As governor of Nigeria’s commercial and industrial capital, Akinwunmi Ambode is faced with the challenge of satisfying the yearnings of the over 15 million residents of Lagos.
PREMIUM TIMES reviews the top achievements and failures of the governor in the outgoing year.
- Roads/Light Up Lagos Project – One of the major achievements of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2016 was the massive road (re)construction his government embarked upon in the year. His ‘114 Roads’ project where each of the 57 local councils in the state got two good roads was completed by May.
Also, Mr. Ambode’s philosophy that a well lit Lagos will reduce crime also saw him light up at least 365 streets across the state.
- Security – A few months after he came into office, Mr. Ambode acquired 10 armoured tanks, three helicopters for aerial surveillance and policing, two gun boats, 15 armoured personnel carriers, and dozens of Isuzu trucks. Despite challenges in the area of security, the safety of lives and properties of Lagosians have received – to a large extent – a boost.
- ETF – After several postponements, Mr. Ambode in December finally began the disbursement of the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund, one of the promises he made during his campaign in 2015. The initiative, aimed at artisans and entrepreneurs in the state, will see the disbursement of N6.25 billion annually over the next four years. A huge chunk of that figure is expected to go to carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, vulcanisers, and other players in the informal sector in the state.
- LAKE RICE – One of the high points of the Yuletide period for Lagosians was the launch of the Lagos-Kebbi (LAKE Rice). Thousands of residents trooped out to various centres across the three senatorial districts in the state to buy the commodity which sold for N12,000 (50kg bag); N6,000 (25kg); and N2,500 (10kg). It was a much needed respite for a population that had been reeling under the impact of economic recession.
- IGR – The recession notwithstanding, 2016 was a year Lagos generated a figure ranked among its highest ever internal revenue. As at December 16, the state had raked in N287 billion in IGR, a whopping N19 billion more than was generated the year before. Except in 2013 when the state generated N384 billion, this year was the highest the state had made since its creation. A revamp of the state’s revenue generation agency played a major role in this feat, but Mr. Ambode also gave credit to tax-paying citizens in the state.
“The tax payers are the ones giving us the little energy that we have and even though when they say Nigeria is in recession, somehow Lagos has been able to do it and it is because people are paying their taxes,” said the governor.
- Kidnap – In spite of the progress made in the area of security in Lagos State, 2016 was a year of kidnappings. From abducting hapless residents in an obscure estate to kidnapping a traditional ruler, the criminals had a field day across the state. Although over a dozen suspects were arrested and arraigned in different courts, residents are continually on the lookout for the next kidnap victim.
- Forced eviction – If there was one area Mr. Ambode’s predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, performed excellently in his eight year term, it was the forceful evictions of residents from their homes. The current governor is gradually steering himself towards that tradition.
Despite a court order that the state government suspend its planned demolition of shanties along creeks and waterways in the state, as well as the House of Assembly appealing to the governor to reconsider its intention; the residents of Otodo Gbame, a waterfront community in the Lekki area of the state, were forcefully evicted from their homes. At least half a dozen residents drowned during the process.
Although the state government claimed it was not involved in the eviction, its agents played an active part in the destruction of the homes in Otodo Gbame.
- Water – In the past, Lagos had manifested the paradox of ‘Water, water everywhere but none to drink.’ The year 2016 was no exception. Despite billions sunk into the state-owned water corporation over the years, piping potable water to homes continues to be a herculean task.
- LG election – 2016 ended without Governor Ambode conducting election into the 57 local councils in the state, despite repeated promises and assurances to do so. The last local government election in the state was held in 2011. For the past two years, Executive Secretaries appointed by the governor had continued to be at the helm of local government affairs in the state.
- Traffic congestion – In 2012, Washington-based The Atlantic newspaper described Lagos traffic as one of the worst in the world. Four years later, the only change seems to be more vehicles being registered and fewer roads being constructed in a city of over 21 million people. More than seven million vehicles ply Nigerian roads and one-quarter of them are in Lagos, according to the Federal Road Safety Commission. There is still no functional metro line, and water transportation is still an unpopular mode of transportation for most residents.