The Special Adviser to Ogun State Governor on media, Rt. Hon Remmy Hazzan in this interview with AYO FADIMU speaks on the achievements of Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration. He also speaks on the plans of the state government to complete the projects initiated by the past administrations in the state. Excerpts
The state recently cancelled the Saturday and Sunday lockdown, what prompted it, sir?
The re-opening of churches is largely responsible because worship centres, majorly Fridays for the Muslims, Saturdays for the Seventh Day Adventist and other Sabbatharians, and of course, Sunday for all the other churches. So, it’s not possible to re-open churches and still have weekend lockdown. They don’t go together. That essentially is the reason why weekend lockdown had to come to an end.
What has the government lined out as post-COVID economic palliatives for the people that have been affected through the Coronavirus?
We can’t even begin to talk about post-COVID because we are right in the midst of COVID. The cases are still rising. Though in the last few days. It’s beginning to show some signs of going down. But then that has to be empirical, put side by side with the number of tests that are actually carried out before we can sufficiently say that it’s going down. So, we are still in the middle of COVID, therefore we can’t begin to talk about post-COVID. Except of course, we are saying preparatory to the end of COVID thereafter. What and what are we doing, then, we can begin to address those issues head-on.
(Presently, I’m at Okemosan, the State of the government.)You can recollect that while you were the deputy speaker of Ogun state House of Assembly, the government of Ogun state under Otunba Gbenga Daniel, purchased some equipment for electrification of the state. They are still lying fallow almost ten years after because I know I was among the journalists that came for the commissioning. Is there any plan of the government to make use of all these equipments?, secondly are they even still in vogue now?
At the time those equipment were procured, there was a plan for a power plant right there at Okemosan to service all government quarters, both offices and residences. Seven megawatts of that was immediately put in place. But it turned out that that technology is already stale. Though at the time it was conceived, it was a little bit more economical as it could be said to be cheap to maintain but then, the trend in the technological world has made it stale. Even the seven megawatts that was immediately commissioned had since stopped functioning. The immediate past administration went further to bring in yet another power plant that is gas-powered which is what we use presently. So, within the plan of the present government, looking at our electricity map and master plan for the state, what will become of those equipment is going to be more of disposal as scraps because they can’t be put into that kind of use at the scale that they were originally planned for. But then, it is not all a story of untoward attitude because while this is being jettisoned, something else is being put in place. It then simply means that the state has moved on. But of course I’m aware that the Special Adviser on Energy has been told to ask for proposals from would-be investors on what they could do with those equipment so that it doesn’t turn out to be a total loss to the state government.
Sometime ago, Ogun Waterside, because it’s very close to the waterside, we heard that Dangote wanted to put a refinery there. What is the state government doing to harness that Ijebu waterside area, considering its closeness to the ocean and also the water resources vastly available in the area?
It is the only part of Ogun state that opens into the Atlantic ocean. Number one, our plan is to have a port development there whether a terminal or a full-fledged port, we believe that one of them must come. We lost the refinery because of the unfriendliness of the past administration towards the investor, however because where it is sited in Lagos, it still has proximity to us in Ogun waterside. So, what we are planning to do is to commission a master plan for that place in such a way that we will have connectivity with the site of the Lekki free zone. Now, the federal government has a master plan for railways in Nigeria and one of them is the Lagos/Calabar rail line. That locality is also going to tap into that. The port development would now ensure that all those who will be lifting the refined product from the refinery, especially those who are going to be high sea vessels, like big ships and what have you, can comfortably use that port that we are going to put in place. That’s on one side. As a state, we are also looking at having a coastal road in agreement with Lagos State government that will also connect that Lekki free zone and drive through the entire stretch of Ogun waterside and Ijebu East connecting with the Benin-Shagamu express. So that those lifting products from there needing to go through the eastern part of Nigeria don’t need to come to the mainland at all, they will just continue. All of these are in place. Besides, we are also looking at an industrial estate, springing up in that axis because of the proximity that we have both to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Lagos port area especially the Lekki free zone. All of these are in the plan. Don’t also forget that that axis side by side with the Ijebu East has the second largest bitumen deposit in Nigeria in the entire nation that is still largely untapped. It then simply means that when those mining of the bitumen told us would commence, industrial activities will also move towards that axis. That is another form of development. All of these will be encapsulated in the master plan of that place. Earlier in the year, sometimes in February, a port development firm from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirate came down to see the site, and the feelers we got from there was that they are impressed. They would have been back if not for the lockdown that slowed down the entire global economy. So, plans are in top gear, and I can only assure you that before long, activities would begin to spring up there and of course, the state is going to make a lot of money even from land administration, sales and subsequent transactions.
You know in Ogun state, we have three gateway hotels, the one in Ijebu ode, the one in Abeokuta… (cuts in)
It’s no longer gateway hotel, maybe I should bring you up to speed. All those hotels that were hitherto owned by the state have been concessioned. The only one that is still slow in its use is the one in Ota. Ijebu Ode is now equity resort.
I know. That’s where I’m driving at that the one in Ota is still there almost ten years after. Nothing has been done there.
One of the challenges that place has is the road network. Until that is fixed, the hotel development may not even be attractive to investors, and that’s why the state government is heavily desirous of having the Abeokuta-Ota road concessioned to Ogun state so that we can fix that road and when we fix that road, every business interest around that locality will also benefit from the road so fixed. So we want to take it one after the other because if you bring in investors now, the place would be underpriced. It will be priced on the reality of the moment, and the potential there are too great for us to underprice it based on the infrastructural deficit around the area. So, we want to take one step after the other, and that’s why one of the centre point of our discussion at the state with the Speaker of the House of Rep, Rt Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila when he visited was how he could be of help to get the State to really take over this road. Though the Honourable Speaker said taking over may be difficult but there are also other political solutions that could be worked out. So we believe that that political solution very soon would work out fine for us as a state and then we would be able to take it up from there.
This Osi-Ota that leads to AIT road, there has been a controversy on social media, some are saying that the road was constructed by Winner’s Chapel while some are saying it was the state government. As the SA media to the state government, who actually constructed it?
If it is the Osi-Ota road, it was constructed by the State with walkway by the side, street drainage, streetlight and what have you. If there is another road linking that road constructed by any other charity organisation, of course, we’d give them credit. But our own construction there dates back to as early as February this year when it was completed.
We are not taking away the Winner’s Chapel as a partner in progress for taking up a lot of corporate social responsibilities. But for that particular road that you mentioned, it is the state government that built it. If there is another linked road linking that same road constructed by the church, of course they will be duly acknowledged.
What about the many road network that the government has abandoned by the immediate past administration. I’m talking about the road network in Ogun state. A lot of people are complaining that the government is not actually moving very fast, especially in the area of road construction. And also, so many roads were abandoned by the previous administration, what is the state government doing about this?
I don’t know how much of update you have about the progress we’re making, but first let me start with the issue of speed of project. Who determines the speed that a project is being implemented and how is such speed determined? One, you determine speed by the construction period that is laid down in the contract papers because if you say you want to construct 20km of road, the contractor would have told you in clear terms how long that construction is going to take. Now, whether he will meet up with the construction period will be dependent on other extraneous matters like funding, weather and what have you. However, for those projects that we initiated as a state, as a government, as Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration, every single road project initiated as of today, they are still within the time frame that was originally laid down in the contract papers and the job order. That I can tell you. The Epe—Ijebuode holds our signature project. If you go there now, the contractor even said that he was going to deliver it the first quarter of 2021 but with the way we are seeing it, it may even wrap up by the end of the year. That means everything is still working in plan, COVID notwithstanding. On the Abeokuta Shagamu interchange road, despite the timing that was affected a little by COVID-19 lockdown, the progress that road has made, we are still very confident that it will be delivered within time. Now look at all the network of roads within town, Fajol-Gbonagun road that connects Abeokuta South and Odeda local governments, the Elite road, they are still within the time frame that we gave ourselves as a state. However, for those ones that we inherited, there were a lot of issues that made the work become slow. The first is that most of the papers, documents that would have told the total story of what those projects encapsulate are not even available. Now, you would have heard that hundred percent payments had been made. The contractor will be saying, you may not be wrong but you are also not right and when you ask questions further, you begin to get answers like, “Yes they gave us 20km, for example, to construct but while we were on, there was executive order that we should increase it to 27km that we should widen it beyond four lanes, that we should do this and that. All of that generated variations. So even if you are paid hundred percent of the original contract sum, it turns out that those variations you have ordered, have generated more payments. So the contractor will not be wrong to be saying, “Yes, you may be right, but you’re also not correct because variations have taken place.” And when we began to get conflicting fillers this way, the state government put together the project-review committee. Until that project review committee submitted its final report, sometimes in May, that was when we began to restart some of these projects when sufficient engagement of those contractors have been revisited. That is why you will now see that, some of them, it may not go exactly the way it is by that variation per se if the funding is not there. Let me give you an example of the road from Sango to Ojodu. That is the highest in terms of cost for us. The cost implication of that contract, we don’t even have the money but of course, we are looking at other funding options. And that’s why the first thing we did there when we finally got the clearer picture of what has exchanged hands was to do palliative so that residents around that area can at least be able to use the road. So, some of these projects, work stopped on them even before the last administration rounded up. So what we are doing now is just to manage in-between the desirability of not wanting to abandon any road, and at the same time ensuring that we bring service delivery to the door step of the Ogun State residents.
Lastly, the three previous government we had in Ogun state, they were known to be somehow flamboyant. Aremo (Olusegun) Osoba, with his flamboyant attires and dance steps. Also Otunba Gbenga Daniel and his electrifying presence at events to some extent, the past administration. But this Prince Dapo Abiodun, we’ve not been hearing so much about him maybe his engagement, we’ve not be seeing him on the road engaging people, or moving around the streets like his immediate predecessor. A phenomenon former Governor (Rauf) Aregbesola described as Street credibility. Why?
Every human being has his own uniqueness. As long as when you are in position of authority, you bring service delivery to those you’re privileged to govern. That is the most important. The rest is for people to put their opinion and by the way, what you said about others is also your own opinion about them. So, every single individual is unique in his own right. And if you’re seeing that kind of uniqueness about Prince Dapo Abiodun, well it is not going to be too much of an issue as long as service delivery is key in all of his dispositions, and I will just want you to say, well, whatever it is, Ogun State is moving on.