Last week, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, hosted the second Quarterly Town Hall Meeting in 2018, the 11th in the series at the Apapa Amusement Park. The event was meant to give account of his stewardship, but it turned out to be another forum of endorsement for his second term in office.
No doubt, one of the strategies that has helped the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration in meeting the needs of the larger populace in the state is the quarterly town hall meetings. The Governor, from inception of his administration, had assured the people of the State of regular meeting with them every three months.
Therefore, last Tuesday was the turn of Apapa for him to give his account of stewardship and get feedback on the developments as well get insight into the area of focus based on the need of the people in the axis.
The venue was the Apapa Amusement Park, where hundreds of residents and stakeholders had gathered to express their feelings to the Governor, the pain and the anguish the unhealthy developments in Apapa had brought to them. They had converged at the park to tell the ugly trends transportation has brought to their businesses and how firms and industries were moving out of Apapa in droves and how properties owners were selling their properties to build elsewhere.
The stakeholders lamented how commuting within the axis has become a nightmares as five minutes’ drive now takes endless hours or days due to what they described as indiscipline, lawlessness and lack of good planning by the federal government. They wondered why successive state and federal governments found it difficult to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Addressing the large crowd of residents and stakeholders who besieged venue of the meeting, Governor Ambode said that the gridlock around Apapa which had defiled solution for some time now, would be addressed. He said he was seriously concerned about the nature of hardship, residents in the axis were subjected to as a result of activities of container-carrying-trucks and tankers moving in and out of the ports and tank farms, hence the decision to hold meeting in the area to find lasting solutions.
According to him, the State Government would immediately take over the ABAT Truck Terminal Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs on the terminal as part of efforts to permanently tackle the perennial traffic mainly caused by breakdown of operations at the ports.
He said,“I cannot end this address without acknowledging that in Apapa, we have a major challenge; the menace of trucks on our roads and bridges causing endless traffic and loss of business time by Lagosians. This is why we have come here today to see for ourselves and find a solution.
“Effective today, our government will take over the ABAT Truck Terminal, Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs to make the park ready for effective use. In the meantime, we will appeal to the Tanker Drivers Association to conduct themselves in an orderly manner and cooperate with our Task Force to ensure smooth flow of traffic and better access to the Ports.
Governor Ambode explained that, the ABAT Truck Terminal has capacity to accommodate at least 3000 trucks, adding that the government was already working with security agencies to see how some of the trucks parked on the Western Avenue Bridge would be moved into the park.
“Already, we have cleared the shanties and the way we are trying to run it is such that we will be able to accommodate at least 3,000 trucks in the park. In addition to that, we will work with security agencies and see how we can move the trucks into the park because right now the park can accommodate about 300 trucks but the people are not using it.”
Ambode added that, “not everybody will be bold enough to come out and tell us and if she has done it, we will go straight to deal with the issue once and for all. This is the real essence of this town hall meeting; I would never have seen this in the file. So, let our security agencies, Safety Commission, Commissioner for Special Duties and others connected enter into Apapa and clean it up. We don’t want any noise pollution; we want the people of Apapa to enjoy governance; we want to experience the sanity that others are enjoying. There are rules and regulations on how you can operate and those rules and regulations must be enforced,” the Governor said.
On calls by some stakeholders within Apapa for the State Government to take over the repair of Tincan Island Road, Governor Ambode said the state would study progress of work already being championed by the Federal Government, and would intervene accordingly.
He said: “It is very clear to us that this is a very Federal Government road; the little that we can do we have done but we don’t want to create any conflict. You will recall what we went through to take over the Airport Road. We have left the Tincan side in Apapa to see how far the Federal Government can go. We don’t want to take too much in our hands; as much as we are trying to fix the Airport Road, whatever palliative we can do that will not be in conflict with the overall contract that has been issued, we will try to do.”
He said that the town hall meetings had enabled him to focus on some of the needs of the people which in most cases, not captured in the annual budgets. He said many of the projects delivered were birthed through the meeting, adding that the real essence of governance is for government to do the very right thing for the people, and not just decide for them projects that may not necessarily be their priority.
“This is the fourth time that we are coming to Lagos Central. We have been to City Hall and other parts of Lagos Central but this is the fourth out of the eleven town halls we have had. I have equally found out that the moving around through the town hall meetings has actually helped to enhance governance because in each town hall meeting, there are issues that are raised that are actually not in the budget or what we plan to do for the people but when people raise those issues and we end up doing them, it enhances governance,” he said.
According to him, “The 21 roads and the two bridges we recently commissioned in Alimosho is a fallout of someone coming out at one of the town hall meetings to say we should come and do Ikola Bridge. So, when we got there we only wanted to do five roads and the bridge but we found out that the five roads would not make any sense if we did not do adjourning roads and so it extended to 16 and later 21 roads with additional bridge, Governor Ambode said.
Responding to complaints from residents on the menace of motorcycle operators popularly called Okada riders, he ordered the Police and other security agencies to enforce the State Traffic Law especially with regards to their restriction on major highways and roads so as to bring about sanity in the Apapa axis.
He added that as part of his administration’s efforts to regenerate the axis, Fadaini Road currently in a deplorable state would be fixed while Orile- Mile 2- Trade Fair- CMS Road would also be repaired to open up alternative roads for motorists plying the axis.
Besides, the Governor while alluding to the fact that the 2019 election is fast approaching, said his administration would nonetheless complete all ongoing projects in the State and continue to ensure that residents enjoy the dividends of democracy.
“Yes, this is an election year but what we have told ourselves is that we would not stop the delivery of dividends of democracy to our people and that is why the 2018 budget is anchored on consolidating on the things that we have started in the last three years so that we ensure that all the projects that are ongoing are delivered and also implement new ones that are all designed to make life comfortable for our people and place the State on trajectory of sustainable growth and development,” the Governor said.
As the general election approaches, he also urged residents to go all out and collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), saying that the State must use the election to confirm its status as the most populous State in Nigeria and thereby help to correct the anomaly in distribution of resources.