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I’m fulfilled as Lagos State governor, says Fashola



Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) of Lagos State recently had an interactive session with State House Correspondents on issues bothering on his achievements, the economy, corruption, the coming general elections among others. WOLE OYEBADE was there. Excerpts:

LAGOS State 2015 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje in a recent chat said nothing tangible has changed in all the sectors since the past eight years of your administration. How will you react to this?

  In every election, the record of the party in government must be an issue. So, I am happy that our record is in issue, in the same way we have put the record of the PDP-led centre in the issue. The difference between us is that our record as a state government is a record of performance, a record of promises kept and of development.

  I also listened to the interview that Khedira granted to the PDP gubernatorial candidate. I listened because all the allegations about performance are my own record and I must defend it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t listen to him because he has no content. I debated with him in 2007 and I’m even disappointed with the level of preparation he has exhibited after eight years and I will show you why. 

  He is not prepared to lead and he can’t lead; that is my verdict. If you look at his record, first from his business, he hasn’t grown it. If you look at my record, as a Chief of Staff, I added value when I took over from Alhaji Lai Mohammed. That is what leaders do; they add value to what they meet on ground. 

  If you also look at the state from when I took over from my predecessor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, I also added value. I’ve added more roads, schools, hospitals, I increased the revenue, employed more people in the public service, I’ve implemented the pension law, everywhere you go in this state, you will see the prometteur of our government and our party. 

  It is not a finished job and I’ve never pretended to anyone that the job was finished. That is why I say that the person I trust to continue the job is Akinwumi Ambode because he understands what we have done; he can continue from there. And if you look at his own records too, he has grown, from the council treasure to Local Government Auditor General, later to Accountant General. That is how it should be. If you cannot grow your own person, then you cannot grow a community.

  Let me tell you some of the things that have changed. In transportation alone, this state has no Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in 2007. We have added a BRT system. We started with the Mile-12 to Marina route. We expanded it to Alimoso, Ipaja. We expanded it to Badagry because there is a BRT lane on Badagry expressway. BRT is now running on Lekki-Epe Expressway and it will get into Epe town. As you heard some day ago when we have just launched additional 100 buses.

  In 2007, there was only on one taxi system, today we have several. In 2007, how many people could call taxi to come and pick him or her from home? That is what has changed. Who did that? Was it their party? In water transportation in 2007, we had a ridership of 150,000 passengers per month on Lagos water. We are moving now 1.6million passengers per month. We have licensed almost 200 ferries. We have built new jetties. We have created Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), which didn’t exist in 2007. We have created a safety regime on the waterways; people are now wearing life-vest.

  In 2007, the concept of an intra-city rail was only on the drawing board. Now, four stations have been built (in Alaba, Orile, Costain) the fifth is coming through to Marina. That is change. In 2007, there was no Okota Link Bridge; Lekki-Epe expressway was broken, how many sectors of the Lagos economy could you find traffic light in 2007? Was there lane marking on Lagos roads in 2007, or traffic road in this state? So, that is my record.

   For us in the area of infrastructure, in 2007 if a pregnant woman needed specialists care from Ikorodu town, she would have to travel almost 30 kilometres to get to Ayinke House. If she were coming from Ajegunle, she would have to travel about 35kilomtres to get to Lagos Island or go to Ikeja. We have undertaken 10 specialists Maternal and Child Centres, we have completed seven, already furnishing the eight and now roofing the last two. We have a new School of Nursing; flagship Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) running 24 hours in all LGAs. We have built a Cardiac and Renal Centres, the largest in the sub-region. We are doing Cochlear Transplants now; people who are deaf can now hear. We have a public health law in place now, We managed Ebola and bird flu. In education, our first WAEC examination was seven per cent average pass. We moved from seven per cent to 35 per cent. We are refurbishing classrooms, training teachers, replacing teaching facilities. More people now are sending their children to public schools than it used to happen 10 or 15 years ago.

 There are complaints about the ease of doing business in the state, with particular reference to the issue of construction permits, citing the World Bank report.

  One of the things that defines the ease of doing business that the World Bank publishes is not just construction permit. It is a packet of so many things. So, when he (Agbaje) deals with construction permit as an isolated case, it amazes me. If you look at the whole of Nigeria, the place where you will get the highest number of construction ongoing on is not those smaller states which have very little budget. You won’t have much constructions going on there. Maybe they are having planning processes three or four in a week, and we process 20 a-day. It is the same thing that you have with Certificate-of-Occupancy. If you compare with your colleagues in the other states on how many events they cover in a day and how many you do, then you will see the difference. When you measure, you are not measuring apples and apples, but apples with oranges.

  Again, we must all understand that where you are having collapsed buildings, you must be more rigorous in ensuring that constructions are done properly. If there is delay because we want to the proper thing, then it is okay rather than go for speed, make some people happy and risk lives. 

  In the process of construction permit too, there are documentations and not many people here keep proper records. So some of the delays is not because government is inefficient, it is also because people want to process the construction permit in the name of a company incorporated just for the purpose of acquiring the land. So by the time we ask for tax clearance of the board of directors, it will become an issue, and we will not serve those who don’t pay tax. They would find way to pay the tax but time is counting. These people would later say that it took them six months to get their permit, without saying that it was their fault. We are mindful of all these and already working to great improvement.

  What is the strategic importance of Mile 12-Ikorodu Road; will it be delivered before the hand-over date?

  I am optimistic that we will. The road has been largely finished. Asphalting has been done. What remained is the greening, street-lighting and completion of bus shelters. One other thing of that caused delay is that as we were constructing, people are also using the road. We cannot shut it down. People were also trading and have to relocate some markets and some storey buildings all cutting into the time when it ought to have finished (December 2014). But we are happy that the road is now in use, and what remains in more or less the ceremony.

Agbaje also carpeted you on your administration’s housing policy… 

  I am the one that is building houses and giving it back to citizens with an inbuilt mortgage of 10 per cent for 10 years. No state or government in this country offers that rate. I’m providing the house and the mortgage and giving it at interest rate that is lower than the commercial rate. And he says he is going to build 150,000 low cost. It is impossible, but my people are not low cost people. The idea is to build houses that will endure and that is what you would see in our LagosHOMS. 

  That is why I am screaming that Lagosians in particular and Nigerians in general should scrutinize the promises politicians are making. Promises are the easiest things to make in life, but the most difficult to keep. When I made promises to Lagosians in 2007 and 2011, I knew what I promised and I’ve been committed and I’ve delivered essentially what promised, because I expected that a day like this will certainly come; a day of reckoning. 

  Like I always like to tell people, during the last presidential election in the United States, Mitt Romney told the Americans that he would wind down their debts and they said where are you going to get the money, are you going to raise tax? 

He said no! but Obama said, we will review the debt but you will pay tax. And they agreed to go with Obama. That is the society that likes the truth. We must like the truth. They should stop hiding behind a finger, governance is not magic. So, be careful when they come.

Why did the state retain capital punishment in its state’s justice system?

  There was a big debate because we are a government of method and we don’t just jump at things; but carefully considering how it will affect our people. we went for a survey on what Lagosians want and over 70 per cent voted that we should keep the capital punishment.’ And that is it until the opinion change.

  Are you fulfilled with your achievements?

  A lot better than this; much more developed. The story is just starting. Fulfillment is something relative. As far as the commitments that I made to the people when I was elected me, I’ve satisfied my commitment and I’ve exceeded them.

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