Political friends, foes unite at Alhaja Obanikoro’s Fidau prayers

By Tope Templer Olaiya
THE 8th day Fidau prayers of Alhaja Wosilat Ejide Obanikoro, mother of immediate past Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, united political friends and foes across all divides at the weekend in Lagos.
No sooner had the prayers started, led by the Chief Missioner of Ansar-ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Olanrewaju Ahmad and the Chief Imam of Lagos, Mohammed Akinola Ibrahim, than the hall began to witness the presence of dignitaries walk in to take their seats.

Obanikoro (left) exchanging pleasantries with Seriki, Fashola (second right) and Banire

But there was some noisy interruption as soon as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, stepped in. It caught many by surprise as the former governor of Lagos State has lately stayed away from social functions, noticeably the just concluded Lagos @ 50 celebrations.

Also, the duo of Fashola and Obanikoro had squared up fiercely as governorship candidates since the 2007 elections down to the run-up to the 2015 elections. He didn’t come alone, his mother, Madam Cecilia Omolara Fashola and Alhaji Kayode Fashola, were present.

The Minister took his seat, flanked by Chief Rasak Okoya, Justice George Oguntade, National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Muiz Banire, and former Minister of State for Defence, Ademola Seriki, and began going through the programme booklet.

Some paragraphs in the Obanikoro’s tribute to his late mother caught the attention of the former governor. Fashola got his chance moments later to throw banters at Obanikoro after they embraced, reading the paragraph to him: “I can recall how troublesome I was growing up and how much my troubled nature tested your patience. Even when bad companies derailed me, you never gave up on me. Your commitment to my education and self-discipline is legendary.” This was followed by outbursts of roaring laughter.

Obanikoro welcoming Senate President, Olubukola Saraki

Things got to a head with the arrival of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki Saraki, who was returning from the wedding ceremony of one of the daughters of Chief Bisi Akande, a former National Chairman of the APC in Ibadan. He had stopped by to honour Obanikoro, whose mother died on July 2, aged 95.

Saraki was accompanied by Senators representing Lagos West, Ondo Central, Ogun East and Bayelsa East, Solomon Adeola, Omotayo Alasoadura, Buruji Kashamu and Ben Bruce, respectively. A special prayer session was held for Saraki, albeit on Obanikoro’s request.

Obanikoro, Saraki and Alao-Akala, former governor of Oyo State

Others at the event included former governors Gbenga Daniel (Ogun) and Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Senator Ganiyu Solomon, former Air Marshal, Adesola Amosu (rtd); former Deputy Governors of Lagos State, Otunba Femi Pedro and Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, who represented Governor Ambode; former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin; Dr. Reuben Abati; former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu and prominent Borno State politician, Malam Kashim Imam.






Restoring sanity to Apapa with Operation Gbale

• Nigerian Navy’s 24-hour operation enters third week
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor and Sunday Odita

Minister of State for Defence (right) arriving Apapa for his inspection tour of the ports and being received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade

Minister of State for Defence (right) arriving Apapa for his inspection tour of the ports and being received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade

After a long drawn battle between government and articulated truck drivers for the control of access roads to the Apapa and Tin Can ports, sanity has been momentarily restored to the once troubled Mile 2-Apapa-Wharf-Liverpool-Marine Beach-Ijora corridor.
This long-sought relief came after the Nigerian Navy midwifed a task force, with the combined commitments of all stakeholders operating in the area.
The taskforce codenamed Operation Gbale, a Yoruba word for sweeping, was instituted by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, to proffer lasting solution to the traffic gridlock that has kept Apapa on lockdown for weeks.
This was after the command had identified the traffic problem as a great risk to security agencies, particularly in the light of the recent twin explosions that rocked Creek Road in Apapa.

Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (left); representative of Apapa resident, Kayode Animashaun; Commanding Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Emmanuel Uwadiae; Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade; and Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (left); representative of Apapa resident, Kayode Animashaun; Commanding Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Emmanuel Uwadiae; Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade; and Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

Rising to the challenge, Operation Gbale, a 24-hour daily operation was launched to decongest the area and minimize the risks for any acts of terror.

Deploying the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft and Wey, led by Beecroft Commanding Officer, Commodore Ovenseri Uwadiae, to the flash points, the naval personnel immediately set about riding the area of recalcitrant tanker drivers without excessive use of force.

The operation, which started in July 10, has according to Alade, achieved its aim. “Operation Gbale was instituted for the purpose of clearing the traffic gridlock in Apapa and environs. Recently, a lot of people have attested to the fact that the operation is a huge success. You will recall Governor Babatunde Fashola visited thrice and attested to the fact that life is getting better at Apapa.


“The truth is we are not completely there yet, we have to continue what we are doing. With all the efforts and measure put in place now, we believe it will get better. What we are doing is to partner with stakeholders. As a matter of fact, my duty is not to clear roads, but because of the security implication of what is happening in Apapa, we had to take action.

“For now, we are on the road, the operation is still active and until we call it off, my men will still be on the road. We might not be there forever, but we are already inculcating the real sense of responsibility in the tanker drivers so that they can begin to do things the right way before we ultimately withdraw our men,” he said.

Attesting to the improved situation at Apapa, Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, told The Guardian: “We are happy the situation is improving daily, especially in relation to traffic management, which is our own responsibility.

“The truck and drivers are cooperating to the best of their ability. I was just told that it took a motorist 30 minutes from FESTAC to pass through Apapa to Victoria Island, even with the condition of the road, which is terribly bad. If the road is okay, the journey should not be more than 15 minutes.”


On Tuesday, the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, went on an inspection tour of the area, which was cleared of articulated trucks.

Moving in company of the FOC, Real Admiral Alade and some stakeholders, which included Mr. Kayode Animashaun, representing Apapa residents; Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO); and officials of the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), the minister, who toured the entire stretch of the Apapa corridor, commended the FOC for the restoration efforts of Operation Gbale.

In a chat with newsmen, he said decongestion of the area is almost completely done. While work needs to be sped up on the road rehabilitation, plans are already underway to relocate tank farms away from Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

“For sometime now, we have been looking at the security implication of the road congestion here, and given the activities of Boko Haram and other elements within the society who may want to take advantage of the chaotic situation around the port, the Nigerian Navy moved in to clear the area and I am happy that so far, all the stationary trucks have been moved and a passageway have been created to pave way for smooth vehicular movement in and around the port.


“Though there is a significant socio-economic benefit from having a traffic free access in and out of the ports, but the security element is very key to us. I have been briefed by the FOC that the entire area has been broken into eight and officers have been assigned to ensure free flow of traffic, which has eased the situation here in the last two weeks.

“Decongestion is almost completely done, though we have issues with the road, which is affecting the movement of traffic; but I am aware Julius Berger is already working on some palliatives to bring relief to road users.

“This significant improvement in terms of vehicular movement in and out the port is largely due to the efforts of the Nigerian Navy. I am also happy with the way they have engaged all the stakeholders, because sometimes, when you do a solo effort, you run into a lot of difficulty and resistance from some quarters,” he noted.

The minister added that there is need for the Lagos State government to provide a permanent holding bay for trucks, as the previous one used by the truck drivers, which is the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Truck Terminal, is no longer conducive due to the expansion on the Badagry express road.

“It is when we have that we can have a radio link between the port and the stakeholders, so that whenever the port is ready to have them, there will be a radio communication and they can now proceed to go in. That, we cannot afford not to do as quickly as possible,” he said.

For Animashaun, the lasting panacea to the suffocating traffic in Apapa is improvement of the infrastructure, particularly road network, understanding and synergy among agencies of government operating in Apapa. “Managing all these issues is key to a robust relationship among all the agencies because the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other agencies cannot operate if the trucks cannot get here,” he noted.


Ilubirin… Mounting concerns over sand-filled Lagos

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
It took a public verbal spat between Governor Babatunde Fashola and the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, over the ongoing Ilubirin housing estate for the project site to attract a second look from motorists plying the Third Mainland Bridge.
Before the tirade, which began in April, the area had generated a passing interest despite being listed among the locations of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS). The government had planned to build on the reclaimed land, a total number of 1,254 flats, comprising two and three bedroom apartments on eight floors.
Until recently, Ilubirin was inhabited by Ijaws, Ilajes, settlers from Badagry and migrants from Benin Republic and Togo, who traded on commodities that riverine dwellers are known for. Specifically, their men fished, while the women supply fish to the major markets in Lagos.
This was until the Lagos State government demolished the settlement and embarked on reclaiming the place from the sea through the process of sand filling. While the removal of people from the environment was hailed, the reclaiming of land from the sea has continued to attract condemnations.

Ilubirin 2Those who frowned at the sand filling argued that constant encroachment on the ocean and lagoon does not augur well for the state ecologically and environmentally. They maintained that the damage to the ecosystem by excessive reclamation of land is gradual, accumulative and imperceptible, noting that the effects are irreversible.

While Fashola had taken excerption to the minister’s use of military personnel to disrupt the ongoing project, Obanikoro, who represents Lagos in the federal cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan, had wondered aloud why the state government has decided to build affordable houses on water and with barely a year to the expiration of the governor’s tenure.

“It is no longer a secret that most of the affordable housing communities in the world were built on land and not water. Moreso, the location of the Ilubirin project breaks all the laws on setback requirements for highways and roads.

“This administration has consistently done amateur-styled land reclamation projects across the state, an action that has caused severe environmental damage and extreme discomfort to many families living in Lagos,” he told The Guardian.

Though the act of reclaiming land from the sea is a global practice, it is surprising that the latest one by the state government to build a low-cost housing estate has generated controversies. With the expertise employed by the government in all its sand filling projects, the existence of fears about ecological and environmental impact assessment of the projects, has somewhat been sustained.

Governor Fashola (middle) in discussion with his security team

Governor Fashola (middle) in discussion with his security team

Commenting on the growing incidence of land filling and reclamations going on in Lagos Island, Emeka Okonkwo, an estate surveyor and valuer, said it is a project driven by fraud because the cost of sand filling is going to be ten times the cost of opening another place.

“There are tablelands all over Lagos. There are places even in swampy areas that can be recreated and redeveloped than going to pour sand in water, which is unreasonable. They reclaimed a lot of places in Dubai but the costs of those apartments are simply ridiculous.

“The island is already chaotic. How are you going to manage the traffic? Yet, the government is spending so much money reclaiming the land when there are slums littering Lagos that could have been redeveloped like Badia. But in the face of profit, money, and tax for government, the action may just make sense. However, as a professional, my advice to government would be opening up other areas instead of sand filling,” he said.

An environmentalist, Chief Osawe Irabor, said he saw nothing wrong with the exercise. “If done in an organised manner, I believe nobody will complain. But when it becomes rampant and reckless, the people must resist it because usurping natural settings could be disastrous in the long run,” he said.

Backing his argument with contemporary examples, Osawe said: “Nearly every part of the Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea. What is happening in Lagos should not be different. Statistics have it that China reclaimed 13,455 hectares of land from the sea in 2010, resulting in earnings of more than 7.82 billion yuan.

“However, with every sense of purpose, I will say that what is happening in Lagos is being driven by the desire to make money. It is business on the part of those doing it because poor people don’t benefit from the houses being built on the reclaimed land. I hope they are being done according to the best practices in order to protect the ecosystem,” he stated.

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence (middle) on a recent visit to Naval Base, Apapa

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence (middle) on a recent visit to Naval Base, Apapa

Still on his worries, he said there are possibilities of buildings erected there to sink while the state stands the risk of being swept off by earthquakes and tsunamis.

A professor of Geography, Prof. Kaine Amikpume, in his environmental impact assessment of the project told The Guardian that there are inherent dangers associated with sand filling.

“We must tell ourselves the truth that this is a coastal state. And we are not immune to natural disasters associated with littoral states. It is just that we have been lucky not have experienced something beyond an ocean surge. Continuous reclamation of land from the sea distorts the ecosystem. But if done in an orderly manner with proper environmental impact assessment, the possibilities of failure will be minimal.

“I understand what the state government is going through in trying to meet up with population explosion, but the future of those you are trying to cater for should not be endangered by the same process. Other alternatives to sand filling should be explored to prevent the long-term effect, like opening up tablelands because you pay less to open up tablelands. But when you reclaim, you pay much and that informs the high cost of properties on reclaimed lands.”

It would be recalled that the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had called on the Federal Government to halt the sand filling of the ocean and lagoons in the state in the overall interest of the country. The party also berated the state government over what it described as “deceptive and diversionary evacuation of occupants from areas tagged slums, which was worsened by direct government negligence.”

Ilubirin 3

In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Gani Taofik, the party said the call came on the heels of the frequent ocean surges, which recently claimed lives and property at the beaches.

It alleged that the unnecessary loss of lives and property should be blamed on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, which has “remained adamant, irresponsible and only pursuing business interest that it chose to sand fill the ocean in its purported Eko Atlantic Project, where a plot of land is being sold for N350 million.”

The APC had in its reaction through the state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said: “We take it that Lagos PDP is far gone in mischief or it is on its well known antics of conning Nigerians for sympathy when it blamed the ocean surge on the laudable Eko Atlantic City, which is generating worldwide attention.

“We feel that PDP’s greedy inclination which sees every opportunity as fat cow to be milked by greedy party men is leading it into reading such negative meanings into great projects that promise to lift Nigeria from the quagmire it had sank the country into.”

Micheal Adegbola Dominic, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Lagos during the 2011 election, sees it differently. “I can only say that Fashola is sinking concrete into the Atlantic Ocean, building bridges across the lagoon to Lekki and Banana Island and all that, but that is not what the majority of Lagosians need.

“The people of Lagos don’t need those concretes he is burying inside Atlantic Ocean, what they need is motorable roads in places like Ayobo, Ejigbo, Ikorodu, Ikotun, and so many other places in Lagos. Fashola is doing something good for himself and his elite friends. The people of Lagos are suffering, they are living in slums.”

Return of ‘Koro’: A rejoinder

By Musiliu Obanikoro

I read the piece written by Mr. Tope Templer Olaiya on the Greater Lagos section of The Guardian Newspaper of Thursday February 20, 2014 on page 14 titled: “Return of ‘Koro’” and decided it is important to set certain records straight compared to how they were painted in the piece.

   I am particularly worried that as much as Mr. Olaiya attempted to sound balanced on his analysis of the implications of my appointment as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the partisan politics in Lagos State, he largely represents my person as a promoter of election violence and I am compelled to reject such representation.

   First, it didn’t come as a shock to me that my appointment is causing uneasiness in some quarters, especially when it is seen as a political calculation to strengthen the opposition to the way and manner the affairs of Lagos State are being managed. For those with the mindset to conceive a larger picture, my appointment offers Lagos State an opportunity to command the representation it deserves in the National Executive Cabinet. It was based on excellent and impressive performance in my previous engagements in the service of my fatherland.

   There are indications that I have utilized such opportunities in the past to raise the profile of Lagos State to a new level in relation to excellence of ideas, and the pursuit of greater good of Nigeria. My interest at all times- and this appointment offers another opportunity, is to work with willing and positive Lagosians and Nigerians to better the lots of my people. 


Secondly, it was abhorrent to read from the piece a reecho of the ritualization of our political culture by a supposed All Progressive Congress (APC) stalwart, that I swore to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the Holy ‘Kaaba’ in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that I will ‘not go anywhere’- referring to my defection to the PDP as a Senator. For the records, I do not engage in such kind of repugnant activity. My political poise is based on sound ideology and my leanings shift when the walls become slippery.


   The piece again reechoed another supposed APC chieftain labeling my campaigns as ‘always violent’. He cited the 2007 Oregun incidence when my campaign train was attacked by the opposition to draw credibility to this argument. The one sided nature of the report did little justice to my person. For the record, my campaign train did not attack itself on that fateful day. It was a well-orchestrated plan by the party in power in Lagos State that was struggling to hang on to power, to discredit my campaign organization. That is obvious from the continuing use of the same incident to malign me today.


   I am a family man with strong family values. I have been married for 35 unbroken years and managed a family I am proud to say, is a successful one. I have raised children amongst who are successful graduates in different human endeavours and who are already contributing positively to their fatherland. These values are arguably not that of a man that can be described as violent. I doubt if these individuals labeling me as violent can parade such credentials in their personal lives.


   The same elements are perhaps hyping a pretentious Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) recruitments allegedly aimed at training certain youths for election purposes in 2015 by my party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Since FERMA had strongly disclaimed such activities under its guise, it is better to waive it aside as the restless antics of an unsecured group and individuals. The Lagos State Government controls enough security apparatuses to stem any suspicious act of violence as it is being brewed within its jurisdiction, if it fails in its responsibility, it should not lay the blame on the doorstep of the Federal Government or the PDP in the bid to score political points.


   I would like to conclude this response by offering a little advice to the writer of the piece that necessitated my response. The hallmark of the fourth estate of the realm is the production of balanced reporting that adds significant values to the lives of the readers. Your respected role is to provide a mirror for leaders and followers to view and review themselves without adding blemishes that are controversially painted by your pen. In this particular piece, you have consciously or unconsciously did that to my person. What I seek are positive suggestions and advices as well as your prayers on the roles that fortune bestows on me to serve Nigeria.