As Lagos light-up project reaches top gear

THE Victorian Society of London in the late 19th Century witnessed a series of murders committed in the East End slums by a man the media called Jack the Ripper. He did it in the ill-lit corners and alleys of the city, suggesting that lack of flood light was a strong factor aiding the commission of serious crimes including robberies and killings. Taking a cue from the studies that followed the operations of Jack the Ripper under the cover of darkness, successive city administrators of the colonial capital rapidly started work on lighting up inner London and most parts of this highly industrialised capital. Now nearly 130 years after, here in Lagos, Nigeria, before our very eyes, we are witnessing the strategic deployment of the lessons of lighting up a city to erect enduring security architecture.

This is one of the dividends of democracy the government of Akinwunmi Ambode is dropping in its path as it seeks to fulfill the governor’s campaign promises. He did pledge barely a few days into his administration that he would burden himself with the gigantic task of lighting up Lagos in his tenure. In less than 200 days of his stay in Government House, Ambode went on to set up the Lagos Power Advisory Committee, which he asked to liaise with the Ministry of Power for the implementation of his plan. The eventual goal is to flood Lagos with light all day, all week in the next two years. Ambode’s dream isn’t only for the major urban centres. He has spoken of feeding all the highways in this mega city that used to be the nation’s capital. Needless to say, the state has not lost its prestigious status as the financial hub of Nigeria, the country is considered as the economic power house of Africa.

By early January of 2016, the administration had succeeded in fulfilling its promise at key points of the state. A nocturnal check from Berger to Lekki, Ikorodu to Lagos Island and the entire Ikeja axis as well as Victoria Island and Ikoyi reveals the citizens of the Ambode era savouring more active street lights than the preceding generations did. The point to note also is that Ambode does not believe that there are enough roads yet to match his promise to turn Lagos into Africa’s New York: a 24-hour economy. How to do that? The Governor wants to add modern roads. It is belabouring the point to ask if he would also kit the streets to come with lights. It has become a sacred duty for Ambode to ensure electricity is available in every street under his watch. Such is this solemn vow that he is planning to start having BRT operations at night. Indeed he can’t have a 24-7 economy without a road transportation system in tandem. New York that was famously described by legendary singer, Frank Sinatra as a city that never sleeps, and such other big world cities derived their popular appellation partly from having a ceaseless public and private transit profile. These cities don’t go to sleep because their cab, bus, air, sea and rail operations don’t go to sleep.

We must also refer to another idea of Ambode to live out his dream. He is pleading with individuals and corporate bodies to light up their streets and neighbourhood. He says the state will work out a plan to duly recognise “such gestures in due course.” This is the sincere invitation of a humble governor to involve fellow citizens in the noble business of governance. Observers are quick and discerning enough to note that these seeming aesthetics of lighting up Lagos and beautifying its landscape are in the main, a part of the objective to secure Lagos and prevent murderous and criminal Jack the Rippers from wreaking havoc in the state. The security equipment worth N4.8 billion in the form of helicopters, power bikes, marine patrol facilities, vehicles, etc the governor recently gave the Police would amount to little if the streets and alleys remain unlit. These places would serve as the black spots and dens of hiding for fleeing criminals if they are left the way they are: in complete darkness. That is what miscreants feed on at dusk and deep into the dark night.

When Ambode talked of a plan to have BRT function all day and far into the night, he added a condition: it would be so when all the street lights are fully operational. He underscored the complementarities of fully functioning flood lit streets to the presence of equally well equipped security personnel. It was the same quest for sanity in the polity and a good life for the people that led the governor last week to demolish the home of criminals that went by the name Owonifari Market at Oshodi. The goal is to create an enabling environment undergirded by security, safety of lives and the prosperity of the citizens. I believe that is what Ambode meant when on May 29, 2015 he presented his inaugural speech to those who elected him as their governor. As he concluded his short but vision-laden paper, he spoke of creating an “iconic infrastructure for the benefit of all.”

What does an “iconic infrastructure” mean? At the academic level, it may suggest an idealistic craving by society for the translation of its dream about what the society values, wants or desires for its sustenance. For me, it is the totality of what a government should offer as its irrevocable duty to the people. It means offering the ultimate in development in all its ramifications: compassionate governance, security, prosperity, dream fulfillment, sense of participation in governance, capacity building for each individual. This is iconic infrastructure. And just like any other projects he has ventured into since May 29, 2015, Ambode has left no one in doubt of his determination to make sure that all streets and corners in the state are lit up. A drive from Ojodu Berger to Ojuelegba at night and from Ikorodu to Island has clearly shown that the governor is on the verge of again fulfilling his promise of lighting up the state in the next two years. As we await another Ambode’s magic wand in a critical area that would fundamentally transform the state to take its rightful status as a megacity, one only hopes that the passion that the governor has exhibited in the past few months will not wane.

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By 9jatravel / Administrator, bbp_keymaster

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on Feb 29, 2016

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