AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR AMBODE FOR EMPATHY WITH THE POOR IN HIS ADMINISTRATION OF LAGOS STATE
This letter is written at the instance of some recent policies of the state government which seemed targeted against the poor
The Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI) commends your Excellency in your strive towards making Lagos State a better place to live in. We equally acknowledge your efforts in critical areas of governance such as infrastructural development and intervention in human capital development which is a holistic approach to the development phenomenon. We are also not unmindful that the challenges of governance is daunting and enormous and that not every one of government’s policies and actions will impact favorably and in the same manner on all. We know also that a substantial part of your efforts is dedicated towards achieving the mega-city status for Lagos. In all these, we pray for your success and hope that the state will grow in leaps and bounds under your administration
Having said that, we feel there are some areas that are so sensitive and could constitute the yardsticks (now in negative terms) against which your administration will subsequently be judged when the time arrives. Before going into that however, we would like to take you back memory lane especially to the 2015 gubernatorial election which produced you as the governor of the state
You will recall that that election in the state took you and your party –the APC- to a huge task even with the physical presence of two of your predecessors especially, the indefatigable Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as all of you sweated and labored to rescue what had become a bad case for your party in a state that should have been ‘pocketed’ easily by the party. You will also recall that your victory was by such a narrow margin that it was unprecedented in the electoral history of the state since 1999. The major reason for that dicey situation was not your candidacy as a person, but the ELITIST, ANTI-MASSES POLICIES AND PRONOUNCEMENTS of your immediate predecessor who suddenly developed a ‘phobia’ for and a paranoia towards the poor and was bent on driving them practically ‘out of sight’. This drove a large swath of the electorate into the waiting arms of the opposition
That we are beginning to observe the same tendency in your administration compelled us to write this letter as we shall explicate below
Recently your government increased the fares of the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) across all areas in Lagos State. The appropriateness of this is still unclear to Lagosians. As you must have observed, the BRT corridors have become half empty since the increment as many among Lagosians who must go out every day before they could eke out a living stayed back at home or rather find alternatives that are so tasking and uncomfortable. Lagosians cannot fathom the reason(s) behind the increment:
Is it the cost of fuel, motor-parts or other sundry costs that rose so high as to warrant such a huge hike as over 80% in some cases?
If the scheme is a PSP (Private –Sector–Public) participation where government owns a part and contributes its quota (as in the recent donation of 50 units of buses to the main operators- PRIMERO) obviously from tax-payers’ money, one would have expected that such should count as a form of subsidy to the scheme intended to cushion operational cost and thereby reflect in lower and stable fares.
We assert that PSP cannot be a ‘goldmine’ where participants expect to make fortunes like full-fledged private entities, just by being in partnership with the government of the day. This is because a substantial part of what constitutes the ‘investment’ of any PSP belongs to the people, not the least the goodwill! For instance, the road networks which are cut out for the BRT buses to ply belong to the people as they were built by tax-payers money. This is one (unfair) advantage too many that the private participants in the scheme enjoy over and above other competitors in the industry; and the only ‘returns’ that could accrue to the people is affordable fares with prompt and efficient service delivery. But what we have now is a monopoly that suffocates both clients and competitors with epileptic service delivery, and a cost that cares not whether people survive or not.
As we speak, the fares charged by other associated operators especially the yellow buses popularly called ‘Danfo’ have also gone in the same direction. The hardest hit is the people of Ikorodu, many of whom have lamented the manner in which the road network linking the town to Mile 12 was constructed. In an apparent tactic to compel them to patronize the BRT buses, the width capacity of the road which was put at 12-lanes at inception (six on either side) was reduced to less than six in all, with over 60% of that ‘ceded’ practically to the BRT buses, effectively jeopardizing the choice of other alternatives.
Again, while we support the ban on motor-cyclists (popularly called Okada) plying the highways as well as the ban on road side traders, there is need for clarity to rescue poor Lagosians from maltreatment and extortion especially by various law enforcement agents whose number continue to grow day by day, thereby tending Lagos towards an exploitative police state!
There is a huge and deliberate distortion of your pronouncements on these issues by some law officers of the state. For instance, many Okada riders have been arrested and extorted while driving on roads off the highways for no other reason other than that you have pronounced a total ban on Okada; and street traders plying the suburbs have also fallen victims of the same extortion. As a matter of need, you must engage the Local Governments to make visible advertorials and demarcations of areas where the above-stated activities are not permitted
Other areas under which Lagosians are groaning include the system of taxation for upcoming entrepreneurs; imposition of penalties on offences as if dealing with aliens; sub-contracting menial jobs to friends and party loyalists who shortchange the poor especially those who sweep and clean our highways and many others that we may not elaborate on in this piece
In our final submission, we believe that the dream of a mega-city for Lagos is appropriate, considering the huge advantage it is capable of conferring. However, building a mega-city does not mean shoving the poor out of sight and showing to affluent visitors the high rise buildings and other affluent constructs in the state. What a mega-city tells all over the world is a system that WORKS FOR ALL where infrastructure are integrated, multi-modal and cognizant of the various levels and hierarchies of society; where posh cars, tricycles and even motorcycles have their provisions made for them. We also subscribe to the maxim that Rome was not built in a day. The development of mega-cities is always gradual and takes cognizance of the people who are allowed to grow with them. We implore you to put a human face to your policies and be considerate to the poor most of who see in Lagos a haven for survival.
Thank you and God bless
Comrade Ayinde Yekinni (Executive Director)
Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI)