Anti-open grazing: Elsewhere, herding cows for 100km is animal abuse
Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat recently held an interactive session with some journalists at Alausa, Ikeja where he spoke on sundry issues in the governance of Lagos State. Deputy Editor, Felix Kuye was there.
Accidents and repair of Lagos roads
I have listened to statements like ’that road is a death trap.’ And what people are saying by that is that the road is not good. Looking at it critically, you will realise that it is not a bad road that kills. I read Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) reports often. About 67 per cent of deaths are caused by people drinking when they are about to drive or while driving. In other parts of the world, especially advanced countries like United States, they still record accidents on their roads despite the good state of the roads. The issue is that our habit of drinking while driving also causes deaths.
We have decided to focus on high traffic moving areas and then open new roads. For example, we are expanding the Lekki-Epe road. The essence is that we are trying to move traffic away from the highway. We are also expecting the Dangote refinery to begin operation, so we need to expand that road. We are also focusing on the load-carrying capacity roads. Another such road is the one that comes from Deeper Life all the way to the University of Lagos. We have a lot of institutions along that route. It allows us to move people from one end to another. The government is as well awarding new roads and fixing many others with the public works department. As of June, there were about 198 roads undergoing patching.
We called on councilors, who are the closest to the people, and asked them to consult with relevant stakeholders and tell us the project they want to be executed in their wards. Majority of the projects listed turned out to be roads. So, in terms of roads, the current administration is doing a lot to make sure that hardship associated with moving from one place to another in Lagos is substantially mitigated.
Litigation over Value Added Tax
On the issue of Lagos State joining the suit against the Federal Government over Value Added Tax, what I will say is that we all signed in for constitutional democracy in this country, so the court or the judge will adjudicate and everybody will abide by the decision of the court. It is about interpreting the constitution. Let the court interpret. We need to have this type of discussion in the country. Let the court decision and we move on.
The proposed 4th Mainland Bridge
The proposed 4th Mainland Bridge may cost about $2billion. There are processes for concession, and it is not something that civil servants are handling 100 per cent. It is not something that I can say I know in all. We brought in experts from around the world to manage the process. They brief us once in a while. The process is not handled entirely by the Lagos State government. There are consultants with whom we work to make sure that the vision is accomplished. Initially, there were a lot of people involved but they have narrowed the list to six, who are now working together. There is a Portuguese company, a Chinese firm, and Julius Berger is there. What all these will come out to, I do not know yet, but by the time the final concession is done, it will be made public. Let us wait for that.
Menace of okada riders
The killing of the senior police officer in Ajao Estate was very unfortunate. The process of getting justice is on. Newspapers reported that some suspects have been arrested. They must have been taken to court. The law banning okada from certain routes is there and it has to be implemented with the support of the police and other law enforcement agencies. The law was passed a long time ago. What we need to do as a state government is to keep moving on. One of the things we have done is to call a security meeting involving military officers and police because the report we get is that some law enforcement officers own some of these things. So, let us hold internal discussions to say this is the law on the ground and it has to be obeyed. That is ongoing and very soon, the public will see the result because we cannot allow lawlessness. Though we know that people have to do what they need to do as citizens, you cannot infringe on the rights of other people.
Move against open grazing
Lagos State remains opposed to the open grazing of cows or cattle. The anti-open grazing bill has been passed by the House of Assembly and signed into law by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. I do say that the fact that we do something regularly does not mean that we should continue to do it. My maternal grandfather went to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and spent 11 years. People thought he had died. That time, people were either trekking or going on horses. It was 37 of them that left Lagos Island and only four came back. Some died, others decided to stay there. Why are people now going to same Saudi Arabia by plane? It is because things have changed and gotten better. The question I ask is: if you take a cow from wherever and make it to trek or move about 100 kilometres, is it good for the cow? In other jurisdictions, it is considered animal abuse and people go to jail for that. And for a young boy that is struggling, getting involved in this, how do you eat, how do you sleep and how do you go to school? As a people, we must ask: why do we allow ourselves to be treated this way? A typical cow in Nigeria, when you milk it, what you get is about two litres. But a typical cow in the Netherlands gives about 18 litres. They are big, massive. You see ranches all over the world. We should do better for the animals and the people doing the business. We must do the right thing as a people and stop turning everything into fighting.
Lagos and South West Security Network
On the claim that Lagos State subscribed to the establishment of the South West Security Network but has not inaugurated its own Amotekun corps, let me say that the Amotekun laws in other states took their roots from our Neighbourhood Watch Law. You can call it anything, the laws are offshoots of our Neighbourhood Watch law which is working very well. It is almost the same. Let us leave it at that. What do they do? They collaborate and share security information within the region. As far as that is being done, it is okay.
Policing Lagos and dispensation of justice after #EndSARS protests
Some people have observed and expressed concern that the morale of policemen has gone down after the #EndSARS protests. We must realise that police officer are also human beings. A great philosopher once said: “The moment you fight your law enforcement officer, make sure you make deals with the criminals.” Look at what is happening in the United Kingdom. Some people are protesting because some police officers committed crime. But does it mean that what the officers have done decimated the police institution? We went to Ajeromi Ifelodun and some women who are wives of slain police officers came out to make the world know the pain they suffer.
The challenge is that in a democracy, how do you voice your anger? We as a people should realise that we are no longer in the period of colonial rule when you become a hero by fighting the government. We still have that mentality. If you are a prince and the stool is vacant, many people fight for it, but does it mean you must kill each other? The moment you don’t get it you calm down. It is the same thing in a democracy. It is not to go to war. For police, it is part of what we are saying that we need to restructure the country. The state government is not in total control of the police in its domain. This is one of the challenges of the country that we need to look at.
On the issue of rebuilding the court buildings that were destroyed during the protests, we need to know that there are other things about the courts that are more important than the infrastructure. All the High Courts are now functional, though not in the same place but at different places. At Osborne, for example, there are about four or six courts being set up there now. It is the same story in other places, providing spaces for the judges to sit and administer justice. However, it is not the building that is important but the materials. They are all gone. What we are now saying is that if you are the lawyer that argued case A or B before the unfortunate incident, the materials, documents on the case that you used, could you bring them back so that future law students will be able to see them? Thai is what is happening behind the scene. What matters most is not the buildings, which you can easily rebuild, but the materials. A lot of the judges, in their chambers, had pictures of their wives, husbands and children. They are all gone. How do you bring those back? That is what we must work on now. As I said, the judges are now working somewhere else, we are creating a new place for them to sit, but what happens to their psyche? That is why we have to make sure that a thing like this does not happen again.