Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, was the head of a Lagos State government team that called on the top management of Vanguard Media Limited recently.
In the course of the interaction, the commissioner drew questions on topical issues relating to the administration’s ongoing activities and plans. Excerpts: Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu & Gbenga Oke,
Apapa to Oworonshoki and CMS to Badagry seem to be left out of your Light up Lagos Project. Why?
We have not done one year of the Light Up Lagos project, and the impact is everywhere in the state. We have done several roads including federal roads like Third Mainland Bridge; it means that we have not done badly within the short period the project was introduced. It will continue because it is in phases, it has reached Badagry and certainly, it will get to the Apapa axis as well. Also, people need to know that the Light-Up Project is not all about street lights. It is also about empowering the community that has been neglected for so long, connecting them to the national grid, buying transformers and generators where necessary and of course bringing back the IPP project in a more resourceful manner.
Our plan is that by the time Lagos will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on May 27, 2017, a good chunk of the metropolis would have been well lit up, and if I know the governor very well, I can tell you that certainly, we will get there very soon. On the Badagry Express Road, you know that we have got approval for the second tranche of $600 million World Bank loan which is devoted strictly for infrastructure in the state, and this involves the CMS to Badagry road and rail line. I will imagine that by the end of the first quarter of next year, you will see significant improvement maybe not in the usage of the road alone, but of course the rail line which is designed to take about half a million people on a daily basis. It is one of the flag projects for this administration in terms of continuity. Governor Ambode has promised that not a single project started by his predecessor will be abandoned. Everything will be worked on.
What is the state government planning to do to tackle the issue of flooding in the Satellite town axis given the location of over 11 tank farms in that area?
It is expected that people should talk about their areas, if you don’t, nobody will know what is going on. We thread carefully where it concerns Federal Government property. Not because we are unable to tackle it, but we should be grateful for the fact that it is the same government and the same party that is at the national level, therefore, the kind of engagement that we now have with the Federal is a lot more robust and we are expecting a good thing to come out of it; not only for the concern that you have raised but for that axis generally.
You can see the Minister for Works, Power and Housing was in Lagos last week (penultimate week) to respond to some of the concerns and complaints, and that is why you see some roads like Ijora -Apapa Road being temporarily shut down. Lagos state has been shouldering some of these Federal projects. Now that we have a listening Federal Government in Abuja, we believe that our approach is to do a lot on the ground so that we won’t work against each other. So, we have been engaging them, and this particular case is also not lost on the authorities both federal and state. What I will say is that you should give us a little more time, and I can assure you that we are not unmindful of what is going on and what needs to be done over there.
How is the administration hoping to implement the law against street trading?
The enforcement is not by default. I think a lot of people miss the point of the law when a pronouncement is made or when attention is drawn to an existing law. Lagos State is not at war with street traders; Lagos State cannot be at war with its citizens. Yes, there are infractions, there are transgressions here and there but in carrying out the enforcement there must be compassion. Compassion does not mean incapacity to deal with it or looking away if it could hurt the system. What the law is simply saying is that first and foremost, accept that there is a law restricting street trading, illegal markets, and street hawking.
Do we expect that the enforcement will be rapid every minute, every second? Not necessarily. Our first concerns are the highways and major streets. You hardly see Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI officers running after people in the markets or roads, we recognise the fact that people have to earn their living, people have to continue to thrive, and trading of any sort is better than resorting to armed robbery or kidnapping or any form of vice and crime. But as far as the highways are concerned, that is our major focus. It is untidy; it is dangerous; and it is unbefitting of a sort of state we are trying to build. Maybe sometimes, the officers decide that we will only be able to carry out our enforcements twice a week; it does not mean that the three other days they did not come out they are enforcing by default. Once they go out, any form of infraction from anybody will be dealt with. You can even see the way we are dealing with the task force law that does not require an enforcement officer to tow any vehicle if you park on the road, or you are obstructing the free flow of traffic. What the new law says is that they will video record that infraction, they will now remove your number plate, put a tag on your car as it is done in advanced countries to say that you have been charged with an offence and you are expected to show at the Task Force Office in Alausa where you have to defend yourself. Even when you are found guilty, nobody is towing any vehicle; you can still drive your car home until you go to Alausa to face them. If you are not able to hire a lawyer, Lagos State will still supply a lawyer for you free from the office of the public defender just in case you cannot afford.
Most times, when people get to Alausa, their argument becomes weak because the officer will play a video of your infraction for you. It is the closest we can get to what we have in the western countries where they have a yellow line. If you park on the yellow line, nobody will tow your car except you stay there for hours or days. You will simply get a ticket and you know what ticketing means. That is where we are going, to use technology to power enforcements so that we don’t look like gangsters running after erring drivers or traders and bundling them into vehicles and towing vehicles.
In fact, how many vehicles can we keep for days?
My question is why do these street traders run when they sight the officers’ vehicles? It is because they know they are breaking the law and there are consequences. It is like saying the Home Office in London cannot round up illegal visitors to the country, no. We are saying, please leave our major highways for us, leave the major streets for us because each time we decide to enforce and you are caught, you have to face the full wrath of the law. In doing that, a journalist was caught where he parked his car wrongly, and as usual, they will want to call people in government. We told him to go through the process, and he did but at the end of the day, the law was so lenient and the law wants you to now be an ambassador.
The journalist devoted space in his publication to educate others on the issue. And why do we have super stars in America doing community service like sweeping and all that? it is because they have transgressed. The whole idea is not to punish you but to serve the community and be a good ambassador so that others can learn from your case. That is the belief of Lagos State Government.