If there is anything Lagos needs to get rid off fast it will be the traffic situation, which has grown worse in recent months. And so when the deputy gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Obafemi Hamzat, guested on the programme, that was one of the questions put to him by host, Ify Onyegbule.
Hamzat argues that with over two million vehicles in the state, a small landmass and a population of around 22 million, there is bound to be traffic congestion.
“We have identified about 51 congestion points in Lagos and all of them require different solutions,” says the former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure. “Those areas have been identified and we are working on what the best solutions are. It’s possible that in some areas we have to eliminate roundabouts, in some areas, we have to introduce traffic lights and in other areas the roads will be expanded.
“What also needs to happen is a zero-tolerance for potholes. Not all our roads will be tarred in three-four years, but the ones that are tarred must be motorable; the ones we’ve built must be well maintained.”
Earlier in the day before Hamzat would be a guest on the programme, the APC gubernatorial candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu revealed that his administration would be run on five Pillars of Development (POD), boiled down to the acronym T.H.E.M.E, the ‘T’ standing for Traffic Management and Transportation.
Besides roads, Hamzat adds that solving the traffic problems will require an improved rail and water transportation options. “Work on the Blue Line has already started and it runs to the Marina, so we need to aggressively pursue the completion of that,” he says. “For the waterways, we have seen what the problems are and we are meeting to the stakeholders to provide the best solutions; navigation and safety need to get better, for example.”
Almost as worrisome as the traffic situation are the mounds of refuse that now dot the cityscape. Hamzat puts the blame of that squarely on a policy summersault by the current administration.
“We solved the problem of waste collection in Lagos State before. The Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), the organ of government that regulated waste collection, got it right in the past with the PSP initiative. It already mastered how to clean the state by dividing it into manageable segments and allocating PSPs to each. What we need to do is bring them back and the lost jobs will return.”
“What has happened in the recent past was the injection of another agency, that interaction apparently did not work. So what needs to happen is to go back to the basics and let LAWMA continue to be the regulator and Visionscape (the new agency) to be subjected to the authority of LAWMA.
“it simply means LAWMA can carve out a part of the state that Visionscape can operate in, just like what the PSPs do. That will ensure that we can manage our waste better. Let me mention here that LAWMA was the agency that trained people in Liberia on how to clean their country; it did the same thing in Sierra Leone and Cote d’ivoire.
On Education, Hamzat says that if they are elected into office in the coming elections, their government plans to increase budget allocation to Education to meet global standards but he is quick to point out that the solution to any shortcomings of the sector must go beyond just throwing money at it.
There are, he says, “soft issues” to be tackled: like pupils not eating before going to school (“How do we feed our children? There is nothing you teach them that will matter when they are hungry”) and teachers commuting long distances from home to school (“By the time the get to class, they are already tired”).
“The other thing is: parents must take responsibility for their wards. What that means is that at least 50% of the time, parents must attend Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA) meetings; at the moment, it is weak but we must enforce it. And then of course, we need to improve teachers training,” he says, noting that Lagos has about 1019 primary schools and 679 junior and senior secondary schools, both with student population of over a million.
“The other thing is, parents must take responsibility for their wards. WHat that means is that at least 50% of the time, parents must attend Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meetings; at the moment, it is weak but we must enforce it. And then of course, we need to improve teachers training.”
Hamzat also believes that Lagos can have a 24-hour economy and neighbourhood markets can be on till the late hours.
“It’s about power, we did it before in Iyana-Ipaja,” says the graduate of Agricultural Engineering. “The market used to shut down around 6/7pm but it went to 9/10pm. But again, we have to work with the police to make sure that security is improved; we need to improve on our camera infrastructure. One of the things we can do is to also help with installing cameras in the markets. Lagos should not be a city that sleeps; we must work, work and make sure people become more prosperous.”
On being hand picked to run for office, Hamzat says that claim is far from reality. “There was a primary and every card-carrying member of our party had an opportunity to vote; 900,000 of them voted for Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the direct primaries; what our party has done is to follow the principle of democracy…We must improve our political credentials if we want to be a democratic country.”