By Emma Aziken, Kenneth Ehigiator & Kolade Lanrewaju
LAGOS â€” PRESIDENT Umaru Yarâ€™Adua has expressed deep concern over the bad state of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway built 33 years ago with little or no major maintenance since then.
The Presidentâ€™s angst was expressed in a meeting with Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State yesterday. The presidentâ€™s meeting with the governor came a few hours after the Governor had also met with Minister of Works, Dr Hassan Lawal, on the issue.
Yar’Adua meets Fashola , laments
Both President Yarâ€™Adua and Governor Fashola met at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport shortly before the president was flown to Ogun State where he had gone to commission some projects.
Rising from the meeting which lasted about 15 minutes, Governor Fashola told airport correspondents that the president was very concerned about the bad state of the expressway which he described as the artery of the nation and stateâ€™s economies.
He said the president was in consonance with the state governmentâ€™s position on the need for urgent steps to remedy the situation of the road in the interim, while efforts should be made to embark on both medium and long term reconstruction of the expressway which connects the nationâ€™s gateway, the MurtalaÂ Muhammed International Airport and two ports â€” Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island port.
Fashola said: â€œThe discussions went well. It is for all concerned to appreciate the important roles transport plays with roads on the economy of Lagos, in particular for business of the state.
â€œIt is the major artery to evacuate goods from the ports; it will affect the economy of Lagos for business and transportation. I believe sooner rather than later, very concrete steps in the short, medium or long term will be taken to address the problems. I have also emphasised the need to act very quickly with Mr. President.â€
The governor, who didnâ€™t want to be drawn into further questioning on the matter, regretted the loss of man hours and stress that the traffic bottleneck caused by the bad state of the expressway has caused the state and motorists in recent times.
He was, however, upbeat that with the presidentâ€™s involvement in the matter, solution was on the way to the salvage the expressway which has become a nightmare to motorists.
No pay cut for civil servants â€” Yarâ€™Adua
At the commissioning of N2.5 billion Secretariat Complex constructed by the Ogun State Government in Abeokuta, President Yarâ€™Adua assured civil servants that they will not be affected by the proposed pay cut by the Federal Government.
The President said the pay cut would affect only political office holders adding that civil servants would rather enjoy better patronage.
Praising the construction of the Secretariat, the President said â€œwhat we are witnessing here thus symbolises a necessary move away from the tradition of running down the civil service as corrupt and incompetent to making necessary provision for excellence.
â€œI do not believe that maligning our civil service is a productive endeavour. Rather, I believe that our civil servants can compete with the best in the world and contribute more to national development if we give them the tools and the incentives to do so.
â€œOur task then is how to recruit and retain the best in our civil service, how to provide them tools for their work and how to continuously motivate them to be the best they can be in the service of our country.
â€œThis administration is committed to tackling these challenges head on. This is because we are deeply convinced that no society can progress without an efficient and effective civil service. And to get an effective and efficient civil service, you must make the necessary investment.
This we are committed to doing, even in the face of dwindling resources. And as I said before, civil servants will not be affected by the proposed reduction in salaries and allowances of public officials.â€
The President also said that work would start on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway next month and appealed for further support and cooperation from the state government, especially in moving away the trailers on the road to their new location.
In his own speech, Governor Olugbenga Daniel said the construction of the Complex started exactly 14 months which he said was part of his holistic approach to assuring the welfare of the workers.
He said that the construction of a Judicial Complex was also nearing completion which he said would have successfully created the stateâ€™s three arms zone.
Ogun crisis deepens
However, there seems to be no end to the intractable political crisis in Ogun State as some prominent leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state shunned President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s one-day visitÂ to commission the N2.5 billion secretariat complex built by Governor Olugbenga Daniel as reported by Vanguard yesterday.
While former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party attended, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Tunji Egbetokun and 14 of his colleagues at logger heads with the Governor were conspicuously absent.
Two Senators, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Lekan Mustapha were also absent while four of the nine House of Representative Members from the state also stayed away.
Also conspicuously absent were Chairman of the Party Elders Forum, Chief Sule Onabiyi, former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye, former Special Adviser to President Obasanjo on Media, Dr. Doyin Okupe and former Minister of Steel Development; Alhaji Sarafadeen Tunji Ishola.
Of the three Senators from the state, only Senator Felix Kola Bajomo representing Ogun West Senatorial District was in attendance with five members of the House of Representatives.
The ceremony however drew a huge gathering of people including Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and Segun Oni of Ekiti State; the Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja and top government functionaries.
Also in attendance were former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya, former Military Governors and Administrators of Ogun State, Brig. Seidu Balogun (rtd) Gen. Oladayo Popoola (rtd) and Commodore Oladeinde Joseph (rtd), traditional rulers led by the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, former Attorney-General of the Federation Prince Bola Ajibola and Commodore Olabode George (rtd) among others.
Senators deny being invited
Senators Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Lekan Mustapha from Ogun State howvere denied boycotting President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s visit to the State as they claimed they did not receive invitations from Governor Daniel for the visit.
While denying claims that they boycotted the visit, the two Senators in separate telephone interviews nonetheless gave varied answers to what could have been their responses had they received the invitations.
â€œI did not receive an invitation, no invitation was sent to me,â€™â€™ she said as she noted that she could not have boycotted an event that she was never invited to.
Asked if she would have attended if invited, Senator Obasanjo-Bello, chairman of the Senate committee on Health said:
â€œIf I received an invitation my going would depend on what and what I have at hand but I didnâ€™t receive an invitation. I did not receive an invitation to anything or anywhere. I didnâ€™t even know that the President was going to be in Abeokuta today (yesterday),â€™â€™ she said.
Senator Mustapha, chairman of the Senate committee on Internal Affairs spoke in the same wise saying â€œI was not invited, you can also call House of Representatives members and they will tell you whether they were invited or not.â€™â€™
He, however, asserted that he would have graced the occasion if invited. â€œI would have been there if I received the invitation,â€™â€™ he said.
Daniel blames crisis on â€œlove of money, indiscipline.â€
Speaking on the political crisis at the ceremony, Governor Daniel blamed everything on love of money, indiscipline and external influence.
He said â€œunfortunately sir, unbridled love of money, a high level of indiscipline by our party men and women and the current desperation to capture power by any means by our neighbour has led to the current implosion which opposition clearly designed.
â€œThe objective of the designers of this confusion is clearly to diminish in the eyes of the unsuspecting public (who are daily fed with lies from a section of the opposition media the ownership which is known) the great heights that our party have attained in terms of unprecedented development brought by our government, part of which is being witnessed today (yesterday).
â€œI, therefore, wish to seize this opportunity to ask our Party leadership to revisit the issue of Party discipline with all the seriousness that it deserves as a prerequisite for peace, progress and development.â€
Meanwhile, Chief Press Secretary to the Ogun State Governor, Mr. Adegbenro Adebanjo yesterday said that there was no truth in claims by Speaker Tunji Egbetokun that he was not dully invited, noting that the letter of invitation to the Speaker was personally signed by the Governor.