By Oziegbe Okoeki
The N1 trillion rebuilding of Lagos – devasted by the destruction that accompanied the #EndSARS protests – has started.
The Federal Government is leading the support team for Lagos State government, supported by the National Assembly and boosted by business leaders spearheaded by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was at the inauguration of the Board of Trustees of the Rebuilding Lagos Trust Fund attended by House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and Emefiele.
Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote was represented by Mansur Ahmed and Senate President Ahmed Lawan was represented by Senator Olamilekan Adeola.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was Chief host, supported by Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat and Speaker Mudashiru Obasa.
The destruction in Lagos was massive. It cuts across public and private sector property, palaces, businesses and many other infrastructure, including public buses that were burnt, police stations and quarters were razed or damaged and many policemen killed or maimed.
Emefiele said the Bankers Council was working with CA-COVID to rehabilitate and rebuild Lagos. He said funds will be provided for rebuilding of burnt police stations and provision of damaged facilities to assist those whose businesses were damaged.
He said CA-COVID and the Bankers Council will next week come out with a blueprint on rebuilding plan.
“Bankers Council and CA-COVID will work for restocking and rebuilding of their businesses again after taking stock of damage,” the CBN boss said.
Emefiele also assured that they will take measures to complement government effort at creating jobs and enhance the security apartments. He appealed to members of the organised private sector to join in the rebuilding project.
Osinbajo said the fortunes of the nation is tied to the fortunes of Lagos in so many ways.
“This is the state that leads by far in the collection of non-oil revenues. The bulk of the VAT (Value Added Tax) is generated here; of the 114 persons who pay self-assessed taxes of over N10 million, 112 of them live and work here in Lagos. The Lagos Port, whose Marina Office was attacked, generates the most revenue and it is the busiest in the country.”
The vice president expressed regret that the noble cause of the #EndSARS protests designed to call attention to a serious malignant problem of brutality and extrajudicial killings, was subverted, leading to the exact opposite of its objectives; chaos, murder, looting and arson.
Osinbajo said the Federal Government would come out with details of its commitment to rebuilding Lagos and other states that suffered similar fate after President Muhammadu receives a full report of the ongoing investigation.
The vice president said: “It is now time to rebuild. It is time for the painful and costly task of reconstruction and rehabilitation. It is now time for the private sector, our international friends and partners, and all who love this city to make their contributions to the rebuilding and reconstruction effort. When Lagos works, it works for all.
“Our state, like our nation, is in need of healing. We recognise that the balm for a wounded society is truth and justice. This is why judicial panels of Inquiry have been established all across the country.
“But, it is clear that the task of reconstruction goes beyond physical infrastructure or brick and mortar. There is a moral, social and ethical reconstruction to be undertaken as well. We must rebuild trust between the government and the governed; the vast majority of who are young persons, rebuild trust between law enforcement agents and the communities that they are meant to serve.
“The pursuit of restorative justice, recompense for injury to innocents and a reckoning for perpetrators of abuse are essential components of the moral and ethical reconstruction of our homestead.
“I urge all of us to give this process a chance to work and to commit to the advocacy and participation that it will take to enable this process succeed.”
The Senate President said federal lawmakers have been working on the 2021 Budget.
He said: “It is a long-term project, and Lagos deserves a special status and should be treated like Abuja. To achieve success, we must change our strategy this time around; Lagos will surely rise again.”
Gbajabiamila said: “Lagos of our dreams will be realised from this devastation. The rebuilding of Lagos starts today. We will rebuild this state with all the tools at our disposal, Lagos will attain greater heights.
“The National Assembly will do everything it can to rebuild the state, it will call for special intervention fund from the Federal Government for Lagos which recorded more of the devastation than all other states that suffered similar fate.”
Sanwo-Olu said the violence experienced during the protests was the most widespread carnage the state has seen in decades.
The governor said: “The violence had no doubt set our economy back by tens of billions of Naira, and impacted our confidence. Let me assure you all that we will bounce back. We do not have a choice, really. Because this is who we are, this is what Lagos is; a resilient people, an irrepressible city. This is our history, and our DNA.
“Every threat and disaster the state had faced in the past had always ended up opening up, in its aftermath, an opportunity for a new kind of progress, one step backwards in the short term that paved the way for four steps forward in the longer term.”
He said the purpose of the gathering is to operationalise the earlier set up Rebuild Trust Fund, by “mobilising resources from far and wide, for the singular purpose of rebuilding and restoring our dear city and state.
“We seek to restore the infrastructure that was destroyed, to revive the energy and confidence of everyone who has been affected by these losses, to help restore the confidence of the people of Lagos in the infinite potentials of Lagos.
“But, the government cannot do this alone. We need all the help that we can get, which is why we have invited you all here, and are grateful that you have honoured our invitation.”
Sanwo-Olu said with the approval of the State House of Assembly, the state government was making available a huge amount of money in the 2021 Budget to immediately begin the rebuilding efforts.
He said: “This, for us, represents that credible and very important step in the rehabilitation and restoration process; and shows that we are willing, as a government, to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak.
“But let me reiterate this – that our contribution, though very substantial – is still quite very far away from what we require to make a dent on the burden that confronts us. This is why we have invited you here to join hands and support us.
“I strongly believe that the cohesive efforts and contributions of the private and public sectors will make it easier for us to rebuild Lagos State. These may be challenging times but with responsive and responsible leadership, we will overcome. We can make greater impact through our collaborative efforts in the shortest possible time.
“Let us work in the commonality of purpose to restore the glory of our state. You are important stakeholders; and I know I can count on you as the Lagos Rebuild Committee reaches out to you for your support in rebuilding Lagos.
“Whatever investments we make towards this task will be for the good of all of us. These investments will go into rebuilding and re-tooling security infrastructure, strengthening public transportation systems, restoring judicial and local government operations, rebuilding damaged public monuments.
“All of these will positively impact security, tourism, employment generation, and ultimately the social contract between government and the governed.
“For every Naira of investment mobilised and expended under this rebuilding project, there will be a significant multiplier effects that would benefit the public and the private sector. These funds will go into the local economy; into the hands of artisans; traders; suppliers; start-ups and so on,” Sanwo-Olu said.
One-time Budget and Economic Planning Commissioner in Lagos, Mr. Yemi Cardoso, was subsequently named by the state government as chairman of the Trust Fund’s eight-member Board of Trustees (BoT).