How Governor Ambode is making Lagos State richer

Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode

Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode

It is no longer news that Nigeria is facing dire economic challenges. Notable public figures from President Muhammadu Buhari to Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun have officially confirmed that the country is bedeviled with recession. This dire situation has affected not only the ability of the federal government but also the other tiers of government to deliver the dividends of democracy to the citizenry.

The economic challenges have been exacerbated by drop in crude oil production and fall in Naira value. The situation has particularly hampered the effectiveness of most state governments in carrying out state functions and paying workers’ wages as most of them depend solely on the handouts from the federal coffers.

However, the case of the Lagos State government has been a different one. The state has not only been able to pay its staff salary as at when due but has also continued to execute developmental projects expanding the infrastructural profile of the state’s landscape and also instituting numerous welfare and empowerment schemes for its citizens.

This has come about through the astute efforts of the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in effectively managing the resources of the state and even phenomenally heightening revenue drive. Last December, the governor had cause to publicly celebrate the success of the state regarding its internally generated revenue drive.

Speaking at a special evening of music and camaraderie held at the Lagos House, Ikeja, to usher in the Yuletide season, the governor announced that as of December 16, 2016 the state had raked in N287bn IGR for the year under review as against N268.2bn generated in 2015, despite the economic recession in the country. The governor hailed tax payers in the state for performing their civic obligations faithfully and said the taxes paid by the people had been judiciously utilised to upgrade infrastructures and provide various services.

Speaking on the significance of the event which featured performances by array of evergreen musicians and was attended by top political leaders, captains of industries, media executives, professionals in various fields, members of the diplomatic corps, among others, Governor Ambode said the state government was greatly appreciative of the contributions of the people to the growth of the state in the year under review, adding that the event was principally to appreciate them.

He said, “You wonder what it is that we are doing? We said it is an evening with the Governor but the truth is I just set this up to appreciate all of you and to say a big thank you. Yes, people have been saying that Lagos is working but Lagos is only working because of the people who are seated here.

“The tax payers are the ones giving us the little energy that we have and even when they say Nigeria is in recession, but somehow Lagos has been able to do it and it is because people are paying their taxes.

“The truth is that the people have been carrying out their civic obligations and somehow we have been returning those obligations with the services that we have provided and you found out that this year; we have actually made more IGR than last year under a recession.”

About a month previously in November, the governor had given a hint of this feat at another public forum when he said the state has the potential to generate N50 billion monthly as internal revenue. Ambode made this known at a colloquium on the state of the nation, organised in Ikoyi, Lagos, by the Coalition of Nigerian Apostolic Leaders (CNAL), an affiliate and the Nigerian arm of the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders.

The governor said that whatever the state was realising at that moment as internally generated revenue was only 65 per cent of what it could achieve. He added that the state government had the population and the youth to achieve the target and was working on critical policy objectives that would unlock the state’s potential to build a more vibrant economy.

While he noted that the economic challenges in Nigeria were affecting Lagos State, he said the state was, however, re-strategising. He observed that the economic challenges should provide a golden opportunity for the country to re-strategise to build a sustainable economy.

Mr Yinka Ogundimu, the Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Finance, had much earlier commended Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode for raising internally generated revenue above N100 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Ogundimu, (APC- Agege II), gave the commendation while addressing newsmen in Lagos.

He said that the governor had also been able to block all financial leakages and brought more people into the state’s tax net. He said that the governor, an accountant and a financial expert, had brought his experience to bear on state’s revenue since he was sworn in as governor of the state.
“The governor is a former accountant-general of the state; his plan is to make sure that everything works well. The operation of the Lagos Inland Revenue Service is better now as it is being handled by a tax consultant who was at the state tax office. The governor has blocked many leakages and he has been able to discover many others.”

The consensus is that Governor Ambode has brought his chartered accountant expertise and many years of experience in public service to bear on the prudent management of the resources of the state, phenomenally increasing the internally generated revenue and making bold moves to adequately meet the growing needs of more than 22 million residents of the state. He has been able to reduce the cost of governance in the state by about N3 billion monthly.

The Fulbright scholar on assuming office took steps by first restructuring the state’s exposure to commercial banks, thereby saving the state about N3bn monthly in debt servicing. He also re-jigged the Lagos Internal Revenue Service by doing away with multiple taxations and instead expanded the tax net so that those hitherto not captured would be brought on board.

He sent to the House of Assembly the Employment Trust Fund Bill through which the newly created Ministry of Employment and Wealth Creation began to administer a yearly N6.3bn intervention soft loan to stimulate the economy, sustain small businesses and create jobs.

Also shortly after assuming office on May 29, 2015, he reviewed the 2015 budget. He forwarded a request to the Lagos State House of Assembly, asking that the budget be reordered to address the urgent need for infrastructural development in the state.

The House endorsed the request and signed it into law on September 23, 2015. The reordered budget comprised N19.7bn capital expenditure and N5.7b recurrent expenditure. Governor Ambode then promised aggressive construction of new roads across the length and breadth of the state. Four months later, the results of his promise were evident.

The governor publicly affirmed that the 114 roads constructed across the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas in the state have been impacting on the state economy. He said at the commissioning of one of the roads, the state’s “Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has started increasing.”

He has also taken far-reaching steps to improve the security situation of the state by extensively equipping security enforcement organ with modern gadgets and logistics support that have made them to be much more efficient and effective. He has also introduced a foolproof antidote to the perennial traffic gridlock in the state by expanding roads, constructing laybys and overhead bridges at various points of Lagos city and environs. He had also street lights at many locations in the state. All these measures have made the state to become largely conducive to business operations and growth.

The governor is also assiduously working toward making the state to be more business-friendly. Within the short period of his tenure, he started attracting a large chunk of investors to the state. For Ambode, attracting investors into the state is in line with his vision to make the state an investment hub in Africa. From his inaugural speech in May 2015, he gave an insight of his mission. His decision to set up an Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (Lagos Global), domiciled in his office clearly spelt out where his administration was headed.

When he received the Namibia President Dr. Hage Geingoband, on May 30, he sold the investments opportunities that abound in the state. Since then, the governor has met several groups of local and foreign investors including President of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, investors from Dubai, United States of America, as well as envoys from several European and Middle East countries. During such meetings, Governor Ambode promised an enabling environment for willing investors, stressing that his ambition is to improve on the ease of doing business in the state.

The Lagos State government under Ambode also entered into a historic deal with the city of Dubai. This deal will see Lagos emerge as the first Smart City in Africa. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU is essentially between the Lagos State Government and Dubai Holdings, LLC, owners of Smart City (Dubai), to develop a sustainable, smart, globally connected knowledge-based community that drive knowledge economy.

The governor said during the signing of the MOU that, “This is a deliberate attempt by us to establish a strong convergence between technology, economic development and governance.” He added that the move is expected to “bring multi-billion dollars investments to the state, create thousands of jobs and transform the Ibeju-Lekki axis in particular and the entire Lagos State in general.”

The governor has no doubt demonstrated his willingness to expand the economy of the state with the acceleration of the Lekki Free Trade Zone. He released N1.6 billion to accelerate infrastructure development within the Zone.

Another project that is dear to the heart of Governor Ambode is the Eko Atlantic City project, a multi-billion dollar undertaking sitting on over 10 million square metres and is expected to accommodate over 150,000 people who would reside there and another 250,000 who would work and commute within the city on a daily basis.

When he embarked on an extensive tour of the Eko Atlantic City project sometime ago, he expressed confidence that the project would not only boost the economy of the state, but also increase its internally generated revenue. Ambode pledged the total commitment of his administration towards the success of the project, saying it would go a long way to facilitate the quest to grow the state’s economy.

He said, “I would like to express the total support of this government to this project because at the end of the day we need to grow the economy of Lagos and this obviously is going to have multiplier effect on our IGR.

“We promise that we are going to grow our IGR to N30 billion by 2017 and N50 billion by 2018 and this project is a sure outlet in achieving that goal.” He also expressed satisfaction with the infrastructure already put in place, saying that it now behoves on investors to take advantage of the massive opportunities.”

While commending the promoters of the project for their confidence in committing huge resources to the Nigerian economy, Ambode said their investment was a positive sign that the country remains the investment hub in Africa.

The governor said, “Notwithstanding the economic recession that has befallen the country right now, we have come to also show that outside the recession, there is a whole lot of progress going on in the investment climate in Lagos State.

“We are very happy that the signs are looking very good for investment in Lagos. We are also very happy that we are doing everything possible to encourage investors to come into the state and I will like to assure you that we are committed to making this project a big success.”



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