THE government of Lagos State, Nigeria's foremost economic nerve centre considers the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be in sync with its policy thrust, which is “Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Economic Growth through Infrastructure Renewal and Development.”
Basically, the thematic policy focus of the Lagos State government include Public-Private Partnership, Private Sector-led Growth, Rule of Law, Transparency and Accountability, Good Governance and Participatory Planning, Environmental Sustainability, Gender and Socio-Cultural Sensitivity and Human Capital Development. Based on the linkages between the policy thrust of the state government and the SDGs, the administration of the incumbent Governor of the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is mainstreaming and working on the implementation of the global goals.
Transition from MDGs to SDGs
Prior to the inception of Ambode's administration, successive regimes in Lagos State had made remarkable progress in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). During the regime of Bola Tinubu between 1999 and 2007, concerted efforts were made to tackle an array of issues under the MDGs that included slashing poverty, hunger, diseases and gender inequality.
Tinubu’s successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, also implemented the MDGs with vigour through massive provision of infrastructure, construction and equipping of skills acquisition centres, building of model schools, health centres and improvement in the environment of Lagos. Indeed, the MDGs were encapsulated in the various programmes and policies of his administration such as poverty alleviation and addressing the issue of maternal and childcare. Fashola had in August 2009 also signed a Project Implementation Agreement with two United Nations agencies - the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) with a clear plan to achieve the MDGs. He had promised that his administration would utilise the MDGs as an “instrument to strike another important blow to poverty.”
However, due to certain shortfalls, the Lagos State government could not attain the MDGs by 2015 when it ended.
Mainstreaming the SDGs
Following the transition from MDGs to the SDGs, the present Lagos State government headed by Ambode has made conscious efforts to establish the policy, institutional and financial frameworks needed for the successful implementation of the global goals. He is confident that through effective implementation of the SDGs, Lagos which prides itself as the 'Centre of Excellence' will actualise its vision of becoming “Africa's Model Mega City and Global Economic and Financial Hub.”
To pave way for the domestication the SDGs, the Lagos State government had in November 2015 engaged the Centre for Global Solutions and Sustainable Development (CENGSSUD) in a robust round-table meeting. Participants at meeting, including Professor Ademola Abass, Special Adviser to the Governor, Overseas Affairs and Investment and Mr. Adebowale Adeniyi, Executive Director of CENGSSUD tabled-down the sustainable development goals, analysed them holistically and brainstormed on the best approaches to domesticate the SDGs in Lagos State development plan.
Participants also made suggestions on how to create an enabling business environment in Lagos State, attract foreign Direct Investments (FDI), improve economic growth, address unemployment issues, create infrastructural facilities, and embrace an inclusive, sustainable, just and peaceful Lagos. The critical roles of the private sector in achieving the global goals were equally identified.
Professor Abass, Special Adviser to the Governor reiterated the commitment of the state government in mainstreaming the SDGs so as to develop policies that will bring about a prosperous, economically viable, peaceful, inclusive, just and sustainable Lagos.
Partnering with the UK, UN on SDGs
To scale up the SDGs, the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget is collaborating with the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC).
Against this backdrop, a sensitization seminar was organised for local government officials in the three senatorial districts of the state in March 2017. The seminar was aimed at orientating local government officials on how to cascade the vision of sustainable development goals in their various grassroots catchment.
Ronald Kayanja, Director of UNIC Lagos commended the Lagos State government for the implementation strategy of the SDGs which involves generating data through indicators that review what each unit is doing.
The United Nations Office in Nigeria is another agency that is partnering with the Lagos State government to actualise the SDGs. In April 2017, Mr. Edward Kallon, UN Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, paid a courtesy call to Governor Ambode in Government House, Lagos. The UNDP Resident Representative while interacting with Ambode hinted that he was in Lagos to discuss with stakeholders in the private sector on its critical roles in driving the SDGs.
Poverty alleviation initiatives
The United Nations report on Nigeria's Poverty Index conducted in 2014 put the poverty rate of Lagos State at 8.50%.
However, the result of the analysis by the Lagos State Poverty Analysis and Measurement conducted in 2014 by the Lagos Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget revealed that 71% of Lagos household heads were poor while the rate of unemployment stood at 19%. Furthermore, the analysis shows that 27% of each of the household heads was unable to meet the education and health needs of their families.
To change the dynamic, the State government has embarked on multi-faceted intervention programmes aimed at reducing the level of poverty and socio-economic vulnerability among its people.
Mrs Lola Akande, Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), said that some of the initiatives put in place by the Ambode administration to alleviate poverty include the establishment of the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Agric Youth Employment Scheme (Agric-YES), Neighbourhood Safety Corp, Cleaner Lagos Scheme, Skills Acquisition Centres and Agricultural Training programmes for female farmers.
Recently, over 3, 200 women and men including widows, vulnerable women, graduates of skill acquisition centres and senior citizens were also empowered through the state government's mega empowerment programme. Similarly, many women have been trained through the various Skills Acquisition Centres (SACs). The total number of students that graduated from the Ministry's SACs in the year 2016 was 6,105 since the beginning of 2017, about 6,000 have undergone various training programmes in many centres across the state.
The Lagos State government has equally keyed into the Federal Government's N-Power Programme and Governor Ambode is passionate about using the scheme to lift many out of poverty.
Apart from the N-Power Programme, the Lagos State government is developing the agriculture food chain as part of measures to create jobs and alleviate poverty. With a growing population of about 22 million, Lagos residents consume about 50% of food supply in the country. Characteristically, rice is the staple food for most homes in Lagos. To boost rice production and curb its importation, the Lagos State government had in March 2016 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kebbi State government on rice farming. The MoU was signed by Ambode and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State. According to Governor Ambode, Lagos State decided on the venture because it has the required market and the purchasing power to stimulate rice production while Kebbi is endowed with vast arable land suitable for its cultivation.
LAKE Rice (an acronym of both Lagos and Kebbi) which is the fruit of the partnership has since been rolled out for public consumption. At an event in December 2016, the product was jointly presented to the public by the governors of the two states. After LAKE Rice is grown in Kebbi State, it is milled in Lagos. It is currently on sale at designated points in Lagos. This has helped greatly to alleviate poverty in both Lagos and Kebbi states.
In addition, the Lagos State government is supporting the development and expansion of the fish pond and shrimp businesses.
Enhancing quality education
The vision of the Lagos State Ministry of Education is “to become the model of excellence in the provision of education in Africa.” And its mission is “to provide high quality education accessible to all learners through effective and efficient management of resources for the attainment of self-reliance and socio-economic development.”
Against this background, the Lagos State government acknowledges SDG-4 as a veritable instrument for the actualisation of its mission in the sector and the attainment of other global goals. This is why Governor Ambode had on assumption of office in 2015, commenced the implementation of a new educational initiative tagged: 360 Degrees Education Policy, which would promote the growth of functional and qualitative education across the state.
Dr. (Mrs) Idiat Oluranti Adebule, Deputy Governor of the State said that the introduction of the new policy is in fulfilment of Governor Ambode's campaign promise of improved infrastructure renewal in public schools to make teaching/learning environment more conducive for better performance.
According to her, the new policy will make the teaching and learning environment more conducive for the total education of school children when fully implemented. She added that the new model would ensure that public schools are fully equipped with state-of-the-art learning facilities. The Deputy Governor, who is also in charge of the Ministry of Education in the State, added that the newly approved school building plan under the new policy has provided spaces for visual and literary arts, sciences, visual and expressive school history, library and media centres, sports/play ground, ICT unit and other facilities necessary for quality teaching and learning.
Adebule explained that government has ensured a significant improvement in teaching methods and staff quality including the introduction of technology-based instructional tools to achieve enhanced performance in all public schools in the State.
While expressing confidence that the 360 Degrees Education Policy is an initiative that will raise the standard of education, Adebule disclosed that the present administration is partnering with notable quality education support organisations such as the (DFID), Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) and Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria (DEEPEN) to ensure the success of its educational policies.
It is remarkable that Lagos ranks as the highest spender on education among the 36 states in the country. In 2017 it devoted N92.4 billion to the sector in 2017.
The Lagos State government recognises the doggedness, dexterity and creativity of women and their notable contributions towards building a better society. Consequently, Governor Ambode has since its inception of his administration, pledged to pursue programmes and policies that will empower women to be self-reliant, especially through the provision of financial facilities and capacity building.
In his address at the 2015 National Women Conference, organised by the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO), Ambode said the state government in recognition of its female population of over 11 million (approximately 48 % of Lagos population) has continued to increase budgetary provisions for women through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
He explained that government has already put in place policies to protect and secure women. “This administration is committed more than ever before to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the law against domestic violence and abuse including rape against our teenage girls are brought to the fore. We are already on the right path in our battle against rapists and the need to protect rape victims,” he said.
The Lagos State government has touched the lives of many women through its poverty alleviation and economic empowerment strategy. Governor Ambode revealed recently that as of September 2017, no fewer than 2,613 female entrepreneurs have been funded through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to the tune of N2.1 billion.
The Lagos State government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, has also empowered about 3,000 women comprising of widows, graduates of skills acquisition centres and senior citizens as part of efforts to improve their socio-economic well-being. They were given various empowerment items, such as grinding and sewing machines, hair dressing tools, vulcanizing machines as well as financial support.
Mrs Bolanle Ambode, wife of the governor, has continued to urge women to speak up against the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation, saying that the campaign must start from the home-front, churches, mosques, offices and the communities.
Womenfolk have also been supported in tackling Gender- Based Violence. The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) has been saddled with the responsibility of rescuing and rehabilitating victims of domestic violence. In collaboration with the Office of the Public Defender and Citizen Rights Bureau, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation provided free legal services to women and their children who had been abused.
Recently, the Lagos State DSVRT revealed that between January and September 2017, a total of 852 cases of domestic violence and related cases were recorded in the state. Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice said the government through the Ministry of Youth and Social Development provided shelter for the survivors.
Considering the current state of the country's economy and its effects on food security, the state government has been offering training programmes for women who desire to engage in agriculture related ventures. Vital areas where the women were trained include agro-processing, fishery, and snail and grass cutter rearing. WAPA's Farm at Avia in Badagry is a training centre for women who have passion for agriculture.
As a sub-national government which aspires to become Africa's model city, the Lagos State government is making efforts to meet the gender equality goals by 2030. Dr. (Mrs) Adebule, Deputy Governor noted that the Lagos State government has been focused and proactive in the formulation of policies that ensure fairness, equality and full protection of women and girl-child rights in the state. “In the Lagos State public service for instance, all persons irrespective of gender are treated equally in the areas of recruitment, promotion and career progression, while it is worth noting that the last four successive Heads of Service in the State have been women,” she said. Adebule added that women have been occupying the position of Chief Justice of the State for the last eight years.
However, women still believe that the Lagos State government is not living up to their expectations of gender balancing in terms of political appointments. During the celebration of the 2017 International Women's Day, a group of women and some human rights activists marched to the Lagos State Governor's Office to protest the inability of the state government to meet the 35 percent affirmative action on women's participation in government. The protest was staged under the auspices of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Association of Professional Women Bankers, and African Development International.
Rotimi Sankore, representing African Development International, noted that out of the 40 members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, only four are women. He also noted that out of the 42 members of the Lagos State Executive Council, only seven are women, while there is only one woman among the 24 House of Representatives members from Lagos.
Addressing the women on behalf of the Speaker, Tunde Braimoh, the House of the Assembly promised that the legislators will continue to employ their oversight function on the executive to protect women.
Decent work and economic growth
To promote inclusive and sustainable employment and decent work for all, the Lagos State government has been creating job opportunities for its people. It has also demonstrated its commitment towards improving workers' welfare.
As part of government's efforts to appreciate workers, Governor Ambode had in June 2016 honoured 555 workers with long service award. He promised to continue to improve the welfare of workers in the state by rewarding diligent and committed officials.
It is remarkable that Governor Ambode has not owed workers’ salaries since he took over the reins of leadership of Lagos State.
In terms of the pension scheme, Dr. Akintola Benson Oke, Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions said government through Lagos State Pension Commission (LASPEC) had paid over N11billion into the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) of 2,886 retirees from the Local Government. Lagos State Universal Basic Education (LSUBEB), Teachers Pension Office (TEPO), the Mainstream Service and 11 parastatals between May 2016 and May 2017.
As a coastal state, Lagos is prone to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. Mid-way into the wet season, residents of low-lying and flood-prone areas of Lagos such as Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi often experience the hazards of perennial flooding and ocean surge. Many lives, homes and properties have been lost to heavy rain storm and flooding.
To tackle flooding, the Lagos State government has been implementing its all-year de-flooding programme which is made up of pre-rain, mid-rain and post-rain massive dredging, maintenance and cleaning exercises across the state. This has been sustained this through adequate pre-emptive and preparatory de-flooding programmes as well as regular upgrading and expansion of drainage channels, especially the canals.
Peace, justice and strong institutions
The Lagos State government is addressing the challenges of peace, justice and strong institutions. Governor Ambode has consistently said that no effort is too much to promote peaceful coexistence. The state government has strengthened the Lagos State Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC) and it has helped to provide access to justice to the indigent residents of the State and resolve issues that could have degenerated into crisis.
The Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the State Police Command has been equipped by the Lagos State government to effectively check the activities of criminals, especially kidnappers, armed robbers and ritual cult groups. The administration also established the re-branded Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps under whose auspices it has trained 5,700 young men and women to enhance security at the grassroots level by assisting the police in intelligence gathering and thus facilitating in the arrest of criminals.
The state government intends to install over 13,000 additional Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras across major flash points in Lagos as a security measure. To adequately provide funding for security, the government also established the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF).
To enhance confidence in the legal system, Lagos State has blazed the trail in reforming the judiciary. Governor Ambode believes that the judicial arm of the government remains a lasting beacon of hope, fairness, and justice to all citizens. To enhance speedy dispensation of justice, the state government recently appointed additional Judges and Magistrates with improved welfare. The Acting Chief Judge of the State, Justice Opeyemi Oke recently commended Governor Ambode for his commitment towards enhancing justice delivery and pledged the preparedness of the Lagos State judiciary to continue to ensure prompt and fair dispensation of justice