LAGOS: Sour Notes Of A Handover
NINE weeks after ascension into office Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is yet to form a cabinet, neither is he showing interest in moving into the official Lagos State residence at Marina.
This is even as many of the projects embarked upon by his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, are in various stages of near abandonment. Expectations of continuity in governance under the same political platform appear far-fetched, as cold war between successor and predecessor may run deeper than envisaged.
The Guardian gathered that Governor Ambode, who presently resides in a private home in Parkview Estate, near Ikoyi, does not intend to move into the Marina official residence vacated by Mr. Fashola.
The Lagos House in Alausa is currently under construction, fuelling suspicion that the governor does not intend to live in Marina during his tenure.
The joke around Alausa is that since the First Lady’s office is in Marina, the place may as well be reduced to official quarters for Mrs. Ambode, as well as, some aides of the governor.
According to a Government House source, close to both Governor Ambode and his predecessor, “Fashola’s actions in the last few months of his administration did enough to unsettle his successor, upon assumption of office.
It was almost like laying landmines everywhere. If care was not taken by this present administration, the situation would have become irredeemable.” “The state treasury was virtually emptied by Fashola.
There were reports of movement of huge funds in the last two months directly from the State Treasury Office and from some agencies that had huge unspent funds. Besides, there were enough evidence to show that Fashola ran an over bloated office with several agencies set up during his tenure than any of his predecessors in office,” said a source close to Governor Ambode.
This may have informed Monday’s hiring of 19 new permanent secretaries and firing of 15 others. The Guardian gathered that most of the sacked 15 permanent secretaries were not due for retirement or have been publicly found wanting.
The reason for reshuffle may, however, be contained in the statement issued by the Ambode-led government, which stated: “The appointments are in line with the Governor’s drive to restructure the civil service for efficient performance and service delivery.”
The development comes on the heels of the streamlining of some existing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), purportedly aimed at ensuring greater efficiency.
Beyond this, however, investigations revealed that the government may have acted in line with a purported circular emanating from the Federal Civil Service Commission.
The circular adopted sacking any civil servant who must have held for eight years any strategic post, even if such individual is yet to reach the statutory age of retirement.
Most those wielded out of the system may have fallen into this category, while many of them are said to be “super rich and have over-stayed in their positions.” Meanwhile, some projects, which the past administration had embarked upon, had been stalled allegedly due to the failure of the Fashola administration to pay contractors, most of whom have now deserted the sites.
The Ago Palace Way Okota and the Isheri- Ikotun reconstruction work are examples of the two of several projects that may have been stalled. This situation, according to Government House sources, may have left Mr. Ambode with no option than to fashion out strategies to cut down cost.
The first step taken was to reduce or merge some ministries in a bid to supposedly restrategise the civil service. Consequently, the governor, three weeks after assumption of office, relieved several heads of agencies of government parastatals.
This is even as perception is rife that the governor is purging the system of consultants employed by his predecessor and individuals perceived as loyalist to the former governor.
Government House sources, however, insisted that: “What did you expect him to do? To keep people who would not be loyal to him in office? In any case, the governor’s intention is to bring in like minds, who share his vision and goals for the state.”
This may have informed the delay in Ambode’s naming of a cabinet. Till date, the governor is yet to appoint commissioners and special advisers to form his cabinet.
The delay is seen more as a deliberate attempt to restructure the civil service and synergise new ministries back to their parent ministries with the Permanent Secretaries saddled with the responsibility to spearhead the process.
While it was an open secret that the incumbent, during the run up to the Lagos State governorship race, was not the choice candidate of Mr. Fashola, actions of the former governor after Ambode’s emergence under the platform of APC, gave no indication of bad blood.
Indeed, the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on many occasions dismissed Ambode as “Fashola’s puppet” in response to the screeching calls on Lagosians by the former governor to vote for the APC candidate.
Perhaps, as part of the campaign strategies to ensure continuity, Fashola in the twilight of his tenure embarked on massive commissioning of projects successfully completed. “Anyone can say what he or she likes.
As governor, Mr. Fashola never claimed to have completed all the works in the state. In fact, he often remarked that if completion of all the public works were possible, Alhaji Lateef Jakande would have finished all. We strive to do a bit better than our predecessor in office; the prayer is that our successor should better our modest achievement.
As far as we are concerned, we are in no contest with anyone. There is no bitterness. Our efforts are there in the public for all to see,” said one of the former aides to Fashola.
Less than two weeks after his inauguration, Ambode had dispensed with all boards of parastatals and agencies of government in the state; with the exception of the Civil Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission and the State Independent Electoral Commission.
Some of the head of agencies affected are the Lagos State Waterways Authority, Lagos State Building Investment Company Limited, Lagos State Ferry Services, Lagos State Records and Archives Bureau, Lagos State Printing Cooperation, Lagos State Television, Lagos State Traffic Radio, Eko FM, Radio Lagos, among others.
Ambode, a former Accountant General of the state briefly under the Fashola administration, resigned his post under controversial circumstances leaving in its wake a number of insinuations.
Meanwhile, some projects, which the past administration had embarked upon, had been stalled allegedly due to the failure of the Fashola administration to pay contractors, most of whom have now deserted the sites. The Ago Palace Way Okota and the Isheri- Ikotun reconstruction work are examples of the two of several projects that may have been stalled.This situation, according to Government House sources, may have left Mr. Ambode with no option than to fashion out strategies to cut down cost. The first step taken was to reduce or merge some ministries in a bid to supposedly restrategise the civil service
It was widely believed that the former governor indeed had moved to sack Ambode, but was prevailed upon by party leaders in the state for a soft landing; which came in the form of voluntary resignation.
Fashola loyalists, however, dismissed any attempt to cast the former governor in bad light. Saying that people cannot forget in hurry how Fashola had transformed the state he met, they stressed: “Lagos was like one huge ghetto.
Many of the roads were narrow and laced with craters; mountains of dirt stood everywhere and competed for space on the side roads. The rainy season also meant that drains which had been blocked by dirt and illegal structures, ensured that floods stood on the roads a while longer. By the time he handed over, many of the roads were not only wider, but the entire environment was cleaner.
The lighting of the streets and freeing of bottlenecks on the roads meant a significant reduction in crime. Lagos had too many dark spots where crime festered and blossomed.
Obalende was one; Oshodi was another. A lot was done to improve the infrastructure. You really cannot argue against the fact that Lagos Fashola handed over is a lot better than what he met. Our prayer is that the state gets even better under the present administration. Many will say Lagos is better placed today than it was eight years ago.”