Exclusive Interview: We Have Over 225 On-Going Road Projects In Lagos State –Dr HamzatFeatured, Femi Kehinde, Interview, Latest News Thursday, February 13th, 2014
By Femi Kehinde, Lagos
Dr Kadiri Hamzat, Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure spoke with Femi Kehinde, Managing Editor of African Examiner on various projects his ministry embarked upon and completed in Lagos State since 2011, his rumoured ambition to contest Lagos State governorship election in 2015 and general national issues:
Honourable Commissioner, how has it been since 2011 when you resumed work in this Ministry of Works and Infrastructure?
Our governance experience has been challenging just as it has been interesting. It involves a lot of work but we can’t complain. It is the job we asked for we campaigned and asked the people to vote for us. They did. So we must live up to expectation. It has also been gratifying we have been the result and impact of the work
What are some major landmark projects you initiated when you came to the office? and those that have been completed, can we know them sir?
Well, I think the first thing to say, as you know government is a continuous thing. The moment you are appointed by the Governor to a position, you of course take over the portfolio of your Agency or Ministry, implying there are projects that are ongoing. One of the things that we don’t do in our state is to abandon projects, whatever is in the portfolio; you must address it, because the projects are for the state. So when I came in, my perception was there are projects that are on – going and they are in the state’s best interest in any case the resource of the State are being used.
So, in term of various projects, well, some are landmark, but all of them are extremely important as you know a lot of them are infrastructure and the essence is top move people from A to B, to make life easy, so people spend less time outside, spend more time with their family and spend less money on fuel. That is the whole essence. The main reason why we did Lekki – Ikoyi Bridge, for example, is basically to reduce the time people spend in traffic. If you are coming from Lekki and you are going to Mainland, you have no business being in Victoria Island, except if you want to do something there, but if you don’t. Just take Lekki and then you get out. Also at the time, we know 1004 flats was opening up we calculated that if residents have 2 cars, on the average there, you are introducing about 2000 plus cars on to the road. This clogs up the area. So the idea is with the introduction, we must find the way to reduce car accumulation in Victoria Island, so except you a have business there, you can just by pass Victoria Island and move on. All the roads that we have awarded, and all bridges such as irawo, Agiliti and everywhere they are to solve problem for the people. Lekki – Ikoyi bridge is good, but honestly a lot of projects like Majidun – Agiliti that I just mentioned, are extremely gratifying, because we went to an area where when it rains, people use canoe its , just behind Mile 12 and it’s a community of traders. We’ve been able to build a 300 meter bridge there, we’ve done a network of roads. Everything that we’ve done is to solve people’s problem, transportation problem, communication problem and so on.
The Orile to Okokomaiko road project is also a landmark project during Governor Fashola, when is it due for completion?
In responding some basic facts needs to be established. The road is about 62km when measured from Mile 2. However, it starts from Eric Moore all the way to Badagry. We had to do it in batches. For a project of this Govt. the resource base is large and needs to be managed. The road begins from Eric Moore all the way to Badagry that is about 62km. However we are doing it in batches. On this basis our resource base means we had to do Eric Moore to Mazamaza that is 7km first
Also, the challenges that we need to look at is when you are trying to relocate services, the most important in the road is to establish the right of way, because without that right of way, you cannot build, you have to pay compensation to people to people, because you are taking houses down, you are taking buildings down and the rest and when people ask the question, when will it be completed, that is why I like to go into this background. For example, on Lagos – Badagry road we’ve done about eight stakeholder meetings now. Because before we remove the encumbrances, you must talk to the people. If it requires us going back and do fifteen meetings, we have to do it. Everybody must agree. We’ve spoken to the Obas, to the various stakeholders, plank dealer and other traders. Expectedly there will be many issues. The Military too; because of the Signal Barracks, we have to move the fence. There are telecommunications companies that have a lot of things buried underground. One of the things we did was to advertise so that they can move them out of the way, because the new road, now has trunks, longitudinal and across the road, that if you want to lay your fiber cable you just go through the main hole, you don’t have to cut the road. But they have to first move what they have else it will be destroyed, so those are various challenges. On that road, we have NNPC pipelines that run across and then parallel, so and then you know, we have to now move that and the pipeline is not ours, so you must work NNPC. Also we are moving pylons; these are heavy PHCN galvanized steel, for these, we’ve paid so much. To do the road, we need over a million cubic meters of sand and just to put that into perspective, it means putting 1 meter by 0.5 meter of sand from Lagos to Sokoto and back and go to Sokoto again that is the amount of sand that we need. This is a lot of work. We cannot also paralyze the whole axis, so in doing it, we must look at people’s movement. Those are the challenges that we face in undertaking the construction.
We are also building the light rail. So there are interface issues it’s not the roads that we are building. We are also building a rail. So there are overlaps at different sections but we are managing, we know all these things before embarking on it and we planned it so that gives you the essence of the whole thing. As you would have noticed that we’ve started building the wall; which will separate the train from the cars, thus safety is also key. Those are the things that are going on, a lot of pilling is going on now, when the various interchanges will be built.
And then one of the things that we also look at is actually capacity buildings. As an Engineering student, like I said, I never saw a bridge being built. I went to the University of Ibadan, I saw the design, we did the calculation but I never saw a bridge being built. When we are building Lekki – Ikoyi for example, we took students from LASU there to see, they will never forget that, they will b able to see, when you see something it has a way of staying with you, so if we have to delay that project for six months, it’s worth it. Is it every time that we bring oyinbo to come build for us? The number of students from that have visited our road and the rail is increasing by the day, so when they come, we shut down so as to explain to them. This is how it works, so I think that is also extremely important, it’s not just about when is it finishing, it’s about what can we benefit from it, we will finish, it’s not a big deal, we will, but what other tangibles can we get, how can we build our society better, even as we build that road. These are the various challenges we face.
The Mile 12 to Ikorodu road is a major infrastructure upgrade by Governor Fashola administration, are you going to complete it before 2015?
By this year, we will commission it. It’s going faster than we anticipated, our plan was by November 2014, we commission, but it seems its going faster, at least what we are seeing is ahead, but we will see; now it seems the rain has started so, it depends again on nature, but that is in our plan. It’s a major infrastructure upgrade. There will be nine bridges there, nine pedestrian bridges, so it’s major project but it’s going well, and we hope that very soon it will be delivered and we can move on to another project.
We also saw a lot of pedestrian bridge being built across the state also, is it part of the plan?
Part of our plan is to first of all maintain existing ones, so we’ve done an audit of the pedestrian bridges and vehicle bridges in Lagos, costing what will take us to maintain them. We’ve set up maintenance templates. It is not when something negative happens that we will rise to address them so regularly our people go and maintain it. The second one is building all these pedestrian bridges, but some of the challenges we also have is litigation, its part of the problem we have, even with construction of roads. For example, at Cement bus stop, a pedestrian bridge is supposed to be there, but the matter is in court so we cannot continue, I know the court will say we should go on, but it is delaying us. Instead of three months, it might be six month I don’t know, how long that will take. We are building pedestrian bridge across and we hope people will use them; because the essence is to make sure that we don’t have fatalities. As our road gets better people will keep speeding. We hope that people will drive carefully. We are also building pedestrian bridges and doing expansion joints of our bridges, we’ve awarded a lot. At least to maintain and make sure that people have nice driving experience, and to improve on the stability of the bridges. It’s a whole lot that we are doing, just to make sure that our citizens drive on a very good road, but the truth is that we cannot solve all the problems in one day, that is why we say, pay your taxes, that’s the essence. The only way government makes money basically is through taxation, people have seen what can do at least in Lagos State, so we just hope that a lot of people that do not pay will come in, so we can do more roads.
During the first term of the Governor, we saw a lot of roads being built even to the Local Governments and then we see that the pace has slowed down.
Well, the pace has not, interestingly, we are building more roads now than then, it’s just that we’ve now gone to inner cities. For example, in two weeks’ time, we will be commissioning a road in Ejinrin in Epe, so these are some of the areas that we did not to before, so we are going to the inner roads. We were in Badagry the last time to hand over market road we were in Mushin to handover 16 roads, yesterday. Also at Ajegunle to hand over Alaba Cementry, it’s a 2.6 km road. We are building more now. Right now, we have over 225 roads projects on – going today, and then we will add more. As a matter of fact we’ve added more, so more is going, it’s just that the time we started, people saw activities, but construction method has also changed. For example, if you go Isheri- Osun where we awarded a 6.9km road, to link with two bridges, the two bridge are about 7.5m and 300m.They are link the bridges so that Jakande, you can link up with Isolo. Now what does is that it opens up the community, but work is being done in the yards, the drains are being constructed, so they will just come in and start plugging it in and then it looks faster. Construction method has changed from where you actually have to be done on the road. There will be some on the road in certain instances, but lots can go on at the yard in this way it frees people and then doesn’t disturb transportation, because we must also worry about how people move when we do the roads. That is why when we do certain roads, people will say how come you didn’t go, there, it is because if we go there that is where traffic is, if we go people have to park and trek so we have to look at the inconveniencing people and so on., and so forth, so we doing much more now than we did at that time.
Let’s delve into politics, you left a very good job in USA before you came to Oando Plc and then now in politics, what is your mission in politics?
Well, first of all, when I was in the US, I had the nostalgro feelings of coming back home. I missed my mom and you can’t fault that. My children missed their cousins and the rest, so it was just time and I just thought that as an Executive Director, that is probably the peak for me,. The truth is, it’s not my country, it’s a foreign land, you know, for me is just to come back home. Then, I was at Oando before I became a Commissioner. Well I didn’t come in as a politician.ok? I did not, even though I came from a political family, my dad is a politician, so I grew up in a political home, but I didn’t come in as a politician. I was doing my job, the Governor at the time (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu), invited me to come and serve in his cabinet and that is it, the essence really is just to serve. I don’t think there is anything that can be more challenging than the that. Really in the true sense of it, it’s tough because of the expectation of people over time. We’ve gone through different phases in our life as a nation, the military, but what makes me happy was we’ve done it before. Ok, this is a country where we have Television before Portugal, before France, so what has happened? So it was the same when Baba Awolowo and the rest were in government, they were not older than us, they were infact younger, that is the truth and they don’t even have the advantage that we have today. They don’t have internet, they don’t have television, they were the ones that came up with television, they don’t have computers. We have all these today that mean that we can do it again, we can rebuild our country. The essence is to make sure that we serve our people, we must stand for something in life, things can’t just be easy. There are a lot of people that will say I prefer my private sector job, fine. We can’t all like the same thing, but the truth of the matter is we must build our country, it’s as simple as that, because nobody will come and build it for us.
Honourable Sir, there is there is this rumour in town that, 2015 you are likely to take over from His Excellency, Gov. Fashola, is it true?
Well, you said it’s a rumour, it’s the people that will decide who will take over from Gov. Fashola. First of all, the party must bring up a candidate, and the people will vote, so really it’s difficult for me to answer that, in the sense that I don’t know what the peoples will is. I hope they will vote for my party, based on what we’ve done, I hope and pray that, it’s still our party that will rule this state because we have better programmes and the opposition which is the PDP, we have not seen what they have to offer this country. As such, it’s our hope that people will vote massively for our party. If you look at different spheres of our lives, our airports, our seaport, and the rest, they are in wreck. That is the truth. We have the opportunity to just think that government that understand the need for these things to be better, we hope that in Lagos again and at Federal level and people can now see difference at the Federal level, which will also help Lagos. For example you are talking about the light rail, we wanted to start with the red line, instead of the blue, the blue line is for Marina to Okokomaiko, the red is from Agbado all the way to Marina. The survey clearly show that it’s one of the most profitable in the world because of the quantum of people that goes through Mushin, Agege, Yaba and the rest. In order to do that, we need the cooperation of the Federal Government, which we’ve not gotten, that’s why we decided to take our destiny in our hands, to do the blue line because we don’t require any approval there, so we hope clearly that our party will be in government again. At the Federal and of course at the State level and at the right time, we see what happens.
Do you have an ambition to contest in 2015 to be Governor of Lagos State?
Well, you asked the question initially why I came into politics, that was your question, and I said the essence is to serve. So being a Governor or gubernatorial candidate is also to serve. so if the parties see me fit, yeah, why not? That is for the decision of the party and the leaders of the party. It’s their right to make that decision. We will see, I think my own situation is a bit different, I have a position that the governor appointed me to serve so I must do that job. It’s not time for campaign, so I don’t want to get to that business. I just want to do my job, when it’s the right time, everybody will make his or her opinion known. There will be no more rumour at that time. Everybody will make it known, when the time comes, we will know.
Let’s look at the national politics, what’s your take about this country’s situation and the general well- being of the people?
Well I think the capacity to do better is there for us as people. Let’s take it sector by sector, look at our airport, that is an opportunity to create enormous amount of jobs.. Look at the power, look at our ports; it seems to me that our seaport will become a transshipment port very soon, because it’s not deep. Everybody is building deep sea, and that is why Lagos State is trying to build the port along with the private sector and course with the cooperation of the Federal Government. In the airport an A3 plane for example cannot come to Lagos because of our runway as many claim. But no it’s not our runway, it’s because our airport it is not big enough. We don’t have terminal s that we can have three levels of disengagement, it means if it lands, it will take three hours to offload the plane, who has that time . Now every country is building a new terminal to accommodate such aircraft. Why are we building such aircrafts imagine, if you build a bigger airport, like Dubai Airport which can take about 7o million passengers every year. There will be multiplier effects. There will be shops, the people will have opportunity to sell tickets and there will be currency exchange, all sorts of job that people can do. So it’s not just about creating jobs it’s how to empower people and we don’t seem to see that. The Federal Government has a a lot to do, the Nigerian Port Authority as inefficient as its being run, where tankers will have to park everyday on the road, it takes about almost 30minutes to 45 minutes to check in a tanker, which means that the maximum you can do is about 48 tankers a day and they are just lined up, disturbing the roads and stopping people’s business. We went there, infact Access Bank constructed a new branch, but the sign is just there on the left side of the office. It has not opened. They realized that they cannot do business there. It’s the only port I know that doesn’t maintain its initial environment, every port we go to they make sure that a 10km radius of their areas, they are the ones that fix it. They take them as part of their infrastructure. They have to make sure that people can get out. Those are the challenges that we see, but apparently the PDP government has not, and does not seem to understand how to run the government properly. As such in every society if something is not working, you make a change. So it’s for the people of the country to decide our destiny, and what do you want to do?
With APC now, can you be sure there will be a change in 2015?
Like I said, it’s for the people to make a change, but we will make a good case, we are working that is why we are getting the progressives, and dynamic people that you see, it’s not about the party thing now, it’s our country. Every generation must leave the society better than the generation before it, they must leave it better than the generation so they can have a better life. Ours is the reverse. The generation coming, we are not seeing what we will hand over, and that will be disastrous for us, so we must take that change. Every nation like Philippines, and the rest, at a time they said “no more, let’s make a change” and we can see the projection now, Philippines is growing Nigeria cannot continue to go like this. There are some progress that we are making, but we believe that the capacity to do more is there as such, let’s give it to some people that at least understand what to do. I don’t think that is a crime, so Nigerian people will have to make that decision and we hope that they would in 2015, and APC will have Federal government in this country.
Thank you sir, Eko o ni baje. Eko a tesiwaju
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