Against the backdrop of the apprehension over possible infiltration of Lagos State by insurgents, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in this interview monitored on Channels Television, allays palpable fears, assuring the people that there’s no cause for alarm. He also speaks on other issues which border on good governance
You held a meeting with some of the security chiefs in Lagos recently. What would you say to Lagosians about your proactive measures in stopping potential criminals and the capacity of these elements that want to infiltrate the state?
Thank you, again, for having me. You know, security is also seen as a bedrock of any good governance, because what we preach is that we want to ensure that we save the life of people and property. You know, and this was one of the things that we campaigned on.
In addition, if you look at my THEMES agenda, the last word here, you know, which is S is security and governance. So, it’s not something that is just waking up to, it was something that we thought of, was something that we dreamt, and we knew what to do with it.
However, to answer the question is to look at the security architecture in Lagos, you know, I was opportune to be the first interim chairman of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, and I was part of the board for four years when we set up that in 2008.
Therefore, what you see in Lagos, outside of the regular Lagos State Police Command, you know, is that our government has been able to strengthen the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).
We have about 2,500 men that are in the RRS; we also have about 500 – 600 men in the task force, apart from the fact that we have access to two or three MOPOL formations in Lagos. Lagos also has over 15 Area Commanders about 110 Division of Police Officers (DPO). Therefore, what it means is that, you know, in that small space of 3,650 square kilometers, you have this whole entire, gamut of security architecture.
Therefore, we have three layers of interventions in Lagos: the regular Police in the event of day-to-day issues that everybody wants to relate to. However, when you have tactical interventions, men of the RRS are usually the ones that you see coming out first. When it has to do with a direct intervention from the Governor’s Office, you can also see the men of the Task Force.
In the last three and a half years, We have also been supporting all the security architecture in the state, not only the police, we’ve given them over 260 vehicles in the last two and a half, three years.
We have also extended similar gestures to other security architecture, like the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, and Nigerian Air Force under Operation MESA. We also support equipment because we know that security is not something that is cheap. Hence, it is not something that we are starting today. It is something we have started since day one.
We are not waiting for anybody in ensuring that we do what we need to do in Lagos to make sure that they are motivated, with the required equipment to work with, as well as logistics support, and wherewithal and access to me.
Therefore, that is what has helped us to speak to the issues and deal with it in the aspect of architecture. As I said, what we have done is to come out of the regular police architecture to other security agencies in Lagos like NDLEA, Civil Defense Corps, Correctional facilities, Nigerian Immigration Service and the Neighbor
hood Watch that we also have. The entire tripod is now activated to see something and say something.
This is to ensure that everybody has a responsibility to ensure that whatever is noticed or observed in our respective neighbourhood is escalated to the appropriate authorities. Those are some of the things that we agreed to two days ago. We need to share information.
It is not about one person presiding on all the information. We are also taking it to the citizens, especially via CDCs and our CDAs, so that we could have access to intelligence.
The #EndSARS violence gave Lagos out on how porous the city could be. When we talk about security’s intelligence, what other digital means are being deployed to secure the city? For obvious reasons, I will not go into details about this, but we are working with the Department of State Security (DSS), which has the primary role for intelligence.
They are the ones that comb the nooks and crannies. I get telephone calls, text messages almost on a daily basis that I share with them. We are deploying a smart city intervention in the state. We are about the only one that is doing it aggressively and to-date we are installing close to 2,000 CCTV cameras all around the city.
We are turning some of them into traffic management. We are just building a new data center for this kind of implementation. However, I cannot begin to give the full details for obvious reasons. We are going to be making this available to DSS so that they can also review some of these things and can have access too. It is a walk in the park, and it is something that the citizens need to be reassured about.
Is the Command and Control Center at Ikeja still there?
Yes, it is still there. I have had to report security at some point in Lagos, and I have been taken on a tour of that facility. You can almost see the whole of Lagos on one screen. That was years ago. I built that facility when I was the chairman of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF).
Therefore, I know everything that was put in there. We need to retool a few things, which we are currently doing. Some system needs to be changed, which we have done. We have actually changed the orientation and the location of the place. However, beyond even all of that, in our ministry, we are building a new data center that will be specifically for security. It is coming to the system already.
We have shipments of about over 21 containers that arrived about two months ago. All those deployments are happening gradually, and we have spent a lot of money. We are not just waiting for anybody to help us.
Is this from security voting or the budget?
It is from the budget. It is a two-layer thing because we can also deploy the infrastructure for other things, including technology for example, using it in school.
Once a fibre is there what carries it can be not only for security, it can be used in hospitals, can be used in schools can be used to ensure that government services are running. We are building the architecture, we are building the backbone and security will be one of the users of that barcode. That is how it works. That is why it is on a budget.
Lagos is very central and you and I know that, as a commercial centre of the country. This is where a huge percentage of the nation’s commerce and trade is and we know how important Lagos needs to be secured…
Are you sticking to that, stretching or extending it further? Do you see any more danger in the usage of Okada in Lagos? The only land border I have is with Ogun State. The other one that I have is the Atlantic Ocean.
We have a joint Commission where we do things around fiscal planning approval, transportation approval, and security issues. However, to speak directly to the Okada thing; we have seen tremendous improvement in the areas in which it has been banned.
In fact, people have written to me to commend me. Not only are we seeing a drop in issues around security and traffic robberies etc. We do not see people being maimed, cutting off limbs in hospitals again, because these were reckless driving that usually terminates people’s lives unexpectedly.
Therefore, we have seen tremendous improvements in that area.
Do you have the statistics to support that?
In terms of the rate of mortality in the last two months, at the peak of it, we were seeing about 550 Okada related accidents in January-February per month. Now, it has come down to 100 direct accidents that we have seen from our hospitals. It has significantly gone down.
One thing we have told the RRS is that we need to have a lot of pin down positions, because it is easy to maneuver and do all sorts with Okada. Therefore, they do a lot of pin down and pedestrian monitoring, they just need to park and walk around.
You have been criticized as perhaps the only governor in the whole of the South-West region to downplay the role of Amotekun security network, which some believe has worked very well in other parts of the region. The reason, according to speculation, is because of politics. Would you be considering activating the security outfits?
It is a great initiative. It is a great idea and I was part of it. I gave them, even the template, in terms of the Law. We have the Lagos State Neighborhood Watch. These almost 7000 men have been trained and energized. They are working on a day-to-day basis in the state. It is not about the color of the uniform. It is about efficiency and effective security. We believe that almost 7,000 of them are working closely with the Nigerian Police Force. I get important information on a weekly basis in almost all nooks and crannies. You know, they escalate these things to the Nigerian Police. And that’s one of the things that has helped us to be able to directly intervene and meet some of the things that you probably also would not have been aware of because I get the report on a daily basis.
Now, it’s interesting that you have clarified that, because a lot of people will say oh, ‘I mean, he’s basically talking politics?
’ They are like my brothers and we both conceived it and as I said, we thought of it as a boundary intervention. That you know, the issue there was something happen in Ekiti, you run into Ondo. We said okay, let us set up something where you can police the border patrols.
We are not throwing away the Police. In fact, I am borderless with Ogun. We are closer to Kara and Mowe than Abeokuta. We do the interventions actually. The last time we had a brokendown truck, it was handled by our own LASEMA. Just this morning, (last Monday), at 4:35, in Sango Ota there was a massive 40 feet truck that slipped off. It was LASEMA that sorted that out.
How do you detect if there is an infiltrator that is coming into Lagos, for example. There was a time that we were alerted that there is a truckload of possible infiltrators?
One of the things that we did at the last security meeting is that we have actually pushed a physical stop and search into Ogun State because there is no place on the express route where they can do anything.
How much registration of residents and citizens of Lagos do you have? How can you digitally identify people?
Three weeks ago, we launched the LASRRA card. This is like the highest digital citizens card in the country. We launched it three weeks ago.
How much of that do you have on your database?
We have about 6,000,000 Lagosians out of over 20 million registered in the database.
How long do you think it can take to capture all of Lagos?
It is something that the people also need to come up to. That is why communication is key.
Would it come to a point that you will have to enforce that?
We will enforce it to the extent that you may not be able to get some government services.
I’m asking because in other climes, the CCTV camera picks your face, they are able to go through a biometrics check and identify where you reside, who you are, your crime, background and all of that. How do you do it here?
One of the problems that we have in this country is that data resides in so many places. Technology is the same everywhere. So we don’t want to begin to knock on people’s doors and say ‘I want to take your picture’ and know if you have it even if it is in you know, passports, you know, registration, as simple as that in your registration in the bank.
We can have access to some of these things, and they can reside in a database where security can have access to some of these things are available.
It is just as you said, these agencies are not speaking to each other deliberately or lack knowledge. So, it rests well with you and I to ensure that we escalate this and will bring them to sit to each other and say this is what we need to use this for. NIMC is working with us, I must commend them.
You are spending a lot of money on rail services in Lagos. How secured will it be in view of the abduction of over 60 passengers on the Kaduna-Abuja train in March?
Are you considering measures to guarantee passenger safety? Coincidentally, today, (last Monday), I have been on the road. I went on a red line inspection. I started the journey from Agege and all the way to Ebute Metta. Six stations for bridges overpasses, and the crew of Channels TV were with us on that journey.
So what did we see? We have seen that we are on our journey to have a rail infrastructure already in the process by December is on track is on budget will meet those deadlines. What are the things that we are doing?
This is different from the Kaduna-Abuja rail. Why this is an intra-city rail network. It is not an intercity line, not a 200- 300 Kilometer rail. This is a 30-35 in a city rail infrastructure. What we need to do is to ensure that inlet of each of your train stations, you have sufficient CCTV cameras and keep records properly.
How is your payment system? Is your payment system something that you can track at the back end? You know, it’s not, we’re putting a payment as cut as customers you’re not going to come to pay by cash, you know, on the counter, you must have a prepaid card and the rest of it.
Therefore, these are some of the things in our view, that will deter would-be criminally-minded people because they will not be passengers as that will deter them. Secondly, the entire rail tracks are going to be fenced up. We are insulating them from possible attacks. They are going to be walled off.
Vehicles are not going to be cutting those rail tracks. We have done bridges in Mushin, Ikeja, Yaba and Apapa road and so that’s the kind of thing that’s also going to happen on red rail. Blue Line from Mile 2 to Orile to National Trade Fair has been walled off completely. We are going to do the same on the red line.
Are you thinking about response along the line, should there even be a breakdown, because there are talks about rails and trains breaking down and it takes several hours before there is a rescue?
We have the best professionals in this on our payroll already. We even have a team of police officers that are dedicated on the blue light rail corridor, even before it gets started to clean up in order to ensure that there are no miscreants. Remember that there are also cameras that are going to be installed along the routes
. I understand that you got some of the coaches from Wisconsin in the United States…
No, we got the red line from Milwaukee. You know, interestingly, those trains were meant to be from Milwaukee to Chicago, you know. So it’s a short haul, but something happened and we’re able to pick it, but the other sets are actually coming from China on the blue line right now. Both of them are ready.
When is the red line supposed to be flagged off?
The blue will be up by December, while the Red Line will be on by first quarter of next year, but the entire infrastructure will be ready for the end of the year. We inherited the Blue Line, but we have actually done a lot more than what we have done in the last five years on the Blue Line as well.
Where does the Blue Line start and where does it terminate?
Phase one starts from Mile 2 and terminates at Marina. Marina is an iconic station for the Blue Line. Phase two of it will now push you back from Mile 2 going all the way to Okokomaiko. The beauty of phase two is that it is at ground level. There are no overhead.
Therefore, it is going to be faster and quicker for us to and the corridor is there to lay the tracks and be able to finish it. For the red line, it starts from Agbado, which is outside Lagos to Iju – Agege -Oshodi – Mushin- Yaba and Ebute Metta. The phase two of that one will get out to Marina some sometime in the future. People talk about Kenya people talk about Nairobi.
So yeah, I’m trying to talk about one in Ethiopia. Go and ask it is a sovereign that is doing it, not Addis Ababa that is doing it. We have been very creative in our financing, a lot of budgetary is there, but we are very, very creative. Also with the Loan. Let me tell you about the loan, single digit, eight-year money, you cannot get it anywhere
Where did you get it from Nigeria?
From local banks. I am extremely, very impressed with them. We are all stakeholders and they are with us in the journey
Let us talk about the Apapa gridlock that appears that your intervention was short-lived. You promised that you are going to fix it. What happened?
I am looking straight into the camera and I can boldly say that I have fixed Apapa gridlock. NPA has written letters to commend us. All of the major businesses in Apapa have equally written. I get daily video recording of what is happening in Apapa.
I have gotten one for today, and I am sure I will get more money between seven o’clock and nine o’clock and between one o’clock and three o’clock on a daily basis. What used to take two hours, three hours now takes them 15-20 minutes. But what is the remainder of the problem?
The Federal Government is doing the route from Sunrise in MTN from the Mile 2 end and going towards Apapa. The biggest fear is the fact that crimes are committed in those traffic and people do not have any help It is rather unfortunate, and we take it and that is why we have informed the RRS to improve security at those places, and we are lighting up the whole place.
Therefore, it is a double-edged challenge. It is something that needs to happen. It is a 10 kilometers of road. It is for them. That is a complete bypass.
Has Lagos recovered from the aftermath of ENDSARS?
There are two sides to it. I would say that we have recovered psychologically from it, but we are still working out the infrastructural recovery. Infrastructure is not something that you will fix in one day. For example, the major court we are turning into a 15-storey edifice for that will take about 60 courts at once.
That’s the kind of imposing structure that we’re bringing back to Igbosere High Court, and this will take time, but in terms of the psychology of it, I believe that my citizens and myself, we’re out of it, we’ve learned our lessons, we understand, the learning and the lessons of it. There was collateral damage that you know we had nothing to do with, but that is what it is.
They are the young people who are talking tough about how the ENDSARS movement will affect the new wave of political movement in the country. Are you shaken by that?
Time heals. In the last few years, people are more discerning. We are not taking anybody for granted or we are not taking anything to chance. Conversations are going on and what they want is not about what has happened, it is about what government is doing to improve the lot of each one of us.
It is about what opportunity this person has given to us as young people and given us a space for us to be able to flourish, and get to the highest level of whatever profession we will find ourselves. In addition, that is the conversation we are having. That is what we are doing. Take my cabinet for instance, my commissioner of Finance is 34, while Commissioner for Agriculture is 38, and the Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology is 33.
Have you been able to quench the anger from the ENDSARS protest?
No, it is a work in progress either and everybody will have one thing that they want or the other. If you look at the generality of our citizens who are young people, they feel us. We have trained over 400,000 people in digital skills alone in Lagos, because that is what they want. I have enabled many people with LASRIC, which is the Lagos State Research, where we are giving them grants on innovation on technology. We are not asking for money.