‘No Boko Haram Threat in Lagos’ - Aderemi Ibirogba, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, spoke with TELL’S Ademola Oladosu and Ayodeji Adeyemi on a wide range of issues, including the Lekki toll road controversy, security and welfare of Lagosians. Excerpts:
Is Lagos State government taking the threat of Boko Haram seriously since it has been alleged that the group is planning an attack in the South-west, particularly Lagos?
Let me first say that Boko Haram threat or any other security threat is a result of lapses. It is either that some people are aggrieved, agitated and feeling that they are not being heard, or people feel that they should take advantage of the lapses in the system. Let me just say that wherever there is real governance in place, I do not think that Boko Haram will be there, if truly the definition of Boko Haram is agitation for good governance. Wherever there is good governance, a government that is really alive to its responsibility and responsive to its people, it will be hard to have Boko Haram there.
In essence, are you saying that states that harbour Boko Haram lack good governance?
Perhaps that is the meaning, if truly Boko Haram is an agitation for better governance. What I am trying to say is that in Lagos you can hardly have that, because the government is in tandem with the people. Here, the government cares about its people and we have programmes tailored towards the needs of those in the state. If any government is responsive to the needs of its people, it will be hard for anybody to want to do Boko Haram there.
But has the state government started considering the Boko Haram threat?
We always consider security issues, all security issues. Boko Haram is not synonymous with security. To us in Lagos State, every life is valuable. And because we have valuable lives to the tune of over 20 million, we must always change tactics to make sure that we put security in place. So, it is not even Boko Haram alone. But we can’t be discussing security on paper, but at any point the state is alive and ready to protect whoever wants to do genuine business.
The new sticker security system you deployed for cars at the secretariat has created unnecessary traffic congestion, while the stickers are also not enough. Is it an attempt to keep people away from the secretariat?
Nothing is ever enough in life. For all of us to get to the height that we aspire, we all must first of all make sacrifices. For us to keep on enjoying the good things of life, we have to make sacrifices. We are not saying that the stickers are enough. For them to be enough, we will have to print at least 21 million stickers. But we’re not resting on our (laurels) as the challenges and the needs crop up, we will continue to provide for whatever is required. And you will agree with me that the queue is not as long as when we started. These were teething problems.
There are complaints, both from commuters and residents, that the Lekki tollgate fees are high. Is it also another teething problem?
Look, before the expressway was constructed, the residents came to the government to complain about the dangers and man-hours wasted because of the narrow and bad road. The government could not just dismiss that concern, so it went around and shopped for those who could build the road, because the government did not have the money. It was very difficult to get people to buy into the project, more so because we had to sign an agreement with them. They now came and built the road to specification. Now, will these people not recoup their money? About four years ago, they wanted to start recouping their money, but the Lagos State government dissuaded them against it because we were still in talks with the people. We met with all the stakeholders, the omo-onile (land owners) and Baales (village heads). Before that road was constructed, land was selling for N7,000 along that axis, but now it goes for millions. Everybody living there now believes they are a special class. After that road, every other thing has fallen into place in that axis. There is free trade zone, there is going to be seaport and airport. But Nigerians love enjoying things for free. Of course, there were teething problems when the programme kicked off, but I believe we are gradually putting all that behind us.
Is it true that government might review the toll fees downward?
Government is not the one in charge; the Lekki Concession Company, LCC, is the one in charge. As businessmen, those people wanted to recoup their money in four or five years. But we told them that Lagosians cannot pay this much, that they should spread it over a longer period, which has been put into an agreement. The tollgate is a 30-year thing, after which it reverts to the government. Then we can be in the position to make it free.
When is the Lagos light rail coming on board?
Our government is not a propagandist government. When we say we want to do something, we like you to see us commission the thing than for us to say that by February you will have this thing. So I may not be able to divulge any details, but when it comes on board you will see. But I want to tell you that it is in top gear.