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Lagos Under Sanwo-Olu: It’s the Economy. Period!

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With bold optimism and audacious investment in critical infrastructure, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is gradually building the final layers of the foundation for awealthier Lagos, Israel Opayemi submits.   

Let me make a confession. The title of this piece has drawn inspiration from James Carville’s popular campaign theme for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential election bid. In 1992, the United States was experiencing headwinds under President George W. Bush who was seen by a section of the American electorate as out of touch with the needs of the average Americans. Carville then told a meeting of Bill Clinton’s campaign staff, that, “It’s the Economy. Stupid!” to emphasise the primacy of economic issues in that election cycle. The result? Bill Clinton gave prominence to economic issues touching the lives of average Americanthroughout that campaign season and he won impressively.  

As a close Associate of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a Policy Communications Specialist, each time I reflect on the momentous efforts he is making towards giving Lagos State some fitting infrastructure or some of the social intervention initiatives being carefully executed by his government, one is forced to reach just the same conclusion. I often quipped when summarizing the strategic goal in view of all that the GovernorBabajide Sanwo-Olu is leading his team to do, “It’s the Economy. Period!”

Discerning citizens can indeed see the geometric economic progression the state is currently making. Through years of meticulous planning under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and years of surgical implementation of the plans under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) down to the incumbent, Lagos has indeed attained her full status as Nigeria’s Economic Capital’. The state has in fact exceeded just that local adulation to the place of her rating as Africa’s fifth largest economy. It would seem the duo of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat are conscious of their roles in the history of Lagos. They must build the final layers of the foundation for the emergence of a truly prosperous Lagos in a few short years. They seem to be approaching the task with some sense of urgencyand admirable focus.

As at the time this writer was putting the thoughts of chronicling the timelines of the multiple investment roadshows the Governor and his Deputy were running with, they have crisscrossed Dubai, Morocco, and United Kingdom all within days and hours. The goal for them is simple. Stimulate the growth of the economy, put more wealth in the hands of citizens and lift more Lagosians out of poverty. Poverty is a clear and present danger to society. But there is a method to treating this madness called poverty. Build critical infrastructure. They are keys to opening the inherent wealth in a City. It is therefore not surprising that the duo Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat know exactly what to do. Keeping marketing our problems as opportunities.  

On Wednesday 1, November, the Chief Marketing Officer of Lagos was in faraway Georgetown, Guyana to attend the AfriCaribbean Trade Forum and to discuss the imperatives of investing in food security, agricultural productivity and expanding agribusiness opportunities in Lagos. His message was clean and clear. “It is only by doing so that that we can address food security concerns but also stimulate employment, create opportunities for export and uplift rural income.” Perhaps,thinking in line with the Yoruba adage that ‘once hunger is excluded from poverty, the misery of poverty has been vanquished.’ Governor Sanwo-Olu has therefore set his face like a flint on the goal of food security by 2024. He hopes to complete the Lagos Food System and Logistics Hub, Africa’s biggest food and logistics hub in Ketu-Ejirin, Epe as part of a strategic initiative to put more wealth in the hands of farmers, ensure food security and sufficiency. While the annual value of food transactions is estimated at about USD 10 billion, farmers are losing over 40 percent of their incomes due to a lack of adequatepost harvest storage facilities. The Babajide Sanwo-Oluadministration is building a storage facility on a 1.2 million square metre site in Ketu-Ejinrin. The facility is expected to boost the economy by reducing waste that arise as a result of inadequate storage facilities. It is expected to ensure food security and increase internally generated revenue.  When completed, the hub is expected to provide direct income to more than 5 million traders in the value chain, while ensuring uninterrupted food supply to more than 10 million Lagosians for at least ninety days in times of scarcity. The central food hub will encourage more investment in farming and food production, and open farmers up to modern-day storage facilities. Again, it’s the economy. Period! 

But that is not all. It was during this round of investment marketing roadshow, precisely on Tuesday 31, October 2023 that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu secured and signed the partnership with the African Export-Import Bank and Access Bank for a massive investment of $1.352 billion dollars in Lagos. This is part of the funding needed for the realisation of the Fourth Mainland Bridge, the Omu Creek Project and the Second Phase of the LRMT Blue Line from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko amongst others. It was also at this investment marketing event the Governor declared with absolute confidence: “Our vision for Lagos is becoming a reality with the Lekki-Epe International Airport and the Lagos Food Systems and Logistics Hub in Epe. These projects will further boost our economy and serve generations to come.”  

On Friday 3, November 2023, to the delight of the local and global investment community, the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Oluannounced a plan to build a new Lagos International Financial Centre while inaugurating the Aigboje AigImoukhuede-led Council entrusted with brining the dream to life.

Worthy of note is the exhibition of the mastery of the art of governance by partnership with the organised private sector and multilateral institutions. This is because most of the ground breaking infrastructure funding feats being recorded by the Sanwo-Olu administration to the admiration of other States in Nigeria are actually based on strategic partnership and collaboration with players in the private sector and other development agencies. An example is this partnership with Enterprise NGR, a member-led group that specialises in strengthening financial and professional services in the state. 

The partnership between the Lagos Government and EnterpriseNGR to build the new Lagos International Financial Centre is aimed at making the state a global financial hub that will direct investment flows from places like New York, London, and Paris amongst others. With the signing of the pact with Enterprise NGR, Sanwo-Olu aims to captivate global investors, unveil thepotentials of Destination Lagos as an investment destination of choice, and pave the way for a transformative era of economic prosperity. 

Think of it. The new Lagos International Financial Centre is a bespoke destination where major global financial institutions can set up their African presence. It is an initiative to turn Lagos into a global financial powerhouse. Think of it again. Who will they employ during the massive construction phase? Our people. Think of the lanyard of economic activities tied to construction sites. From crane rentals, diesel supply, sand supply, gravel supply, food vending to craftmanship. Just imagine the ripple effects of this phase on hotels and hospitality sector in Lagos alone. It is a place where wealth will be placed in the hands of artisans and professionals.

As of Thursday 9, November 2023, Governor Sanwo-Olu was at the high level African Mayoral, the Africa Investment Forum 2023 in Marrakech, Morocco organised by the Africa Development Bank, AFDB. The goal was also the economy. It was aimed at rallying the partnership with AFDB, AFC, Africa50, Afrexim Bank, Development Bank of South Africa, European Investment Bank, Trade and Development Bank amongst other development partners to invest in infrastructure development in Lagos. Like a brilliant salesman that he is, Governor Sanwo-Olu always shows the numbers. He spoke on a Panel on Thursday. By Friday, he has led his economic team to London, United Kingdom again where, together with the Enterprise NRG will be meeting with select British and International business leaders from across different continents to also market Lagos as a destination for investment.     

A close look at Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s T.H.E.M.E.S agenda easily highlights how Lagos has been able to synergise its resources and redirect them towards rapid improvement of the economy of the state during his first term. Upon his re-election and assumption of office for the second term, Sanwo-Olu again expanded the focus of the agenda and rechristened it, THE T.H.E.M.E.S PLUS AGENDA,’ to signify some vital additions like the Social Inclusion, Gender Equality and Youth in the next four years.  Even for all of these additions, the strategic goal remains the same, the economy! Be it for the women and the youth as well as other disadvantaged citizens across the gender and age isles, the goal has remained to ensure more citizens of Lagos State become empowered through access to productive economic activities. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu believes that infrastructure is the key to unlock the wealth that lies untold in every human community across our state. He is in the same developmental school with American Vice President, Kamala Harris who earlier this year while speaking at Chicago, Illinois said, “when we invest in our infrastructure, we invest in our economy, we invest in America’s future – a better future for workers, businesses, families and communities.”

Some of the critical road projects at different stages of completionin Lagos State such as the reconstruction and expansion of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway from four lanes to ten lanes is road of economic significance to link Nigeria to a vital part of the West African Sub-region thereby improving the pace of trade and commerce between Lagos State and her West African neighbours. This and other projects like it are being carefully delivered to bring about rapid economic development in that corridor. Again, economy is the goal.  

The fact that the contract for the historic Fourth Mainland Bridge was eventually awarded to a giant construction consortium ofCCECC-CRCCIG of China in a deal worth US$2.5 billion, is good news to discerning Lagosians. It is to further open up somesections of Lagos to accelerated economic development. Designed to be a 38km long bridge, the Fourth Mainland Bridge will further open up Lekki, Langbasa, Baiyeku and Itamaga in Ikorodu to accelerated economic developmentThis is another infrastructure with economic significance as it will open the real estate corridors of Lekki and Ikorodu for unprecedented boom.

The delivery of intra-state train systems will undoubtedly remainone of the biggest achievements of the Sanwo-Olu governmentand another key to unlocking economic development. The Lagos Blue Line project is an electric rapid transit line that forms part of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit system run by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), which was opened for commercial use on September 4, 2023, with fivefunctional stations. The commissioning of the Blue Line is nothing but historic considering the fact that Lagos has emergedthe first sub-national government in Africa to fund and deliver a rail system. It is a tribute to the mastery of creative financial engineering and prudent management of resources.  

Envisioned by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and initiated by former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, completing the project underscores Sanwo-Olu’s understanding of what needed to be done to open the state up to rapid economic development as a 21st-century Mega City if Lagos must sit at the table of other global cities such as London, New York, Paris to mention but a few. From the economic perspective, the real big deal is not the fact that it is the first of its kind in the West African sub-region and the first by any sub-national government. The real big deal is the economics of moving 500,000 passengers daily from Mile 2 to Marina.  The Governor has again assured Lagosians that the fleet would be expanded in such a way that waiting time at the train station will be further reduced and has hinted of plans to double the number of passengers ferried daily by the Blue Linewith the expansion of the tracks by 14 kilometers up to Okokomaiko from Mile 2. Moving a million people daily in a bustling city like Lagos means more people can transact more businesses timeously. In economics, time is money. It is a valuable resource for which money is paid in exchange.

But wait for it. The real economic game changer for the rapid economic development of Lagos State is the Red Line rail projectin my opinion. It is a 37kilometre North-South rail route proposed to run from Agbado to Marina with 13 stations at Agbado, Iju, Agege, Ikeja, MMIA International, MMIA Domestic, Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, Ebute Meta, Iddo, Ebute Ero, and Marina. Today, the project is about 95 percent completed, the red line would start with one million passengers daily by the end of 2023. Add that number to the one million that the Blue Line would move when completed! Also add that to the millions commuting via the bus rapid transport scheme, the First and Last Mile bus system, LAGRIDE and the Lagos Ferry Services. Once a City is able to move millions of her citizens in speed, safety and comfort through intermodal transportation system as the one being brilliantly executed by the Sanwo-Olu administration, the City is bound to record increase in economic activities in daytime. This will also impact the citizens’ and government spending on the treatment and management of cardiovascular diseases associated with sedentary lifestyle residents of congested cities are known for.

By showing uncommon knowledge of how to unlock an economy through bold investment in infrastructure transformation, the Sanwo-Olu administration has become an exemplar for other States in Nigeria in terms of bold vision and the audacity to do.  This was the sentiment echoed by the Ekiti State Governor, Abiodun Oyebanji in Lagos on Sunday, November 5, 2023, during the commissioning of the Oyingbo overpass, Governor Oyebanji said, “Lagos State has become a model for other states” while also stressing that Governor Sanwo-Olu had become a worthy mentor to other governors because of his numerous achievements.” Will they give him the badge of a Class Captain in the Nigerian Governor’s Forum now? I argue the case that he deserves this honour. Even if Governor Sanwo-Olu does not get it, he and his team can at least take a bow as they read this piece before they step out to the next mission to keep our Greater Lagos Rising.

Opayemi, a public relations consultant, lives and works in Lagos

Opinion

Tokunbo Wahab: Restoring Sanity to Achieve A Greater Lagos Rising

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By: Oladapo Sofowora

Barrister Tokunbo Phillip Wahab is a man who is not swayed by frivolous things or sentiments. He is not like other public servants who are in it for personal gain. His foray into politics is to make a difference because of his upright nature. Those who know him describe him as fearless, unperturbed, and unbothered by anything. As a lawyer, he was outspoken, coherent, distinct, articulate, elegant, and highly cerebral. He knows the legal profession like the back of his hand and can cross-examine in the court with ease. He would have attained the highest legal title in the land as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria if he continued practising. However, he chose to put his knowledge into public service, and he has not regretted it since.

Tokunbo’s style is distinct, and he is a stickler for success. He believes that things should be done the right way to achieve great results. As Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwoolu on Education, he spearheaded the biggest turnaround in the educational sector in Lagos. He revamped the educational template of Lagos to meet global standards, upgraded colleges of education, and polytechnics to universities, and ensured teachers were dishing out quality education inline with the THEMES agenda. He monitored and ensured quality delivery in the education sector, and his strides in that sector have been unmatched since he left to serve in another capacity. Despite the global pandemic that took students out of class for a long time, Wahab ensured that the educational calendar in Lagos was not tampered with, displaying Lagos status as the true Centre of excellence. He ensured the calendar was followed to the core, as there was no break in transmission like other states witnessed. With all his giant strides, Governor Sanwoolu immediately redeployed him to his new role as the Commissioner of Environment and Water Resources during the beginning of his second tenure.

When he was sworn in as a Commissioner; it didn’t take him less than a week to settle in and read the riot act to workers in the ministry and also erring Lagosians who are in the habit of polluting Lagos through waste, air, noise, and encroached builders on areas reserved as green areas or those blocking the drainage channel for easy movement of rain water. He displayed his negotiating ability by inviting all critical stakeholders for dialogue while he also highlighted the importance of removing contravening buildings stopping water flow into the canal to ensure Lagos is not flooded during the rainy season. He also rejigged the once moribund Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), which are now charged with the responsibility of enforcing complaints written by many on the issues of indiscipline, and the Lagos Environment Protection Authority has been on their toes receiving petitions and carrying out enforcement.

To make the work easy, he ensured the running of open-door policing and also opened his lines and other channels of communication for speedy action. On several occasions, he has received complaints on social media and acted on them at the speed of light, which has earned him the commendation of many. While his approach has restored the confidence of people in government agencies functioning optimally, Tokunbo is not relenting in his quest to restore more sanity to Lagos so it can be an eco-friendly and habitable haven for all in line with the United Nations Environment Organization terms. Non compliance Hotels, religious houses, entertainment hubs have been locked due to one infraction or the other in other to restore sanity within the Lagos Metropolis.

While Tokunbo is doing his job, many won’t know that back door discharging his duties is a Herculean task. Many elites have complained to the authorities about his no-bending style, but Tokunbo has said that he will do everything within his power to ensure things are done according to the law and also in due process without minding whose ox is gored. Some allegedly top political stakeholders were culpable when he was demolishing houses that encroached on drainage setbacks, but Tokunbo didn’t mind their emotional blackmail and campaign of calumny on the media instead of him to slow down he intensified his effort. He has always said posterity will judge him for doing the right thing and everyone will thank and appreciate the Governor Sanwo-olu led government for the job they are doing when the result becomes more evident. While many have resorted to sponsoring media campaigns to soil the name he has built, he has identified them as cheap blackmail and will not in any way deter him from doing the right thing.

For Tokunbo, at his current level he is not particular about wealth, he has accomplished virtually everything he wants at a relatively young age, but politics for him is an avenue to give back to his immediate society. Despite his standing order to do the right thing, on a lighter note, the Epe born generous money bag is a fun and compassionate person. Those who have been with him can disclose the fact that he is a man who loathes the sight of another man in distress; he is always ready to assist. Despite trying hard to stay out of the media cynosure for the good things he does, his name has continued to remain a recurring decimal in the media for philanthropy and also cheerful giving and service to humanity. In his personal capacity; he has sponsored plenty children to school at all levels, he has sponsored free health checkup and operation for many people, he has constantly provided edible items to the downtrodden and constantly doles largess to many who are on his payroll. Tokunbo believes he has made a name for himself, but one thing remaining is to cement a long-lasting legacy that the generation unborn will admire and applaud.

As the popular parlance says, the reward of a job well done is more job. Wahab is not resting on his oars anything soon until he achieves his main goal of restoring sanity to achieving a better Lagos rising like the morning sun. He believes there is nowhere like home, putting Lagos on the pedestal of other developed cities across the world. To achieve that, it will require deviating from the norm and that what he is currently championing.

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Opinion

Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite Brings Renewed Hope Alive With Quality Delivery

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OLADAPO SOFOWORA

A Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu said in one of his popular quotes; “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step”, this has become the truism since the swearing-in of Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite as Nigeria’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu last year. Dr. Uzoka-Anite immediately hit the ground running in her quest to further put Nigeria on the map as an investment destination of choice for foreign and local investors by also igniting seamless trade activities with policies to drive the ease of doing business in Nigeria and expunging all possible bottlenecks affecting trade activities.

With much gusto and seriousness, She has achieved a remarkable turnaround with just barely a year in charge of the ministry with impeccable deliverables that have sparked the economy to a blistering and boisterous level. As an avid team player, owning to her background as commissioner for Finance in Imo State and a seasoned banker with Zenith Bank, she maintained a purposeful symbiotic relationship and collaboration with the staff of the ministry by creating an atmosphere that is purpose-driven and also result-oriented in line with President Tinubu’s mandate of reviving the economy through trade, job creation and expunging all bottlenecks mitigating against the growth of the nation’s trade and investment sector. When she came into office; she understudies all modes of operation while she also spoke to the staff on the need to key into her vision and mission in line with President Tinubu’s 8-Point Agenda where Trade, Industry and Investment play a pivotal role in its actualization. She started with the supervision and management of multilateral trade and investment negotiations that will help attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country to help create employment and also ensure more forex inflow with the establishment of a Trade Intelligence Unit in synergy with the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Customs Services, the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace and the Central Bank of Nigeria. The TIU is providing all trade-related data and information in Nigeria by integrating big data and artificial intelligence. The Unit will use accumulated information to predict local and global economic trends, which will help Nigerian traders with invaluable insights to navigate potential global economic shocks and provide strategic guidance to enhance Nigeria’s economic growth.

With her unwavering passion, she is helping Nigeria transit from the over-reliance on revenue from Oil and Gas to other sources of income through trade of other commodities via the export of finished products, talent export and a host of others. Dr. Uzoka-Anite has also initiated several plans to grow Nigeria’s economy via food production, processing and agricultural industrialization, food export business and improvement in the farming sector; enhancing self-sufficiency in feeding the nation with what it grows and also reducing the burden of importation of food and beverages, saving Nigeria billions of dollars annually.

While attending the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India last year, the Honorable Minister fostered a strategic partnership between Nigeria and India thereby strengthening the age-long trade relationship between both countries which saw the actualization of Nigeria’s quest to improve its technological strength and also understudy policies which saw Indian government elevate a vast majority of its population from the poverty line.

Uzoka-Anite has studied the need for a total overhaul, upgrade and change in the mentality of Nigeria to ensure purchasing power with less liquidity as it is done in developed economies across the world. She developed the much-talked-about Consumer Credit system. The goal is to increase consumer credit uptake to enable a sustainable credit system in line with global best practices and enhance supporting infrastructure to boost credit facilitation. Funds have been earmarked from the 2024 Appropriation bill to begin the process of establishing a viable Consumer Credit system for Nigeria.

Uzoka-Anite created another policy and framework that will further set the country on the path of greatness with the Nigerian Trade Facilitation Committee’s relaunch to enhance the efficiency of Trade Facilitation and Liberalization. She strategically designed the merger of the TFL with the already existing Nigerian Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) to be streamlined and relaunched as the NTFC. The relaunch of NTFC will be nimbler and more strategic in achieving the overall objective of improving trade facilitation in Nigeria.
While still being applauded for this initiative; She integrated the Presidential Grant, Loan Scheme and Palliative Programme targeted to provide financial assistance to individuals and businesses due to the biting and dwindling economy. The Bank of Industry (BOI) has been charged with the administration and effective deployment of these funds, under the
auspices of the Ministry which is currently being disbursed and Nigerians in their large numbers have thanked the administration for the funds.

To increase the chances of Artisans and the informal sector service providers in Nigeria; Uzoka-Anite disclosed that it is necessary to ensure Artisans are given the required certification which will not only avail them the opportunity in Nigeria it will also open doors of opportunity for talent exchange programmes with countries Nigeria is in partnership with. She berthed the idea of licensing and certification of Artisans under the Skill-UP Artisans (SUPA) initiative with the Industrial Training Funds ITF to improve artisan skills through licensing and certification to meet industry standards, boosting quality and consumer trust with the aim of 10 Million job creation, overall economic growth and talent export opportunities under the National Talent Exchange Programme (NATEP) which she launched in New York, United States of America alongside the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) during the 78th edition of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

To fetch more revenue and development into the country, she has paid rapt attention to the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) strategic stakeholder engagement with high-level players in the Oil $ Gas sector. The initiative has enabled the realization of infrastructural development, job creation and foreign exchange inflows with secured investment commitments from APM Terminals, amounting to $112 million for a state-of-the-art facility and an additional $500 million over the next four years. This commitment is projected to create employment for 900,000 skilled and unskilled workers in Nigeria. The Minister also commissioned an in-depth review of the Free Trade Zones in Nigeria, to identify areas of improvement by considering the incentives applicable, the applicable Laws and proposed policy reforms required to stimulate and catalyze the economic benefits of the Free Trade Zones and the Special Economic Zones for the benefit of local and foreign investors. She also charged the Corporate Affairs Commission to open a window for the registration of 2 million businesses to help revive the economy which will result in the creation of approximately 50 million jobs. This ongoing scheme will ensure financial inclusion, poverty alleviation, and economic empowerment which will help encourage the export of commodities to attract forex into the economy. She moved for the establishment of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Connect service unit of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council that is responsible for promoting non-oil export in Nigeria, the Council is charged with the strategic mandate to engage and connect exporters with solutions to their export challenges. The Unit is bridging the gap between the Council and non-oil exporters.

Knowing and acknowledging the commitment of diasporas to the economy, Uzoka Anite has also advocated for their inclusion in policymaking and also wooed them to ensure constant remittance that will help stimulate the growth of the Nigerian economy. To help achieve her plans, she created a Diaspora Fund scheme that will help increase forex inflow, leverage diaspora expertise and technology, and eliminate trade barriers to attract foreign investments. She also designed and developed the establishment of a Diaspora Fund which seeks to harness the skills and resources of the Nigerian diaspora for national advancement to unlock the economic potential of the Nigerian diasporas, fostering a conducive business environment and contributing to the country in collaboration with the Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).

To ensure industrialization in the country, she received a commitment from investors to Establish a State-Of-The-Art Lead Battery Recycling Plant by Til Group and Oztugrul. The investment plays a pivotal role in various industries, including automotive, telecommunications, and renewable energy. However, the proper disposal and recycling of lead batteries are crucial for environmental sustainability and public health.

To further strengthen partnerships with other countries to show that Nigeria is serious about opening its arm for more investment; Uzoka-Anite showed her negotiating power by leveraging on already established relationships by building new ones. She has attended Bilateral engagements that will in the long run be beneficial to Nigeria. Her Participation in the Commonwealth Trade and Investment Summit 2023 reiterates Nigeria’s commitment to encourage and expand trade with Her commonwealth partners and dismantle all barriers to trade and investments through substantial reforms. This platform also provided an opportunity for a productive bilateral meeting with the Secretary of State for the Department of Business and Trade – Honourable Kemi Badenoch, which accelerated concrete negotiations on the conclusion and execution of the Enhanced Trade in Partnership between both Nations. The Establishment of a Saudi – Nigeria Business Council, Proposed establishment of Abu Dhabi – Nigeria Economic Council, Proposed establishment of an Emirati – Nigeria Business Council, Advanced Stages of Partnership Discussions on Talent – Export Program with Germany, Preliminary Stages of Partnership Discussions on a Talent – Export Program with UAE, Revitalization of the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment (JMACITI), Technical Partnership with Bosch and the German Association of Automotive Industry and a host of others in the pipeline will favour Nigeria and help put us on a high pedestal as a nation fast developing through strategic partnership and massive industrialization.

To show solidarity with local manufacturers and stakeholders; Uzoka-Anite kick-started 2024 with a factory tour to identify and seek to address challenges facing local manufacturers in a bid to foster a stronger manufacturing economy. Following the successful factory tour to The Nigerian Bottling Company, Unilever, Seven-Up Bottling Company, Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery, Foods and Golden Sugar Ltd, MRS, Flour Mill, Gerewa oil Mill and a host of others, there is general optimism about the Nigerian Industrial market: the manufacturers forecast continued growth of their businesses and have made investment plans to support this growth. This also led to the establishment of the quarterly Town Hall with Indigenous Private Equity and Asset Management Firms meeting which brings together reputable private equity and asset management firms in Nigeria to build a public-private partnership towards boosting investment in Nigeria, with a key focus on harnessing both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and local market opportunities. This also ignited the Saudi Business Round Table to foster a deeper understanding of Nigeria, assuring counterparts and investors of Nigeria’s readiness and support. Saudi Arabia has in turn pledged $10 billion in export finance to Africa by 2030 through the Saudi Exim Banks. An agreement between Saudi Exim Bank and Nexim Bank was also reached
to establish a fund promoting trade between the two countries. She also ensured a Trade Facilitation Stakeholder Engagement, Engagement on Consumer Credit, Engagement with the Creative Industry, Engagement on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Revival, Engagement on Commodities Exchange and a host of others.

Dr Uzoka’s open-door policy and also paying rapt attention to the plights of stakeholders by proffering solutions to the challenges faced by investors or prospective investors to help promote economic boom and poverty reduction has gathered her great applause. She is also a strong advocate for cross-ministry partnership among other sister ministries which will further create a more functional and robust partnership in bringing the renewed hope mandate into full realization. Despite achieving a lot within her short stay in office, she is still working assiduously round the clock to achieve a long-term goal by creating more jobs, giving all necessary paperwork and supervising all agencies that will set in motion all plans to rejig the country’s economy. As they say that; the reward for a job well done is more job, Uzoka-Anite is ready to put in more commitment and also work hard to assist the President in bringing the dividend of democracy to Nigerians.

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Opinion

Our Courts are too Exposed and Insecure

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By: Dr kayode OLAGUNJU, mni

I am not a regular visitor to the court. No, understandably, as I am not a lawyer and I have no criminal records and have no personal issues necessitating my being at the court, either as a plaintiff or witness. My memories of courts dated to the late ninety eighties as one of the pioneers of the Federal Road Safety Corps. We were made to prosecute some “stubborn” traffic offenders that drove dangerously or attacked our men. Then, we had very few lawyers in the system. Not a single one available in our command then. My first appearance as a witness was disappointing. I had appeared believing we had no issue with what we considered a straight case. We had arrested a lawyer on the Benin-Asaba road, for dangerous overtaking of another vehicle, approaching a hill top, also on a bend. I remember it was at Okhuae hill. The road was not dualized then. As a single carriageway and very narrow, dangerous overtaking could attract fatal consequences. In fact, in one particular case, at Issele-Uku, on the same road around the period, the families had to bring caskets to pack the mingled bodies of casualties when the two vehicles involved were completely wrecked and bodies mixed with metal scraps. They came with a priest to pray for the souls of the departed and decided immediate burials. We recorded the scenes and the video formed parts of our public enlightenment materials to shock road users and deter them from engaging in traffic infractions. That memory lingers.

The booked lawyer had no driver licence and vehicle papers, hence we had to impound his vehicle. He refused to pay his fines. He did not waive his right to court trial by conveniently paying his fines if he believed he was guilty. So we had to prosecute him. In fact, it was our very first case in Benin Zone then comprising of the then Bendel State (now Edo and Delta states), Ondo (now Ondo and Ekiti states) and Enugu State (now Enugu and Anambra states). I was like the face of the Corps in the Zone as the Head of Public Enlightenment Office and Spokesman. I had a weekly program on the state television where I educated the publics on road safety. I was a young officer, bubbling with confidence. However, that confidence departed me that my first day in the court.

We had series of rehearsals with our then head of operations Oga Fawole as the prosecutor under the guidance of our cerebral Zonal Commander, Engr. Adegboyega Coker. Then came the day. I was put in the witness box, lacking confidence but determined to say only the truth and nothing but the truth in line with the oath I had just taken. We did not even put the non possession of driver licence and vehicle documents on the charge sheet. Honestly, I can’t remember what led to the omission. We had only one count of dangerous overtaking attracting two hundred naira fines or maximum six months imprisonment or both as may be determined by the Magistrate, as prescribed by the Federal Road Safety Commission Establishment Decree 45 of 1988.

The lawyer surprisingly did not argue on the overtaking but that he was arrested not on a federal highway as restricted by our decree. I had gained a bit of confidence and shouted that but everybody knew that Benin -Asaba was a federal highway. I was cautioned by the Magistrate. The man claimed he was arrested on a side road and that even there was nothing to prove that the Benin -Asaba road was a federal road. I became annoyed and really angered. I shouted again, “which side road” to which the Magistrate gave me a last warning. Then the Magistrate ruled that we could not establish that the offender was arrested on a federal highway and directed unconditional release of the vehicle. That was a technical knock out. Haaaaa, haba ! I was so disappointed as I felt the Magistrate must have known the lawyer or he just decided the case like that because they were both in legal profession. My hate for the courts was cultivated immediately. I did not want to know whether we handled the case professionally or not or if lawyers serving as prosecutors would have known and act better. I just felt the Magistrate just told the whole world he saw red cloth when it was obvious we waived white, which was quite obvious and easy to  be seen by all. I now understand why people spend years to become lawyers. I really hated the Courts. That case was part of the reasons, apart from high incidences of crashes on the state roads, messing up our efforts on Federal roads, that the FRSC sought for the amendment of decree 45 to expressly permit the Corps to cover all public roads then. That was granted in Decree 35 of 1992. When the FRSC and the states designed the mobile court system where in many cases, the magistrates practically witnessed the infraction, I became more comfortable. However, since that day in the late eighties, until about three months ago, I did not enter any court room again. I only watched them doing their things on television.

In the last 3 months I had been at the FCT High Courts about four times to witness the court processes involving a mentor. I never felt comfortable each time I came to the court. It is always a case of free entry and departure and that you could bring in anything, especially concealed in bags. Unlike, in cases of some high profile individuals, as witnessed on television, where roads are cordoned off, with high presence of security operatives, fully armed and in fearful security gears, quizzing and searching everyone and everywhere, if you like add everything, it is a porous and insecure situation on regular days.

The only policeman in the court is the Judge orderly with just one pistol. He serves more as a file carrier than providing security. Sometimes, you see two or three officers of the Correctional services lightly armed escorting some accused from prisons. They have their eyes only on their principals. You sit down with someone you don’t know with a bag under your seat that you are not sure of the content. What if he has explosives in the bag that he put under you? You don’t know his mission. You don’t know what he is thinking. In front of you are scores of lawyers including some senior advocates with their wigs backing people they don’t know and not aware of the risks they bear.

The Judge is there sitting on a raised platform taking notes in long hand asking the witnesses to repeat the last statement or spell a name or word. He keeps repeating, slow down I am writing. I am not a computer. Yes, why not do it with computers or speech recorder which can immediately transcribe the speeches. Yes, tonation or dialects could affect transcribing, but editing could help sort out the problem later. You can imagine the time that goes into the judge putting down statements with lawyers spending hours to put their facts or whatever across. No wonder cases sometimes take years to determine. I thought we had gone beyond this. In the midst of this, people walk in and out of the courts bringing all sort of things without any screening.

I kept asking, what if someone who had served his term or an accomplice decide to take a revenge on the Judge and come to the court to strike? How will the nation react to the kidnap of a sitting Judge? Is it the orderly who is more interested in funny narrations of the events leading to a plaintiff or witness coming to court that will resist such a spontaneous or sporadic account? What will he be able to do with that his single pistol that may not be in a ready position? The arm may not even be on his body as complacency could have set in, as he had never had such an experience, so he has a positive perception of safety. Does he have adequate ammunition? Even if he does, what are the chances of a person with hand gun confronting assault rifle bearing assailants? What if the attackers decide to wipe out all of us in the court? Nigerians will say “God forbids”. You see, why I don’t ever get comfortable being in such an unsecured environment

I am sure if such unfortunate incident happens, the nation will mourn. There will be a statement from the Villa, condemning the action and directing security agencies to immediately fish out the killers. Government will set up different committees to unravel the causes and offer recommendations to prevent such in the future. Condemnation will be loud from the National Judicial Council, Body of Benchers, Nigeria Bar Association. The National Assembly will hold special sessions while those in charge of security will run helter skelter. There will be shedding of crocodile tears as the families and the nation mourn. After some time, we forget and move on, as a nation. Must we wait until that imagined but possible disasters happen? No.

Is it that there is nothing that can be done to protect our courts? So much can be done, starting with the deployment of technology. Learnt that most of our correctional centers do not have Close-circuit television camera, thus making jail break easy! So how can the CCTV be considered necessary in the courts or of any priority ? No scanners anywhere at the court. Even your vehicles parked in the court premises are at the owners risk. Some of the cars could be ladened with explosives. The “uniformed security men” in the court premises are only there to open gates and ensure you park well the vehicle. Nothing on security screening. No profiling! How can that be? We should be more serious as a nation. Scanners even if it is just hand held, should be at the gate. Simple mirror screening of the vehicles will definitely be of help. The security men should be trained and equipped enough to detect and wade off crimes at that level since we don’t have enough policemen to adequately protect all our courts. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps comes into mind here.

Devices should also be deployed to record and transcribe court proceedings . That will reduce time spent on taking notes in long hands as well as reduce the time spent in courts. It will enhance justice delivery without delays. There are so many gadgets and devices that could aid security in our courts. The security experts should come up with the road map and implementable agenda on securing our courts. The governments at Federal and State levels should approach the Assemblies to make adequate and proper budget provisions for securing our courts.

I will conclude this piece with a story of one of our oga, now late Dahiru Kano, then a Deputy Corps Marshal told me several years ago. He did not tell me the source and since I have not been able to link the story to any other source, I am ascribing it to this our highly intelligent, funny and charismatic senior officer. Dairu Kano revealed there was a Prime Minister who was visiting Ministries and Departments in his government. He got to the Ministry of Education and they came with all sort of requests. He told his Personal Assistant, to note the requests. He went to the Ministry of Agriculture, some requests again, the Honorable Prime Minister called for noting. He went to about ten other Ministries and he kept telling the PA and officials to note. When he got to the Prison service, they came with long lists of requests and the PM immediately approved all the requests and directed immediate release of funds. The PA and other officials were surprised . When they got back to the office, the PA approached the PM and asked him, “Your Excellency, you asked us to note all the requests from all the Ministries and Departments but getting to Prisons, you promptly approved all the requests. Why this sir?” The PM replied “I already have the formal education I required, I am too old to farm and don’t intend to do any new business and several other engagements, but you see that prison, we can go back there tomorrow morning”. Do I need to add any other thing here apart from calling on those who can make our courts and prisons safer and more comfortable to act now. Nobody knows who could be involved tomorrow. Remember every living person is a potential person living with disability, that is if we are lucky to be alive. We should not wait for any disaster to happen before we respond, then we will be reacting. Dangers may be looming. A stitch in time saves nine. I rest my case.

Dr Kayode OLAGUNJU, mni is a retired Deputy Corps Marshal

DCM Kayode OLAGUNJU, rtd, PhD, FCILT, FCAI, FISPON, mni

Deputy Corps Marshal, rtd

Mobile:08033069090, ‪08156009090‬

email:olufigaro2002@yahoo.com

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