of imposing structure that we are bringing back to the Igbosere High Court and this will take time. But in terms of the psychology of it, I believe that my citizens and I are out of it. We have learned and understood the lessons of it. It was a collateral damage that you know that we had nothing to do with but that it is what it is.
EndSARS movement is likely to affect the new political wave in the country. Are you shaken by that?
Time heals. In the last two years, people are more discerning; people can indeed see the reality of a one-day perception and a one-year or two-year perception. We are not taking anybody for granted and we are not leaving anything to chance. Conversations are going on and what they want is not about what has happened, it is about what is this government doing to improve the lots of each and every one of us.
It is about what opportunity this guy is giving to us as young people and the space he is giving us to be able to flourish and get to the highest level of whatever profession we have found ourselves and that is the conversation that we are having. And that is what we are doing. If you come to my cabinet, my Commissioner for Finance is 34; my Commissioner for Agriculture is 38 and my Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology is 33. They run the show.
Quenching the effect, anger from the #EndSARS…
It is work in progress. Everybody would have one thing that they want or the other. But if you look at the generality of my citizens, who are young people, they understand and feel us.
I have trained over 400,000 people in digital skills alone in Lagos; that is what they want. I have enabled a lot of people with LASRIC (Lagos State Science, Research and Innovation Council). We are giving them grants for innovation and technology. We are not asking for money.
Don’t you think that could affect your re-election?
We are not giving anything to chance. It is a work in progress and we are ensuring that we are talking to all stakeholders. We are asking, is your life like it was two-three years ago? Lagos came out of COVID, nobody talks about that. We take it for granted.
It has been a very difficult time for government and you know what, we saved this nation. I lost people. My deputy governor lost his brother. I lost a senator and member of the Lagos State House of Assembly but we saved the nation. We came out of it stronger, bigger and bolder.
Are you willing to debate the issue of Lagos with anybody running against you in 2023?
It is not a trial and error; you need to hit the ground from day one running. I know the names of all my 65 Permanent Secretaries. I know their ministries. I know what their pedigrees are. I have worked through it and I have learned through it.
So, you think you are the man Lagosians should vote for…
I believe that we have earned it and not just because we are talking about it, it is because we have done it.
Since your leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, became the presidential candidate of APC, there have been talks about what he has done in Lagos as governor for 8 years. In fact, there was a debate about the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), how Tinubu met it and how it is now. We understand it is about 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 this city. Today (last Sunday) alone, there have been four emergencies reported. I have recruited over 650 fire service men.
I have bought 64 brand new trucks that I will invite you for the commissioning. I spent over a billion to take off refuse in Lagos. We are building 16, 18 kilometers of rigid pavement road that run to tens of billions. We are building the biggest market in the country in Lagos.
So, you are telling Lagosians that their money is working and not in the hands of a third party…
Absolute not; you can see and feel it. You and I need to go on a tour round. You have stayed out of this city long enough. Governance at this stage in the life of this nation cannot be a child’s play, especially in Lagos. And by the way, whatever figure we have and you see now, we actually can triple those figures because the opportunity is there.
• Interview first aired on Channels TV