Lagos money not in the hands of third parties – Sanwo-Olu

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In a recent national television interview, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, reeled out his numerous achievements in the last three and half years. He also spoke about the forthcoming 2023 general elections, the economy of Lagos State and a number of issues affecting the state. Below are excerpts from the interview:

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You had a meeting with some security chiefs in Lagos and you assured all Lagosians that all is well. With the recent security threats that have exposed not only Lagos but the nation, what are the proactive measures put in place to stop elements who want to infiltrate the state?

Security is seen as the bedrock of any 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 campaign on. And if you look at my THEMES agenda, the last word there which is ‘S’ is 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 when we set up the fund in 2008.

So, what you see in Lagos outside of the regular Lagos State Police Command is that our government has been able to strengthen the Rapid Respond Squad. In fact, we have about 2,500 men that are in Rapid Respond Squa.

We also have about 500 to 600 men in the Taskforce apart from the fact that we have access to about two to 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 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 collaborating with them. We are asking you, is your life like it was two-three years ago”

The EndSARS scenario gave Lagos out on how porous Lagos could be when you had people who had infiltrated. Are there things that we do not see or we cannot see that are available that you have in gathering intelligence?

I will not go into details to say this is the specific place where the cameras are but we are working with the Department of State Security, which has a primary rule for intelligence. They are the ones that comb the nooks and crannies. I get telephone calls and text messages almost on a daily basis that I share with them; in this area, we notice some movement in the bush, in this area we noticed some scrupulous people in an abandoned building, in this area, we think the movement here doesn’t speak to what we know in this neighborhood.

So, Neighborhood Watch also picks all of these. Like what I said intelligence is from the grassroots; from the CDC, CDA to the Neighborhood Watch and now to security formation and the Department of the State Security who goes around the city. That is still been physical but in terms of technology, you are aware that we are deploying our Smart City intervention in the state.

We are about the one that is doing it aggressively and to date, we are installing close to 2,000 CCTV cameras all around the city. We are turning some of them into traffic management. We are using some of them for traffic control but when there is a need, we also can review security activity. We are just building a new data centre for this kind of implementation but I cannot begin to give the full details because it is also security and we are going to make this available to the Department of State Security so that they also can review some of these things and can also access them. It is a work in a pack and it is something that citizens need to be reassured of.

Is the commanding control centre that used to be in Ikeja still there
Yes, it is still there.

Does it still have the facilities because I have had to report security at some point in Lagos and I have been taken on a tour of that facility that you can almost see the whole of Lagos on one screen?

I built that facility when I was the chairman of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, so I know everything we put in there. We need to retool a few things, which we are currently doing. We have actually changed the orientation and the location of the place but beyond all of that in our ministry, we are building a new data room; a new data centre that would be specific for security. It is coming into the system already. We have got a shipment of about 21 containers that arrived about two months ago. So, all those deployments are happening gradually and we have spent a lot of money. We are not just waiting for anybody to help us out.

Lagos is very central as the commercial nerve of the country and Lagos needs to be secured. Talking about physical security, you did a ban on Okada (motorcycles), which security is one of the reasons. Are you sticking to that or extending it further?

We have seen tremendous improvement in the areas in which okada has been banned. In fact people have written to me to commend, 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. We don’t see people being lame, cutting off limps in our hospitals again because these were reckless driving that usually terminates people’s life unexpectedly. So, we have seen tremendous improvement in that area.

Do you have a statistic to support that?

It has dropped in the last two months. We have seen 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 from 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 of the maneuverings. So, they do a lot of pin-down and pedestrian monitoring. They just need to pack and walk around, make sure people can see them and can feel them. These are some of the things happening around the city.

You have been criticised perhaps as the only governor in the whole of the South West region that downplayed the role of Amotekun Security Network, which some have said has worked very well in other parts of the region and the reason they speculate is that of politics. Will you be considering activating the security outfit, which was considered a great answer to solving security problems in the South West region?

It is a great initiative and a great idea. 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 a Lagos State Neighborhood Watch; these are almost 7,000 men that have been trained, energised and working on a day-to-day in the state. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

“CBN"

So that is Lagos Amotekun?

Yes that is Lagos Amotekun. They know and they also appreciate it. We supported all of the equipment they need and they asked all of us to buy. I have continued to participate in that space. It is the template of even how we set it up that we passed around our neighboring state and that is what everybody has copied. There is nothing in the colour of the uniform, it is how efficient and effective the security is and we believe that the Neighborhood Watch almost 7,000 of them are working closely with the Nigerian Police. On a weekly basis, I get a report in almost all nooks and crannies and they escalate these things to the Nigerian Police Force and that is one of the things that have helped us to be able to directly intervene and nip some of those things that you probably won’t be aware of.

You are spending a lot of money on rail services in Lagos and the question is how secure will those be as a proactive measure? In your development of rail services in Lagos, are you considering measures to protect the rails from attacks?

Coincidentally, today (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. The crew of Channels Television was with us on that journey. Our journey to ensure that we have a rail infrastructure ready in Lagos State by December is on track; it is on budget and we will meet those deadlines.

This is different from the Kaduna-Abuja rail because this is an intra-city rail network; is not an inter-city. It is not the 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 in into the station and ensure that you also have scanners when people are going to board the train. How do you record the movement of people so that you can have a well 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 cashless; you are not going to come and pay by 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, it 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.

When will the project be flagged off?

The blue line will happen first by December, the red line would be the first quarter of next year. But all of the infrastructures, hard infrastructure would be ready before the end of the year. The blue line infrastructure is almost ready. The blue line infrastructures are far slightly ahead of the red line. The difference is that the red line was conceived by our administration and we are really excited that we are completing it within our first tenure.

Where do the blue line and red line start and where do they terminate?

Phase one of the blue line, which is what we finish will start from Mile 2 and terminate at Marina. Marina is the iconic station for the blue line. Phase Two of it will now push you back from Mile 2 and go all the way to Okokomaiko. The beauty of Phase Two is that it is at the grid, meaning it is at ground level. There is no overhead, it is not a building like the one in Marina that is like a bridge, so it is going to be faster and quicker for us and the corridor is there to lay the tracks and be able to finish it. For Phase One, we are going to start five stations from Mile 2 to Marina. We believe there is enough traffic on it.

For the Red line, it starts from Agbado, which is out sketch of Lagos to Iju to Agege to Oshodi to Mushin to Yaba to Ebute Meta. It starts from Agbado all the way to Ebute Meta in the first instance. Phase Two of that incidentally, we want to do a lagoon crossing and get on to Marina at some time in the future. And outside of those two, we have four other lines that we are doing extensive visibility study on. We have committed huge resources. We need to do a viability and visibility study on them and they should be ready before the end of the year and we have seen both local and international investors who are ready because we have actually demonstrated this as a sub-national. We are the only sub-national anywhere in the world that is doing a rail by itself. People talked about Kenya and Ethiopia. Go and ask, it is sovereign that is doing the rail in Ethiopia; it is not the city of Addis Ababa.

But you are doing this on loan.

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, but with a low single-digit, you can’t get it anywhere.

Where did you get it from?

From local banks in Nigeria; I am extremely very impressive with them. We are all stakeholders and they are with us in the Lagos journey.

Talking about development, has Lagos recovered from the aftermath of the EndSARS?

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 would 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 at once. 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 myself, are out of it. We have learned and understood the learning and lessons of it. It was collateral damage that you know that we had nothing to do with it but that it is what it is.

Young people and the metropolitan residents of Lagos are darlings of #EndSARS. You have heard them debating over this and probably will have the understanding of the young people who are talking tough about how the #EndSARS movement will 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 taking 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 giving us the space for 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.

Have you been able to effectively quench the anger from the #EndSARS?

It is a 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 the 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, which is 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 in any way?

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 collaborating with them. We are asking you, 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 the 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.

“Governance at this stage in the level 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”

Do you think Lagosians will vote for you to get back in office?

They feel the experience. At 3 am who will you call; a man that has the experience, that has been there, that his hands have been dirty, that rolled up his sleeves to keep this city safe; the biggest city in the country and it is the safest city. It is the city that gives you the best opportunity on a continuous basis for three years.

Is that you?

That is Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.

The Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate, Olajide Adediran, has picked a popular Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele as a running mate and that is causing some kind of wave in Lagos State. He knows a lot about your party because he left APC. Do you see that as a threat in any way?

Like I said, if you have an emergency at 3 am, who would you call, what are your chances? Will you call a man that has the experience that has gone through the trenches before, that has lived with it, that understands what the issues are and that appreciates what challenge you have even at that 3 am? Or will you leave your chance to someone that doesn’t know where the dial is and does not know what the issue of governance is?

This is Lagos, this is an informed audience. This is not a tea party. We are talking of real governance and the lives of over 20 million Nigerians bigger than the economy of Ghana and the economy of Kenya, which in itself is a country. It is not a circus, it is a real thing.

And I don’t want to spite anyone because I have respect for all of the candidates that have emerged and the candidate of the particular party you are talking about. How do you even begin to start? What was the pedigree? You have not run a business that has 100 people; you want to run an economy that has this number of people. The governance of Lagos is not a trial and error.

Are you willing to debate the issue of Lagos with anybody that is running this race?

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 good leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu became the presidential candidate of APC, there have being talk about what he has done in Lagos. In fact, there was a debate recently about the Internal Generated Revenue of Lagos State. How Asiwaju Tinubu meet it and how it has been now? We understand it is about 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 this city. Today (Sunday) alone there have been four emergencies that had been reported. I have recruited over 650 newly recruited fire service men. I have bought 64 brand new trucks that I will invite you for the commissioning. I spent over a billion naira to take off the 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. That is what we are doing.

So you are telling Lagosians that their money is working and not in the hands of third parties.

Absolute not; you can see and feel it. Seun, you and I need to go on a tour round. You have stayed out of this city long enough, come let us do a tour round so that you can really show your audience and you have got a rich audience. You got an informed audience who really believes in you so that they can see. Governance at this stage in the level 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.