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Anxiety, expectations, as Sanwo-Olu’s commissioners assume office

Ayodele Olalere

On Tuesday, August 20, 2019, the long awaited cabinet members of the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, were sworn-in.

The eagerness and anticipation of Lagosians towards the formation of the cabinet is understandable. Having assumed office since May 29, and with the deplorable conditions of the state, Lagosians were yearning for a relief.

The environmental situation in the state was at its lowest ebb. Everywhere you turned to, refuse and blocked drainages were the order of the day. Streets and major roads were turned into refuse dumps. The immediate past government seemed to have taken its eyes off the state due to the transition period during which elections were organised and held.

There were agitations that if no quick action is taken by the present government to address the problem of refuse, the state could become a breeding ground for diseases. As a matter fact, the general impression among Lagosians was that epidemic was looming. The state began to lose its once reputation, as one of the cleanest cities in Africa.

Added to this is the neck-breaking traffic chaos, which the state began to experience. Daily, Lagosians spent long hours in traffic, with no solution in sight. Traffic robbers began to have a field day, as Lagosians were robbed and dispossessed of their belongings in traffic. Expectations were high for the new government to set machinery in motion by appointing commissioners.

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Major roads in the state have also been calling for attention, with potholes dotting the entire landscape, resulting in endless traffic. At a point, Lagosians began to lose hope, waiting endlessly for a solution. Therefore, it was with great relief when the governor announced his 35 cabinet members, consisting of both the old and new hands some of whom are technocrats.

Top on the list is Tunji Bello, the experienced journalist, politician and environmentalist, who have been at the corridors of power since the tenure of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The appointment of Bello as Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment signified the seriousness attached to the current degradation of the environment in the state. It showed the governor’s intention to tackle headlong the environmental problems the state has been battling with and restore the lost glory.

Bello had served as Commissioner for the Environment previously in the administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and was instrumental in carrying out the environmental masterplan the state now enjoys.

His experience in the ministry made Tinubu’s successor, Babatunde Fashola, to retain him in the same portfolio.

At his screening, Tunji Bello explained how the environmental problems in the state would be addressed.

“Up till the time governor Fashola tenure ended, we had just environmental program and waste management. In 2003, when Tinubu appointed me Commissioner for the Environment, I went with him to Chicago, United States of America where I spent two weeks. While there, I learnt it’s not enough to take off but your landing is also important. At that time, people were just collecting waste and not being paid. When I came back from US, we created a system where people go on weighbridge to dump waste. With that, we were able to tackle indiscriminate dumping of waste,” he said.

He added: “We set up a PSP system and Tinubu set up a committee. We reformed Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, and the House of Assembly approved LAWMA to do the job of maintaining waste. We registered PSPs and LAWMA began to monitor waste operators. We also set up street sweepers to create jobs. We set up transfer stations to bridge the time and distance.

“We created a system and took waste management to a new level. What happened with the last administration was poor completion of large environmental project. The last administration abandoned the system and wanted to create another one. I told them to continue with the system but that advice was ignored.”

To curb refuse and confront the problem, he said the present administration will do a lot to solve the problems.

“We must do a lot if we are to curb environmental degradation. Before Fashola administration ended, we were already negotiating a dumpsite with Ogun State government. We need to understand the drainage system in the state. Most of the drainages are blocked. Unless we understand how these drainages work, it is the best way to avoid flooding.

“We must also do enough in enforcing environmental laws. We should not compromise on these laws. You must have people who monitors regularly so enforcement can be effective,” he said.

He also said the state would generate more revenue from waste.

“We will reduce the amount of waste going into Olusosun dumpsite. We have to start waste sorting from home so you have different bags for bottles for them to be recycled,” Bello added.

The deplorable conditions of roads also gained special consideration from the governor with the appointment of Adeyoye Aramide Monsurat, an engineer who is one of the female appointees.

One of the first official declarations of the governor as soon as he assumed office was to declare zero tolerance on potholes.

Places such as Ojota, Ketu-Mile 12, and many more roads were notorious for potholes. Lagosians were hopeful the governor would appoint competent hand to man the ministry.

True to expectations, Mrs. Aramide’s appointment was indication of the governor’s intention to appoint proving technocrat into his government.

Though, new in the public service, her experience in the private sector having worked with major international construction companies is a testimony to her competence.

A certified civil engineer, Mrs. Aramide, a native of Epe, has 32years experience in construction. She’s a certified civil engineer and construction practitioner.

She served as Project Coordinator for Julius Berger Nigeria Plc covering Apapa Central Business District, Iganmu Bridge, Lekki-Ikoyi, construction of Bourdillion Road, Adeola Odeku road, pedestrian bridges, new Carter Bridge, West ramp and the 3rd Mainland Bridge.

In the area of transport, the appointment of Dr. Frederic Abimbola Oladeinde, as Commissioner of Transport, also testifies to the seriousness attached to smooth and effective transportation system by the governor.

Governor Sanwo-Olu had expressed concern on the high rate of traffic congestion in the state. Lagosians were worried too. Lagosians spend two hours on a journey that ordinarily should not be more than 30 minutes.

It is expected that the appointment of Dr. Oladeinde would bring relief to Lagosians, having been part of the system in the state.

He has worked in transport industry for over 20 years and until his appointment, was the Director, Corporate and Investment Planning in Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA.

He has vast experience in the transport industry. He was a Senior Transport Consultant at Oscar Faber Consulting, joined the Department for Transport, United Kingdom as a Senior Transport Planning Adviser, where he was responsible for advising the British Minister of Transport on the impact of various transport schemes and policy options.

He led a team of consultants that developed a 20-year Strategic Transport Master Plan (STMP) for Lagos Mega City.

He later became Director of Corporate and Investment Planning and led the planning strategy on the future transport needs of the state, coordinating the implementation of transport schemes, developing major scheme initiatives and securing investment for the provision of transport infrastructure.

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Some Lagosians who spoke with The Nigerian Xpress expressed delight in the quality of members, appointed into the cabinet by the governor. They expressed hope that the new commissioners would meet up with what is expected of them by quickly setting out to work and ameliorate the pains experienced by residents.

An oil magnate, Mr. Ranti Onabanjo, said: “We have been waiting for the governor to form his cabinet and we are happy he has finally done so. I went through the list and I could see he has a mix of old and new hands. The area I am more concerned with is the Ministry of Environment and I am happy he appointed an experienced person into the ministry.”

He added: “The last administration didn’t do well in addressing the issue of refuse and environment. The system that was used didn’t work. We were all worried as refuse took over the state. At a point we were thinking if we really had a government. Therefore, I would urge the governor and the Commissioner for Environment to quickly clear the state of refuse, the drainages and other areas. That will be the first yardstick to measure this government. Government should also employ more street sweepers to speed up the work.”

He also advised the state government to pay more attention to the condition of roads.

“The Commissioner of Works is also experienced going by her credentials. Many roads, especially the inner roads, must quickly be fixed. Potholes have taken over the state so the commissioner has lots of work to do. Lagosians are eager for change,” he said.

Likewise, Mr. Bolaji Akanji, a businessman and building contractor urged the government to urgently address the issue of rickety buses on the roads.

He also lamented the gradual fading away of street lights project, which he said was abandoned by the last administration in the build-up to the election.

According to him, the street lights project no longer seems to be working as roads and streets have now been turned into darkness.

“Attention should be giving to the street light projects. I have noticed the project is fading away. I hope the new commissioner in charge will do something about it. It has helped to curb crime and allow people to move at night. That must not be allowed to die.

“Also, many commercial buses on the road are not roadworthy, so I expect the commissioner of transport to pay attention to this. Lagosians are expecting much from them, they cannot afford to fail,” he said.