Mr Gbenga Omotoso is the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State. Recently he sat down with some Journalists to discuss the effect of Covid-19 on Lagosians and what the State Government is doing to make sure resident of Lagos are vaccinated
It is almost one year since the first Covid-19 index case was reported in Lagos, how has Lagos faired?
It wasn’t something that came with a warning, we thought it was going to be short brief , we didn’t know it was going to be a marathon, expert are even saying it is going to be here with us for a very long time until it becomes like malaria, until almost everybody has it. It was something we never really knew what we were going into, one way or the other we were prepared. Thank God for the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu , he is a listening Governor. The Health Commissioner told him that there is something going on in China since December 2019 and he listened. We were told it was going to be so bad in Africa that we will be picking bodies on the street, but that has not turn out to be true. We thank our first responders , Doctors, Nurses and all medical workers who are at the forefront of this , they have done well and we need to applaud them all the time. For us it is something that has thought us a lesson, remember we had Ebola years back but we didn’t know COVID-19 will be this long.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has done a lots of projects in the last one year to meet the needs of the people , especially the ones he inherited from past administration , what is the state of many of these projects now, especially the Pen-Cinema Bridge?
When Babajide Sanwo-Olu came in as Governor, he promised he was not going to abandon any project, the one you mentioned is almost 97 percent complete now. Any moment from now, it will be commissioned. The Pen-Cinema bridge will open up the axis, the property around there will go up , and it will ease the traffic around the area. There are so many other projects which the Governor is doing , for example all the drainages around Lagos. Before experts were telling us the sea was going to be flooded and people should move and go to the upland area , but we thank God that did not happen. You can see that the government is cleaning up the drainages and embarking on new drainages so much so that when it begins to rain , we won’t feel it. Then the network of roads at Ojokoro which was created to ease movement around the area, the public works have worked on more than 400 roads in Lagos, there is no way the government will work on 400 roads in Lagos and the people will not feel the impact.In education thousands of teachers are trained to use android devices to help them teach their children , and the outcome in education, over 300 school buildings have been refurbished, our colleges Lagos State Polytechnic and Lagos State University are doing well, new schools have been built. In the health sector the Mother and Child hospitals have been built and many of them have impacted in the lives of the people .
What has been the plan of the government to curb unemployment in Lagos State even after the aftermath of the EndSARS movement in Lagos?
The Government has done a lot regarding unemployment , when you look at the capital projects , all of these projects are done by the youth , we won’t bring somebody from outside to come do it. Even in the Ministry of Science and Technology, the are helping more inventors in the State. In the acquisition centers established by the State Government , over 13, 0000 youths have been trained, they are not just training them but giving them equipment to start their business. If you look at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, it is at the forefront of helping young graduates to start on their own , and in the advent of the aftermath of the EndSARS, they helped many whose businesses were destroyed because of the aftermath of the EndSARS.Lagos State Employment Trust Fund has helped many people to be their own boss , start their own business. The ministry of Women Affairs have helped a lot of women to start their own business in the last one year.
Still on the issue on COVID 19, Nigeria hasn’t tested more than a million people . Is Nigeria really serious in curbing COVID-19 ?
I wouldn’t want to speak for Nigeria, but Lagos is really serious in flatting the curve of COVID-19.The kind of testing they are doing in some other places is what I call fast food test. You do the test , few minutes the test it here. Some of those kits, like the Commissioner for Health in Lagos said , they are useless as useless, not giving accurate information. You know it is not good for you to be positive and they say you are negative , or you are negative and they say you are positive , it’s very dangerous. The kind of test we do in Lagos is called the PCR test and our test is confirmed to be 99 percent correct, unlike all other test kits, and the test is expensive.The fact that it is expensive doesn’t mean people should not come forward for testing , that is why the Government set up sample collection centers in all the Local Government areas , so that the government can pick up those samples and taken to the laboratory in Yaba. That the rate of infection is very low is that people are not so excited about testing . You know an average Nigerian will prefer to get sick instead of knowing your status and begin to panic, by the time most of them come out for test , they have fallen sick, that is not the way it should be. People should come out to test so we can continue to test, they know their status.
The wearing of face mask in public , though the President has made a Proclamation around it. A lot of people still don’t wear face mask in Lagos, what is state government doing about this?
It is illegal for people not to wear mask , that is why we are making a lot of advocacy around the place. In Lagos we don’t paste posters everywhere , it will be put down but this particular one it is an emergency , we are now pasting posters all the place that people should wear face mask . Recently a few television stations including foreign ones came to the IDH yaba to do stories and what they saw shock them and the audience too, that people are struggling to breathe , and people must be on oxygen for days . I do not think people are not aware that COVID-19 is real. But why are they not using face mask, some people claim they cannot afford buying face mask , that is why the Government is giving out free face mask, some of those that are not wearing face mask , Police are arresting some of them. Talk about people gathering crowd, the Lagos Safety Commission are going round , they shut down event centers, they shut down places people gather unnecessarily.
About covid-19 vaccine , what is Lagos State Government doing to get Lagosians vaccinated ?
All I know is that the state is waiting for the federal government to take the first step, we do not know yet what is the federal government policy. Lagos statey Government is also discussing with some experts , those in charge with vaccine. We want sixty percent of our people to be vaccinated and once you do that, we can say we have pass immunity . Lagos State is a sub-national, we are not going to roll out vaccine without Federal government support, now we don’t know what will suit our own situation.
What do you think about State policing , moreso when the Lagos State House of Assembly is agitating for this?
It is clear that Lagos State is under-policed . Community Policing should be encouraged in Lagos State.Most of our law enforcement don’t know much about certain areas well, because they are mostly transferred.We have FBI in America and we have New York police, so Lagos should have State Police