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Lagos revs up rebuilding, healing efforts
Determined to return Lagos to its bubbling state before the recent crisis that left many public and private assets burnt or looted, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has set machinery in motion to rebuild the state and health the wounds, reports Associate Editor ADEKUNLE YUSUF
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” These immortal words from Nelson Mandela were perhaps what fired Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu into action last week. Exuding confidence and determination in his office last week, he signed an Executive Order to fast-track the rebuilding of the state that is home to over 20 million people after the ENDSARS crisis that engulfed the state last month, which left many public and private assets in ruins.
The governor was joined by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Moyosore Onigbanjo, at the signing of the Executive Order last Wednesday. Sanwo-Olu said it is time the state put behind the recent challenges behind it to be able to face the ‘daunting task of collectively rebuilding our Lagos.’ He said he is always happy and thrilled by the ability of ‘our Lagos’ to be the abode of several ethnic nationalities that cohabit peacefully and pursue their personal goals and ambitions.
“We believe that our culture, heritage, values and future are worth much more than the looting, arson and destruction, which we witnessed in Lagos State about two weeks ago. Instead of wallowing in our pain, we have chosen to positively move forward. We will embrace new standards of governance; we will build stronger partnerships, stronger people, stronger institutions, and a stronger state. Our strength lies in our uncanny ability to overcome the most complicated challenges because we have people who genuinely love Lagos State and will assiduously do all they can to preserve its peace and unity,” Sanwo-Olu said.
While disclosing that the state government has been inundated with local and global offers of assistance to rebuild the state and recover all that had been lost to arson and violence, the Governor said he feels further encouraged by the resilient spirit collectively displayed by all Lagosians and friends of Lagos after the needless destruction recently witnessed in the state. This, he added, has forced him to expedite rebuilding efforts so that all the wounds can be healed quickly, stressing that “we can no longer wait until the bill is passed. It is expedient that our enumeration, recovery, and rebuilding efforts start as soon as possible.”
The Executive Order has culminated in the setting up of an 8-man Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee, tasked with the job of overseeing the recovery process. The 8-member board chaired by Yemi Cardoso has as members Prof. Kanyisola Ajayi; Gbenga Agboola; Mrs Bola Adesola; Sam Egube; Jimi Hotonu; Mr. Abubakar Suleimon and a member of an international donor agency. A bill has since been sent to the Lagos House of Assembly to pass the Trust Fund Bill into law. When this is achieved, Sanwo-Olu said the Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee would be dissolved and its functions transferred to the newly established Trust Fund. Other committees to be set up to achieve the rebuilding and healing of wounds include the Business Continuity Committee, Assessment Committee, Planning Committee, Execution, Measurement and Evaluation committee, Security and Enforcement Committee, Communication and Community Engagement Committee.
“In these challenging but interesting times, we realise that we have the potent opportunity to reform our state and upgrade our structures. I urge you to trust us to continue to represent the collective interests of all Lagosians. At the centre of this decisive action to rebuild our state is the need to closely work with the people and organisations who call Lagos home: those who believe in the Lagos Dream, those who share our collective vision of a mega-city that thrives on peace and unity among all ethnic groups.
“The Trust Fund Committee will be responsible for getting the detailed cost of restructuring and rebuilding the destroyed properties, the identification of our state’s most critical needs and how they align with our THEMES agenda, how best to improve our emergency response service (Fire, LASEMA and Health), determination of the areas of the critical need to get affected agencies back to work, and the construction of a website to gather ideas from the public on the way forward.
“I believe this is the starting point of a new socio-economic process. I am also hopeful that this initiative will help us to seamlessly make the transition to a rebuilt Lagos with upgraded public structures, facilities and amenities. I know that the ashes that presently dot our landscape will birth modern and globally acceptable infrastructure. We will continue to optimize all resources at our disposal to further the interests of Lagosians. We will prioritize reconciliation, peacebuilding, and unity among the ethnic nationalities that reside in Lagos State. We are known as the Centre of Excellence because of our ability to outstandingly set the pace: our resilient spirit makes it impossible for us to compromise our unparalleled capability to implement radical social reforms.”
An unprecedented, massive destruction
• The Lagos High Court after it was set on fire by hoodlums
It was not expected, but it happened and left many weeping. After the violence, Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, was left devastated by the nefarious activities of hoodlums that infiltrated the peaceful protests, ravaging and plundering the emerging megacity. By the time the mayhem subsided, many parts of the state were littered with the burnt buildings, looted shops and destroyed properties – public and private.
To the dismay of Lagosians, the hoodlums, who carried out attacks in different parts of the state, seemed undisturbed by the presence of security agents, as they carried out arson, destruction of properties and looting of valuables in the ever-peaceful state. By the time the arsonists were done after two days of unprecedented violence and looting, no fewer than 27 buildings, including police stations, media houses, government offices and secretariats as well the court were attacked and left in ruins.
In what many have described as a coordinated attack, mayhem started when hoodlums first attacked peaceful protesters in Lagos, with the armed thugs attacking protesters twice at Ikeja. For about two weeks, the peaceful protests staged by Nigerian youths had taken over the streets in the country to protest against police brutality, extrajudicial killing and extortion. They called for a comprehensive reform of the Nigerian Police, among other demands, which the federal government quickly accepted.
But the youths, having grown cynical of government, refused to stop their protests, despite promises by the government to look into their legitimate grievances. The hoodlums soon spotted an opportunity in the continued peaceful protests to pounce on the populace, as they carried out mob actions against the police officials and their families, destroying police stations before the unchecked violence snowballed into attacking and looting of private businesses in the state. However, the situation in the state became worse when armed officers reportedly opened fire on peaceful protesters at Lekki toll gate, leading to the death of at least two people and many injured.
Facilities burnt, vandalised or looted
• The Orile Police Division on fire
By far, the police as an institution was the most affected as no fewer than 17 police stations were burnt by hoodlums. They started the looting and destruction of police properties at Iganmu police division, which was set on fire after police officers reportedly shot two people in the neighbourhood. Pronto, violence spread to other parts of the state, as police and hoodlums clashed at Mushin and Ojo, forcing the state government to declare a 24-hour curfew in a bid to check the activities of criminal elements in the state.
But this did not stop the arsonists who continued to burn down police stations in the state. The thugs also made away with all belongings found within the premises of the police stations, including vehicles. While many assets were destroyed, valuables such as weapons were carted away. According to the Lagos police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, 17 police stations were burnt by hoodlums in the state. He listed the affected stations to include Idimu, Igando, Layeni, Denton, Ilenbe Hausa, Ajah, Amukoko, Ilasa, Cele Outpost under Ijesha, disbanded SARS office under Ajegunle, Ebute-Ero, Mushin (Olosan), Ojo, Ajegunle, Ikotun, and Ojodu.
The crisis took a different dimension when hoodlums shifted their anger to the court buildings. The Federal High Court at Igbosere, Lagos, reputed to be the oldest court building in Nigeria, was razed down by hoodlums. That was not all, as many case files were burnt in the fire or stolen, while valuables, including desktop computers, air conditioners, refrigerators and chairs were carted away. Popular malls, banks and supermarkets in Lagos were also vandalised and looted by the hoodlums. Offices of the Federal Road Safety Corps and Vehicle Inspection Service in the Ojodu area of the state were set ablaze by suspected hoodlums. Several shops were also broken into in many areas and goods carted away by the hoodlums.
The state theatre at Oregun was not spared by hoodlums. Not done, hoodlums swooped on the palace of Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, and made away with his staff of office and other valuables, including cash and wristwatches. The dare-devil criminal elements also vented their insanity on the family house of Governor Sanwo-Olu, burning down the house located at Omididun Street, Lagos Island. Also razed in the bloody violence were down the headquarters of Television Continental (TVC) in Ketu and the office of The Nation newspaper in Mushin. Hoodlums soon turned their attention to public assets, burning BRT terminals at Oyingbo, Yaba and Berger.
Several buses at the Oyingbo terminus were set ablaze, while some parts of Yaba and Berger bus terminals were torched by the criminals. Local government buildings were also set ablaze, while vehicles and other valuables within the premises were burnt or looted. Beyond facilities owned by the state government, the office of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in Lagos was also burnt; while the dockyard at Apapa was attacked, with valuable items and vehicles and other properties set ablaze.
During his tour of damaged facilities, Sanwo-Olu described the scale of destruction in the state is akin to a war zone. But the state must recover from the destruction, he said, vowing that it is a challenge that will not be allowed to overwhelm the state. He has since set up an investigative panel to unravel what happened.
Commiserations, solidarity galore
After a tour of damaged public and private facilities in Lagos, members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who hail from the Southwest and all Governors in the zone, they described the sad incident as a coordinated arson to undermine the zone’s economic advantage. The governors and the ministers, who were in Lagos to commiserate with Sanwo-Olu over the large-scale destruction of public and private facilities by hoodlums, sighed endlessly as they shook their heads.
The Southwest Governors’ Forum chairman and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who led the team, likened Lagos to a war zone because of the massive scale of the destruction they witnessed. There was an agenda beyond the youth demonstration against police brutality, he added. “We are deeply concerned with the ease with which public buildings, utilities, police stations and investment of our people have been burnt despite the proximity of security agencies in those areas. The development leaves us with no other option than to believe that there may be other reasons for continued protests, well-coordinated and funded.
“We are particularly worried that 48 hours after the unfortunate incident at the Lekki Toll Gate by persons adorning military outfit, there has been no definitive statement from the military authorities on the incident. Our anxiety becomes heightened by the categorical denial of the Governor of Lagos State concerning military deployment. No Governor has powers to authorise the deployment of military personnel in Nigeria. We commend Governor Sanwo-Olu for his administrative acumen. We note his patience and understanding in the face of unwarranted provocation by agents of darkness. We stand resolutely with him at this trying period. We urged our youths to rise and defend our land against diabolical incursion ravaging our space. We cannot continue to fold our hands and watch our heritage destroyed,” Akeredolu said.
Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola said the visit was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari. He said words were not enough to describe the extent of the destruction. Other governors in the delegation included those of Oyo and Ekiti states, Seyi Makinde, and Kayode Fayemi. Other FEC members, who visited Sanwo-Olu, include Minister for Sport and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, Minister for Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Industry, Trade and Development, Niyi Adebayo, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora, Minister of State for Niger Delta, Omotayo Alasoadura, and Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite.
Apart from ministers and governors, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has also visited Sanwo-Olu, condemned the violence and destruction of properties in Lagos. Gbajabiamila, who was accompanied by members of the House of Representatives from the state, discouraged ethnic insinuations into what happened and vowed that the lower chamber of the National Assembly would do all within its power in rebuilding Lagos and other states affected by the violence. “This certainly is not Lagos State of our dream that we all talk about. I believe that no matter brave or face anyone put into it, even the protesters have their regrets that things went this far. From my understanding and from what I have seen, those who were for the protests and those who did not join were all affected. It is very unfortunate to see the level of destruction,” he said
Like their federal counterparts, Lagos lawmakers have also visited the scenes of destruction carried out in the state. The Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, led other members to visit areas and facilities destroyed by hoodlums during the peaceful protest that later turned violent. “We are on the visit to see the level of destruction that took place in the state and this is shocking because Lagos had always maintained a respected place in the country and Africa. We must not forget also that Lagos is a mini-Nigeria and it harbours people irrespective of where they come from, irrespective of their political or religious sentiments. We, therefore, urge the aggrieved protesters to be conscious of the fact that rebuilding the state is a major task that must be done with unity. So, the House will also support the effort of the state government to see that something is done in relation to those who lost their lives as a result of SARS brutality,” Obasa said.
Lagos revs up rebuilding, healing efforts