The Book “Lagos Open Parliament 3” is a product of one year of painstaking research and investigation incorporating the application of scientific research instruments and the analysis of research outcomes.
This commendable mission undertaken by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) is the focus of our review. CACOL is a coalition of human rights advocacy/civil society organisations whose main agenda is the Campaign Against Corruption and Corrupt Leaders in Nigeria.
The project tagged “Lagos Open Parliament” is a strategic component of its anti-corruption crusade aimed at monitoring government policies, projects and programmes with a view to assessing government performance in Lagos State as its own contribution to the promotion of accountability and good governance. It is also targeted at strengthening the interface between government and civil society. This is the third in the series of such efforts by CACOL since the idea was midwived in 2013.
The book “Lagos Open Parliament 3” is a compendium of the records of CACOL’s findings on the performance of the Lagos State government under the leadership of Governor Akinwumi Ambode in all sectors of governance since May 29, 2015; the reports by the nation’s major newspapers on the activities and programmes of the government as well as the graphic and pictorial illustrations of such findings. These illustrations lend credence to the depth of its investigations and the credibility of its research outcomes. CACOL by its own admission focussed its attention on education, security, health, road construction/rehabilitation and the administration of law and order.
The book divided into eight chapters chronicles the performance of the Akinwumi Ambode-led administration in Lagos State from inception on May 29, 2015 up till May 28, 2016.
It highlights the positive changes that the administration has introduced into the different sectors of governance within a period of 12 months. CACOL in the book’s preface explained that its report often goes through three stages of exploration, validation and public presentation. This further underscores the rigorous investigative procedure adopted by Coalition.
Chapter One of the book highlights the positive impacts that the Ambode administration has made in the areas of road construction/rehabilitation, infrastructure upgrade, guarantee of public safety and security, improvement in transportation, health care delivery, education, agriculture, housing delivery, etc.
The Chapter outlines in detail the specific roads that have been rehabilitated especially through its “Operation 114” where each of the 57 Local governments and LCDAs in Lagos rehabilitated two roads within its own jurisdiction.
This “Operation”, coupled with another “Operation fix all roads”, has given a remarkable face-lift to the state of road networks in Lagos metropolis. Although, it cannot be said that all Lagos roads have been satisfactorily fixed, a sustenance of current efforts will bring about noticeable transformation to the condition of roads in the state.
Roads such as the one from Mile 12 to Ikorodu, Ijegun-Isheri Osun-Isolo, Ipakodo to Ijede, Lagos-Badagry and roads within Apapa Business district, etc have all experienced a major facelift.
This added to the planned construction of a 4th Mainland bridge as well as several pedestrian bridges gave the Ambode administration high marks in the area of road construction/rehabilitation. Other projects like slip roads, lay-bys and pedestrian bridges now adorn the metropolis as part of what may soon become the Ambodean legacy.
CACOL further highlighted the infrastructural upgrade that Lagos State-owned health facilities such as Ayinke house have experienced resulting in a marked improvement in the health care delivery system of the State. More mobile intensive care unit ambulances were bought for State-owned hospitals and more medical and paramedical staff were recruited for those hospitals.
The government purchased more BRT buses to ease transportation problems in Lagos while adopting well thought out strategies to address traffic grid-lock in many parts of the State.
In Education, CACOL documents the infrastructural changes that have been recorded in many State-owned higher institutions as well as the rehabilitation of schools, construction of new classrooms, provision of furniture and employment of over 1,300 teachers. All of these measures have brought a new lease of life to educational institutions across Lagos State. Governing Boards of Higher Institutions were promptly constituted and peace seemed to have returned to these institutions that were hitherto perennially turbulent.
The achievements in the area of agriculture and housing are no less significant. Security is one area in which the Ambode-led administration is believed by CACOL to have scored high marks with the purchase of more up-to-date equipment for the security agencies to enhance their mobility and efficiency. In the opinion of CACOL, Lagosians under the current administration appear a lot safer than they have ever been.
However, it is not yet uhuru for security in Lagos as the State still experiences cases of kidnap and occasional robberies. The Badoo’ phenomenon in Ibeshe where women and children are serially raped or murdered remains a malignant tumour that needs excision. More will still need to be done for Lagosians to be able to sleep with their two eyes closed.
Chapter Two reproduces the press Conference addressed by Comrade Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman of CACOL at the Exploratory Conference of the Lagos Open Parliament – 3 Project.
The address reiterates the objectives of the LOP project and summaries some of the achievement of the Ambode administration in Lagos while expressing objection to some other policies of the government that it believes will make life more difficult for the already pauperised citizenry of the State. Such policies believed to be counterproductive include “the illogical move to enforce a ban on street trading” and the move to tax the poor and under-employed.
The Executive Chairman further condemned the appointment of Sole Administrators for Lagos Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). He concluded that the action is not only undemocratic but unconstitutional.
The Chapter also contains the presentations made at the exploratory conference by Dr. Niran Malaolu and Mr. Awosika (representing the Lagos State Information Commissioner) Dr. Malaolu identified the lack of understanding of the concept of change by the nation’s leaders as one of the factors responsible for Nigerian’s underdevelopment. In his view, there is a pervasive mistaken notion that change is an event rather than a process. He called for a restructuring of the country in order to make the desired change possible since the present structure of the nation is antithetical to either change or transformation.
He commended Governor Akinwumi Ambode for doing reasonably well since he mounted the saddle in Lagos State.
Mr. Awosika in his comments restated the positive contributions that the Ambode-led administration has made in the areas of healthcare, rule of law, transportation, infrastructural development, employment and job creation, education, security, food security, tourism and environment.
He catalogued the creation of new Ministries, the streamlining in the cost of governance, Operation Light-up Lagos, Lagos rail project, Lekki Free Trade Zone, adoption of e-governance, establishment of an employment trust fund (with a target of N25billion), the proposed fourth mainland bridge and skill acquisition projects as revolutionary policies/projects that will in no time transform Lagos to a true mega city.
Chapters 3 & 4 contain newspaper reports on the innovative projects and programmes that the Lagos State government has implemented within the 12 months that the research covered. These reports further affirm the veracity and credibility of CACOL’s findings.
It is noteworthy that the reports showed clearly that the administration in Lagos State is a thinking one, no wonder it is in today’s Nigeria, the numero uno among all the States of the federation.
It promulgated a “Property Protection Law” to save property owners from harassment and intimidation by “Omo-oniles” and backed this up with the establishment of a task force.
The “Operation Clean-up Lagos” is another important step taken to rid Lagos of abandoned property, unapproved mechanic workshops, illegal kiosks and roadside beer parlours and other unwholesome environmental practices that are hazardous to living. The Ambode administration has also taken steps to intensify the campaign against domestic and sexual violence in Lagos State.
Chapter Five gives a comprehensive and graphic analysis of the data gathered by CACOL’s researchers and gives us an insight into the content and nature of the research survey it carried out in each of the 20 Local government Areas in Lagos State.
The Chapter also presents numerous pictorial evidences of the projects initiated and completed by the Ambode-led administration during the period under review.
Chapter Six contains more newspaper cuttings where reports about the activities of the Lagos State government were published. These reports contained in the clips are not significantly different from those that appeared in Chapters Three and Four. It is my humble opinion that this repetition is unnecessary and apart from increasing the volume of the publication, it adds very little value to the content. If that chapter is deleted, the book would not have lost anything.
The inclusion of the Chapter practically created printing problems as the press clips within the same chapter got reproduced in numerous pages for example the contents of pages 210 – 215 were reproduced after page 222 and re-numbered pages 210 – 215 all over again.
Chapter Seven presents the Press Conference on the “State of the nation” addressed by CACOL’s executive Chairman, Comrade Debo Adeniran on June 29, 2016. In the address, he lamented the failure of the APC-led Federal Government to live up to the promises it made during the electioneering period in 2015. He criticised the administration for its tardiness, seeming ineptitude and obvious lack of answers to the nation’s numerous problems.
I fail to see why the editor included the Press Conference in a book that is designed to assess the performance of the Lagos State Government under Mr. Akinwumi Ambode.
The inclusion created its own problems even though the Chapter included other press releases targeted at policies of the Lagos State government earlier criticised by CACOL. For instance, portions of the releases were repeated in some pages within the same chapter. Some of the contents of pages 252 – 253 were reproduced verbatim on pages 255 – 256.
Chapter Eight details the conclusions and recommendations that emerged from the LOP3 process. It re-emphasized CACOL’s earlier findings such as the ban on street trading and imposition of taxes on the under-employed.
It further recommends a process led budgeting system that should be more participatory and inclusive, rather than the incremental envelope system that we are used to.
It called on the State government to allow full democratisation of governance at the Local government level as any other option will remain unconstitutional and illegal. CACOL urges government to address the problem of multiple taxation in the State while also stressing the need for the State to fully embrace the TSA policy to curb corruption and raise the State’s revenue profile.
It advised that, Lagos can only became a mega city if it expedites action on its rail project and improve on its water transportation system. The book also advocates for a stronger and more robust interface between the State government and civil society organisations.
The book “Lagos Open Parliament – 3” is a good book which throws a big challenge to other State governments to subject their activities to critical scrutiny in conformity with the principles of transparency and accountability.
I commend CACOL for this bold effort which has definitely sealed its position as the leading non-governmental anti-corruption organisation in Nigeria. It takes courage, determination, commitment and intellectual clarity to be able to painstakingly document and critique a state government’s performance within the first year of the administration’s tenure, the way it has done. The book is lucid, readable and aesthetically appealing.
There are a few errors in the work which I hope will be corrected in subsequent editions. The pagination is highly inaccurate and confusing. For example P. 91 comes immediately after P. 82. P. 87 comes after P. 94 while P.95 comes after P. 90. P. 83 comes immediately after page 78.
This has led to some omissions resulting in merging together of unrelated information which unless care is taken will lead the readers confused. The report titled “FCMB, Lagos to boost job Creation” which started on P. 86 was completed after P. 94.
I thank you for your attention.