By Muyiwa Olayinka
The welfare and the wellbeing of the people should be the focus of any serious government……………
I have often argued and maintained that the people of Lagos state have not had a fair share of dividends of democracy, from the political leaders that have been at the helm of affairs since 1999. The class of 1999 has been the same set of political leaders running and ruling the state since the beginning of the fourth republic. The political party had changed its names from Alliance to Democracy AD, to Alliance for Congress AC, Alliance Congress of Nigeria ACN to the ruling Alliance Peoples Congress APC, but yet, they are the same.
Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu (the governor from 1999 to 2007) is the head of the political machine controlling the state. He wields enormous powers pulling the strings behind the scenes, monito
ring the finances and the running of successive government after he left office in 2007. He owns choicest properties in Lagos including a private jet among his priceless possessions. He decides who becomes what in Lagos state. He dispenses favor as it suits him. Lagos state is his footstool.
Though the state has transformed structurally and infrastructural but at a greater cost to the people. Taxes, rates and levies have been increased astronomically over a long period of time to boost the internal generated revenue (IGR) at the expense of the people. The vast majority of people living in Lagos bear the burden of a capitalist government that has taken a lot from them but gave them a little. From payment of trade permits, renewal of licenses, and levies, the increments are in geometric proportions. For example, penalty paid for a traffic offence such as eating while driving is N30, 000. Can you beat that?
According to the state commissioner of Lagos, Lagos State Government presently generates N34bn on monthly basis such that the state made N103.5bn in the first quarter of 2018.
Despite these staggering figures, the people of the state are worse off economically as the state progressed to a modern state. The people are reeling under the weight of higher and double taxation. More people are being displaced to satellite towns as a result of infrastructural developments and expansion at the city centers, yet no provisions were made for the masses. Majority of Lagosians are living at outskirts of the city in squalors and abject poverty, with no provisions of basic amenities of lives. Goods of petty traders, hawkers are being seized and impounded by the state’s task forces on daily basis; unfortunately, government did not deem it fit to construct market stalls for them. And when shops are built, they are unaffordable. Lagos is becoming insensitive to the plights of the less privileged ones. Is it not incongruous that as the state is becoming prosperous, the people are becoming poorer? A former Governor arrogantly said Lagos is not meant for everybody.
Unfortunately, the political leaders are living in opulence and corruption is rife in all tiers of governments. Politicians and political appointees become overnight millionaires and billionaires within a short period of time.
Conducts of government businesses are opaque in Lagos, but they are quick to point accusing fingers to the opposition parties. Curiously the PDP led Federal government of Nigeria signed the Freedom of Information Act 2011 into law, giving the public the legal backing to scrutinize government’s expenditures. Lagos state is yet to domesticate this law. For more than 18yrs in government, not a single politician within the fold in Lagos has been found wanting despite accusations of wrong doings. Surely they are angels from above. What a great farce. There is a grand and consistent conspiracy among the elites to deliberately pauperise the masses in Lagos state.
Many at times, accusations had been thrown at each other once there is disagreement or infighting among the political leaders of the ruling party in Lagos. For example, during the build up to the election in 2015 that brought the current Governor Ambode to power, his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola was said to have starved his successor (Ambode) of campaign funds.
In retaliation, after winning the election, Ambode leaked some bogus and questionable projects through the state’s website to embarrass his predecessor. Some of them are:
- Spending of N139m on the drilling of two boreholes at the Lagos House, Ikeja.
- N640m spent on a contract given to Julius Berger Plc as part of phase two of the reconstruction of Lagos House where Fashola lived during his eight years in government.
- N800m for the relocation of cables belonging to Power Holding Company of Nigeria at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LASUTH.
- N175m to replace the railings of a pedestrian bridge on Carter Bridge from Ido to Idumota with concrete railings.
- Fashola spent N1.2bn on the construction of an unidentified multi storey building in Onikan Lagos
Since the revelation, no attempt has been made to investigate these allegations. As if this is not enough, Governor Ambode deliberately abandoned all ongoing projects initiated by predecessor, Babatunde Fashola. Almost all roads constructed by Fashola are in dilapidated states. For example the blue and red rail line project that stretches from Mile 2 to Lagos Marina has been starved of funds. The project is yet to be completed after many years of it had taken off. This is what governance has been reduced to in Lagos state.
Furthermore, it is no longer news that Governor Ambode has been denied second term ticket to Alausa’s office. Suddenly out of the blues, his political godfather, Asiwaju Tinubu’s Alpha Beta Company was fingered in a money laundering scheme. Alpha Beta, a consultancy owned by Bola Tinubu is at the center of a N100 billion fraud tax, evasion and money laundering petition written by Mr Dapo Apara, its erstwhile Managing Director and Chief Executive officer.
Fortuitously, this same consultancy company was named as the collecting agency for the revised and increased Land Use Charge by 400% on behalf of the Lagos State Government by the Ambode government. The public outcry made the state house of assembly to expunge it from the revised law.
With all these allegations of mismanagement of public funds, not a single individual has been investigated and arrested. Are they sacred cow? This shows how these ‘paddy paddy’ bunch (Lagos politicians) fritter away our common patrimony.
What about Mr. Accuser (Ambode), one of the reasons given for why he was denied the second term ticket is that he’s ‘eating’ alone (in Nigerian parlance). Story making the rounds reveals the party leaders were not taken care of in the theft of our stolen resources. Top civil servants especially his commissioners had approving limit of N50,000. His political godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was not happy with him despite cornering many capital projects in the state to himself. Ambode had overreached himself and had to be dealt with. His denial was not altruistic but selfish.
In the midst of these accusation and counter accusation, the sore point of Ambode’s administration is the commissioning of the maintenance and management of refuse to a relatively unknown company, Visionscape. This is one of the greatest fraud that costs taxpayer’s money to the tune of N85 billion.
The State has been worse off in the management of refuse. Every nooks and crannies of Lagos are littered with heaps of refuse. From Mainland to Island, hinterland and satellite areas of Lagos are bursting its seams with heaps of refuse. I wonder why the state government cancelled a perfect system that was working and replaced it with a nebulous system that turns Lagos to a junk yard.
The past governments designed a Public Private Partnership PPP in the management of refuse collection. The state agency (Lagos state Waste Management Authority) LAWMA and the Private PSP collaborated in a comprehensive synergy to have a workable system. Private operators operated door to door collection of refuse and waste while the residents paid reasonable amount of money for the services.
LAWMA were deployed to move solid wastes, municipal and industrial wastes of big companies and other large corporations. LASG made provisions for transfer loading stations for refuse and widened the major dumping sites. It prohibited the services of truck pushers that were fond of indiscriminate dumping of refuse.
In addition, the Lagos State Government (LASG) employed street sweepers to sweep major and other access roads. These interventions made Lagos state a cleaner and healthy state worthy of emulation by others.
This honeymoon was truncated by the Ambode government in 2015 because of his ulterior motive to fleece the state. He launched the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) an ambitious comprehensive reform that will recycle, sort and dump site management. He appointed a relatively unknown company, Visionscape Sanitations Solutions Limited to drive the process.
A company that had no track record to handle such massive management of refuse and waste of this magnitude for the whole of Lagos. He sacked almost 350 PSP operators and laid off street sweepers. The dubious arrangement was shrouded in secrecy. There was no public tender for companies to bid for the technical partner.
The Lagos State of House of Assembly (LSHA) cannot be exonerated from this mess because they gave the CLI the legal backing with the passage of Environmental Management and Protection Law.
One of the gains of Ambode’s political drama is the reversal of this dubious and questionable CLI that has become a colossal drainpipe to the treasury of the state. LSHA has given directive and recalled the sacked 350 PSP operators. The Speaker of the House, Mr Mudasiru Obasa on behalf of 39 lawmakers gave the directive in one of its plenary. The house opined Visionscape can longer meet the yearning of the state in the area of refuse collection.
In a volte face, the Speaker stated that the executive arm of government did not consult the house on the Visionscape deal before it started operation.
What a shame!
This Visionscape scandal and all other allegations against Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and the current governor should be investigated by the corruption fighting agencies (EFCC and ICPC). Will they do it in a nation where the rich will always get away with blue murder? Time will tell.
The people of Lagos state deserves better treatment from their political leaders or are they task masters? The concept of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’ must stop.