Tax Payers Funds at Work: A Garland for LASG

Prince Debo Luwaji

By Prince Debo Luwaji 

There is no doubt that these are very tough times nationwide and indeed globally. Here at home, widening disparities in forex remain of great concern while prices of consumer goods and the rest continue to soar to the utter discomfiture of both the rich and the poor. There is a general lamentation in the land, so palpable it is frightening. Yet in the midst of our multifarious challenges, one cannot but be impressed by a series of   promidominantly  cheery news emanating from the Lagos State Government in recent weeks. 

Top on the table, for me, is the broadening of the Lagos transportation infrastructure.  Depending on when you are reading this piece, the much-anticipated Lagos State Red Line Rail project, scheduled for official  commissioning by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR on 29 February,2024, is, from all intent and purposes,  a done deal, to borrow a common cliche.

With the Blue line train already transporting hundreds of commuters daily between Mile 2 and the Island, also projected for expansion in coverage to Okoko with additional coaches in no distant future, one can only begin to imagine how much easier lives and commuting in Lagos will be with the Red Line Rail system. The latter’s first phase will move more than 500,000 passengers daily, covering  a distance of over 27 kilometres from Agbado, with other stations at Iju, Agege, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, and terminating at Oyingbo in Ebute-Metta. That’s huge!

If you have been part of this burstling city long enough, you would give kudos to the government in the areas of infrastructural developments generally and especially the integrated transport system which is pratically facilitating a largely city-wide  multi-level  operations fit for a metropolis with such importance as Nigeria and indeed Africa’s economic hub.

To cope with the ever swelling population of Lagos, these audacious steps are needed and we must admit, politics apart, that   it takes an imaginative and proactive leadership to be on top of it all. 

To be sure, all these initiatives are not impulsive measures but  part of a masterplan that Governor Sanwo-Olu codenamed  Project T.H.E.M.E.S, ( an acronym for his administration’s six strategic development agenda namely, Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy, Entertainment and Tourism as well as Security and Governance).

Given recent developments with visible and tangible results,  there is little debate that the government is touching all these areas one after another impacting  the lives of Lagosians  positively.

Take the road networks for instance, if you have cause to move around from Ikorodu, to Badagry to Epe, there are ongoing construction and rehabilitation works you would see across the state.

Aside from the massive Lekki- Epe expressway, the planned airport and other related projects in that axis,  there’s the is the road project  with bridge on the mainland, linking Ifako-Ijaiye Government and Ojodu Local government with the rest of the metropolis. 

 Slated for completion in the first quarter of this year, this also forms part of the state government’s efforts at improving conectivity and consolidating the transportation pillar of the THEMES+ Agenda 

As a business owner, I am particularly excited at the news of  the state’s newly intoduced micro-business loans. As widely publicised, there’s now an application portal for businesses to access funds of up to  N5 million, a much- needed support for many  to stay in business amid these challenging times The loan is reportedly open to all types of business owners who are ready to scale operations or expand to new markets.

That this initiative is coming at the heels of the recently launched ‘Lagos Market 

Trader Money’ where as many as 15,000 beneficiaries got N50 000 each, made the loans to SMEs altogether commendable.

These are not mere happenstances. According to the SA to the Governor on Tax and  Revenue – Mr Ogungbo Opeyemi Abdul-Kabir, all of the above measures are reasons  people must continue to appreciate the nexus between the taxes they pay and government’s capacity to fund its various projects which are essentially targeted at improving the socioeconomic environment and the welfare of the people.

“Taxes and revenues are key components of  what empowers the government to expand social amenities to all Lagosians including the old and the indigent. So individuals and corporate bodies who pay their taxes and fulfil their statutory obligations to the government timely  and without proding are, by the same token, helping to take care of the underprivileged, tackle road congestions as well as combat the spread of disease and crime”, he said in a recent statement. 

The latest good news is that Sanwo-Olu has announced a 25% reduction in transport services for the State Public Transport system, covering BRT, Train, and Ferry, as well as initiatives to provide free daily meals for over 1,000 people, open Sunday Markets in 42 identified locations.

In addition, government hospitals are now to provide pregnant  women free deliveries  including caesarean sections. Only families who have experienced the apprehension that accompany this particular health care needs  would appreciate the magnitude of  the governor’s  thoughtfulness especially at this period of pervading

socioeconomic challenges. 

A word of caution though. There’s the need to call for transparency in all these and upcoming interventions. Not too long ago, we saw how the  Fed Govt free and sibsidized transportation during the last festive season was highjacked and messed up, leaving thousands of intended beneficiaries stranded and befuddled. 

It is important that Governor Sanwo-Olu put the right measures in place to ensure that none of his initiaves become avenue for self-enrichment by well positioned civil servants,  politicians and their cronies. 

Records and full identities  of all who are benefitting from Lagos state free social intervention must be accessible to civil societies and any other interested persons now and in future.

In closing, to say there would always be  numerous areas calling for improvement  in governance and the so-called dividends of democracy is to say the obvious. Yet, even at this,  there is a level of developmental achievements in Lagos State which should earn those at the elm of affairs  some fair acclaim for a job well done so far.

Prince Debo Luwaji is an Entrepreneur and public affairs analyst.

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