The Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat, recently hosted some Online media operators to a no-hold barred interview on the activities of his ministry. Thegazellenews.com was part of the interactive session and correspondent, JUMU’AH ABIODUN presents the first part of excerpts from the interview.
Looking back at the last three years, will you say you have done enough to improve the road network in the state going by the impressive performance of your predecessor?
We must look at things based from different perspectives. As a black man that has also lived abroad, it is difficult to be satisfied with our level of development. The challenge we have in Africa is that we have not been able to sustain development.
So the truth is that we are not where we should be giving the resources that it pleases Almighty God to give us. Looking locally, as per your question, the reality is that our resources, giving the type of federation we run in this country, is also finite, therefore we must do things within that enclosure. So because of that, I think we have been able to do a lot given what we have.
Today in Lagos, we have 247 roads work across the state, so when people call me about a road in Alimoso or Somolu, I said well, I have to look at the state as a whole, I cannot look at Somolu alone. So if something is going on in Somolu it must be going on in Badagry, it must go on in Epe, it must go on here and so on and so forth.
As I said earlier, we have a finite in term of resources so within that context, we are happy with what we have been able to achieve.
But on a global level, as black people, are where we are supposed to be? The answer is No. And for me one of the reasons for this is that we don’t see sustainability in what we do. That’s why you don’t see a company that runs for 300 years, when the man who owns the company dies, the children will fight, they would go to court, so it is just that attitude of being able to sustain our resources we need to break, I think if we break it, we can do anything.
In terms of brain, capability and the rest, I believe the blackman is as good as anybody. So, it’s just that structure that we need to break. What happen is that at a level, we allow too much sentiments, particularly religious and ethnic, in our decision, we don’t focus on the real issue: then we lose the real value of our essence, meanwhile it is the same blood that runs in our veins whether you are Igbo, Hausa or whatever it is. But we are happy, we are moving on fine, hopefully if we can sustain the tempo and keep on building and improving on the quality of our roads, we won’t need to do much except maintenance in the next 15 years.
There are some road constructions that have been going for almost four, five years that have not been completed, for instance the WEMPCO Road. What are the reasons for this delay? Then this administration has not done much on lighting up the state as promised, most of the streetlights are just there not working. What is your reaction to this?
Let me start from the second question. You cannot light a state when you don’t have power, it’s simple and we must know that, so you have to define your needs as people.
Constitutionally, as a state, we cannot generate more than 25megawatts and we must also pump it into the national grid.
In Lagos, we probably need 5000 megawatts but as a state and constitutionally Lagos cannot build its own power, therefore what do we do is to power the street lights and this cost us about N800 million a month, is that sustainable? It’s not, that’s just the basis and there’s no need to beat about the bush, this is not sustainable nobody can do it.
For example in Alausa now, we have an Independent Power Project (IPP) in operation, hence, we are now decommissioning all the generators that power Alausa. After that we start distributing power to different areas. The truth is can we continue to build more schools and light up the state spending so much to power generators?
The reality is that most of these street lights are powered by generators using diesel and this cost us much. What we do is to rationalise and power streetlights in strategic areas of the state. But you must also realise that ability to power the generators also depends on the supply of diesel. We are all aware that sometime you may have money but won’t get the product to buy, that is the reality we must face concerning the issue of the streetlights working and we are working round the clock to find solution to the problem.
Why is it that as a nation we produced this quantity of oil and we don’t have. These are the real issues for me. If power is generated and distributed as at when due, we will not have problem lighting up our state but this is not so, and we ended up spending millions to power the streetlights, this is not sustainable.
The issue of power generation and distribution is something we should look into. We have decentralise power to the DISCOs but the transmission has not been sold to them, this is still with the national grid. So, if the DISCOs generate all the power we need, they cannot distribute to you and I.
Then on the first question, road projects like WEMPCO are done with careful planning. If you notice, the first things that started there is the drainage within four kilometre radius that is the lowest point in Lagos, remember Lagos is two meter below sea level, therefore, in building a road, it is the necessary drainage construction that is most essential, not even the road or else the road will be washed up in two years.
If you have been to the WEMPCO road, what we are doing there is not a normal drainage, it is about three metres. This is because we have been able to do the outfall design to see that water coming from Surulere Industrial, Ogba, Omole and the rest is going all the way to Odo Asimowu to combat this we must design a durable drainage system that will ensure that water flows smoothly and discharge into the sea. That is the drain we have been doing for about two years and I’m happy to say that the drainage project for the road has virtually been completed while the road itself is now being addressed.
That drainage work itself in terms of concrete is a huge job. The real road project was just awarded about 18 months ago while the drainage work has started long, long time ago. Then, remember we have to do some relocation and adjustment in some road projects. For example, there is a gas pipe where the APC secretariat is located on ACME road, if you want to build the road, you think of what you do with the gas pipe.
We rely also on people’s cooperation and support to build road. For example, the Yaya Abatan/College Road project, some properties have to go. My father lives on that road and some part of his property have to go. I have to remove my father’s fence first, so that nobody will complain if I need to remove their fence.
Yet, we can’t just remove or demolish peoples properties without going into serious negotiation and deliberation with them. Deliberation and consultations take time thus delaying road projects. Some people have even taken us to court and this also delays road projects. For instance, we would have completed the Ago Palace Road project if not for the litigation on it.
Although, government may eventually win some of these cases, the road projects will be delayed leaving the people to suffer.
Remember also that we are not building roads on virgin land, in most cases we have to move electric poles and this cannot be done without liaising with the controlling agency for de-energization of the electric poles. This also take time and thus delay road projects.
The issue of religion also comes in. Before we can remove a church or a mosque on the right of way, we also have to go into negotiations and deliberations. This also takes time.
However, the people do not know this but they are some of the reasons some major road projects seem to take long time in getting completed.
So, back to the WEMPCO road issue, it is going at the range we plan because the drainage now is completed. When you go there, you will now see two sets of drains: one that’s buried and the other visible. As I said earlier, this takes time because we have to this kind of drainage round the road and we have to serious ground testing because the nature of the ground is not the same.
Like the what we did on the new bridge at Ikoyi, we invited some university students to come and have a first hand experience of bending 300mm rod to 90 degree. This was new to the students and they will live with the experience for life.
I know what I’m talking about, as an engineering student, I know I didn’t have such experience.
Bending a 300mm rod to 90 degree is a subject for PhD degree. Now the students invited witnessed it life. There are only eight machines in the world that can do it and we brought two to Lagos. We want our students to benefit from the experience that was why we invited the students from mainly Lagos State University (LASU) and the University of Lagos (UNILAG). All these processes delay the completion of the bridge but you will agree with me that it is not how long but how well the project was constructed.
Personally, I have to commend the administration for present ongoing road projects in the Alimoso axis of the state: the Ipaja-Ayobo road, the Meiran road linking Command enroute Ipaja and Ayobo as well as linking Ekoro back to the Lagos-Abeokuta Express road. But why has it taken the administration so long to tackle the Alimoso road problem?
Well, this is a very good question. Many have been accusing this administration of being biased in its road construction policy, but I know we are not biased.
The real fact remains that we have to put in place even development for all parts of Lagos not concentrating on one part.
The case of Alimoso is different. It is a local government bigger than even some states in the federation. The shortest road in Alimoso is longer than any road in Victoria Island.
LASU-Iba road for example is 18 kilometres; the Abule Egba-Ekoro-Meiran road is about 11 kilometres; imagine what it takes to build those roads;, so, when we build LASU-Iba road, I may not be able to do Meiran road because I must go to another local government and that’s why we are able to do the bridge in Badagry.
So it is a factor of managing what you have and spending it in different areas.
The truth of the matter is that we don’t have the capacity to do all roads at the same time even if we have the money. This is because we have to supervise and monitor the road projects and these include even the ones contracted to Julius Berger, so we spread the road projects evenly among the various local governments in the state and ensure that they are done to our specifications which is anchored on proper monitoring and supervision.
Our roads are built on the best qualities and to maintain these qualities we have to constantly monitor and supervise our road projects but we don’t have the human capacity to monitor and supervise our road projects, major reason we can’t do all the roads at the same time even if we have the money.
Why is that whenever it rains, some areas in Allen Avenue become flooded?
We will look at it but I’m sure that this must have been caused by uncleared drains. I’m sure that the culverts there are probably covered thereby preventing being cleared appropriately. There are culverts along the road somewhere that needs to be cleared.
There are solar powered street lights that have not been working particularly the one on Ojodu-Berger road. What is your reaction to this?
That wasn’t our project. It was an initiative of a private company. The company came to us syaing that can build solar powered streetlights. I was in Science and Technology then. They said they will build solar powered streelights and that if we are satisfied that we can pay later. Unfortunately, the project did not fly and we ended up not paying.
But it was one of the campaign strategies of the state government in the last election?
No, there was nothing like that. I was in the Ministry of Science and Technology then, there was nothing like that in our campaign.
As a person, I believe in solar energy but the truth of the matter is that we have not master its application in this part of the world.
The company that did the Omole solar streetlight project stated that they are doing a test run with the project hence we will pay if it works out. At the end of the day, the project did not work out as planned, meaning we did not pay.
I insist that project was not a tax payers’ initiative, it is a private company initiative, no tax payer’s money was paid for it.