Recalling Ambode’s Legacies In Lagos, By Odion Omonfoman
On May 29, 2015, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was sworn in as the executive governor of Lagos State. During his tenure as the 5th democratically elected governor of Lagos State, which ended on May 28th, 2019, the Akinwunmi Ambode administration left many legacies of its own and also continued with the legacies of his immediate predecessors, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola. As a resident of Lagos State, one can say Ambode will be remembered for many of his legacies that have impacted and will continue to impact Lagosians for years to come. This article recalls some of the legacies of the Ambode Administration.
Installation of Street Lights
An area Ambode left his legacy is the installation of functioning street-lights across Lagos State. Under him, almost all parts of Lagos were brightly lit up by streetlights during night time, thus improving the security situation and making Lagos quite safe at night. It is on record that his administration installed street lighting covering about 1,300 kilometres across the State. Powering streetlights take a lot of energy, at a huge financial cost. Not only did Ambode focus on lighting up the streets of Lagos at night, he also started a process to ensure that the street lights were energy efficient, thus reducing the operating costs of the streetlights for the Lagos State government by over 30%.
The Lagos State Electric Reform Act
One of Ambode’s enduring legacies is the signing into law of the Lagos State Electric Power Sector Reform Bill, which was passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. The Law creates an enabling environment for embedded power investment in strategic locations across the State. The bill also criminalizes electricity theft in Lagos State, including meter tampering and meter bypass. The bill, which notable energy experts worked collaboratively with the Lagos State House of Assembly to draft, is a model bill that several state governments are now seeking to adopt to provide reliable electricity to their citizens.
In the area of security, Ambode also left an enduring legacy. Recall that upon assumption of office, crime was on the increase in Lagos. Ambode’s first task was to secure Lagos. To his credit, Ambode worked with the Federal Authorities to end crime in Lagos. The Lagos State Security Trust Fund under Ambode made one of the largest security donations ever to the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, donating power bikes, operational vehicles, armored personnel carriers, bullet proof vests, ballistics and even helicopters. To further compliment the efforts of Federal security agencies, the Ambode administration established the Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Agency saddled with the responsibility of collaborating with the Federal Police and other security outfits to ensure a safe Lagos State. The Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Corps is a model for community policing and other state governments are now replicating in view of the prevalent security challenges.
In the area of transport infrastructure, Ambode also left an enduring legacy. Under Ambode, the Lagos light rail project, started by the Bola Ahmed Tinubu government, was fast tracked with a completion date of 2021. We expect that Ambode’s successor, Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu, would carry on with the project and have the honour of completing the project during his first term.
The Oshodi Bus Terminus, another legacy of the Ambode administration, is a world-class bus terminus by any standard. As a resident of Lagos, it elicits a sense of pride to see the three terminal buildings and the overhead foot bridges that straddle the terminals. Even though commissioned by Mr. President, the expectation is that the Babajide Sanwo- Olu administration would ensure that the Oshodi Bus Terminus gets completed and optimally put to use for the benefit of all Lagosians and Nigerians in general. By the way, the Oshodi Bus Terminus is a once-in-a-lifetime regeneration of the Oshodi metropolis, notorious for violent crime and touting. Besides the Oshodi Terminal, modern bus stops were constructed across the greater Lagos area to facilitate the BRT initiative across more road corridors in Lagos.
One area the Ambode administration made its mark is the construction of modern jetties and provision of modern motor-boats to take advantage of the Lagos lagoon in transporting Lagosians. The Five Cowrie Jetty in Ikoyi, the Bariga jetty, and many other jetties constructed in strategic areas in Lagos are helping to ease the traffic congestion on Lagos road.
The BRT initiative, one of the legacies of the Tinubu and Fashola administrations, has been a huge success, transporting thousands of Lagosians to and fro their commute daily since its inception. Under Ambode, the blue coloured, air-conditioned Marcopolo buses introduced by Ambode, are much more befitting and dignifying for Lagosians who work very hard to power the Nigerian economy. The new buses are timely as the existing TATA BRT buses are rickety, smoky and overcrowded, a reminiscence of the yellow “Molue” buses that once plied the Lagos highways in all its smoky majesty.
Residents of Lagos living along the the Lekki – Epe Road would also remember Ambode’s legacy. The Lekki-Epe Expressway was re-designed by removing the famous roundabouts to allow for more free flow of traffic. Commute time is now much shorter, with the removal of the roundabouts that constituted a huge impediment to traffic flow.
Under Ambode, Lagos welcomed significant investments into its economy. The Alara City, a new modern city within the Lekki Free Trade Zone is a good example. The Ambode administration ensured that the vision of the Lekki Free Trade Zone was further actualised, by providing maximum support to both local and international investors who were keen to invest in the zone and in the Lagos economy.
Promotion of Tourism
In the area of tourism, Ambode also left his legacy. During Ambode’s tenure, the Lagos Parks and Gardens was very active, creating and beautifying parks in areas that were once haboured by miscreants, drug addicts or were used as dumpsites. Today, Lagos city is adorned with several landmark status’ of historical personalities and pleasant green areas. The JJT Flag Park in Alausa, named after three former governors of Lagos State – Mobolaji Johnson, Lateef Jakande and Bola Tinubu, is an impressive park that encapsulates the vision Ambode had for befitting parks and gardens in Lagos State. While the parks are for the relaxation and well-being of Lagosians, if well managed, these parks could in no time become a revenue spinner for the Lagos State government.
Education and Healthcare
The Ambode administration also left enduring legacies in the education and health sectors. Under Ambode, public primary, secondary and tertiary education was a huge priority and received massive funding. Public healthcare also enjoyed massive government funding and upgrade of infrastructure. The Ayinke House and many primary healthcare centres were refurbished and upgraded to 21st century status.
Phenomenal Growth of IGR
It is interesting to note that the Ambode administration did not take any foreign loan to fund the projects carried out by his administration, but rather focused on growing the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Lagos. Ambode met the IGR at about N22billion monthly (quite an impressive sum), grew it to N30 billion monthly and was on track to hit the N50billion monthly target it had set for itself. Under Ambode, Lagos State did not default in meeting its debt obligations to local and foreign lenders, despite the foreign exchange crisis and then economic crisis that led to Nigeria’s first economic recession in 30 years. This is particularly important to acknowledge, considering that Lagos is the most indebted state (it was already the most indebted state before Ambode) and has a good credit rating. A default under Ambode would have had an adverse impact on the positive credit rating of Lagos State which past administrations before him carefully built to attract investors.
With the end of his tenure as governor, Ambode who turned 56 years on June 14th, still has a lot to offer not just Lagosians alone, but Nigeria. Considering Ambode’s impressive performance in Lagos State, one would believe that President Muhammadu Buhari will conscript Ambode to join his team, in a strong capacity, to deliver the Next Level vision of the president and the All Progressives Congress. In so doing, President Buhari would be bringing onboard one of Nigeria’s public service technocrats and change agent. Besides, Ambode’s pedigree as an alumnus of the Unity school system gives him a pan-Nigerian view that certainly is now required more than ever.
Odion Omonfoman is an energy consultant and a registered taxpayer in Lagos State.