‘Ignorance responsible for infrastructure deficit’
The Chairman of the Resort Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has said ignorance is responsible for infrastructure deficit in Nigeria.
At the annual lecture of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in Lagos yesterday, themed “Infrastructure Development and Growth in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges”, Babalakin said Nigerians were suffering for “a deep level of ignorance.”
According to him, Nigeria got its educational system wrong as it doesn’t teach people what their rights are and the fundamentals of building a strong society.
Babalakin, who is the pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), said there was need for Nigerians to hold the government accountable and persistently demand for their entitlements.
According to a statement, he said development would not happen in a situation where people are too ignorant of their rights to question the status quo and they accept whatever is thrown at them.
“You can go through the primary, secondary and university systems today without realizing that government owes you anything or knowing that telling the truth is fundamental in building a society and you say you want to develop infrastructure.“
He explained that infrastructural development is not about money but serious commitment and a lot of intellectual rigour. Babalakin cited the example of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2), which was built by one of his companies, Stabilini Visinoni Limited (SVL), 12 years ago and is being managed by another of his companies, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL).
The businessman said those who approved the concession for the terminal did not want the project completed, adding that he completed the job against the run of play. “And from the first day, they took away 60% of our revenue against our agreement.”
He identified the problems he experienced with the government as ignorance, deliberate refusal to understand and malice. “It’s been 12 years since we completed MMA2 and no government, including the state government, has done anything comparable.
This is because infrastructural development is not about money. It is about serious commitment and a lot of intellectual rigour. A few terminals have been built but they are not workable.”For example, he said, the new international airport built in Lagos, which cost $600 million, had no provision for coordinated movement, and a Chinese company was asking for another $ 400 million to make it workable.
On his challenges at MMA2, the lawyer said it took 10 years to prove that BASL was never indebted on MMA2. On the setting up of AMCON, the lawyer said the idea could have been good but the implementation was archaic, unconstitutional and an embarrassment for those born into the legal profession.
“Giving such powers to anybody without a process is unthinkable. We had three issues before AMCON. In one of the transactions, we knew we didn’t owe money and it was in the witness box that the lawyers of AMCON realized that we were never given a loan and as such there was no loan agreement to present to the judge. It was the peak of mental laziness. The judge awarded N3 billion against AMCON for libel and damages because we didn’t owe any money and had been maligned.”
On the cancellation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project which was initially awarded to one of his companies, Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited (BHSL), Babalakin said his team got the road design ready within a month but it took the government over 21 months to approve it. He said it was sad that seven years after the project was cancelled, the road was only 40% ready.
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