*Stop provoking everyone, he says
*Explains development strategy
*Expresses worry over para-military group in Lagos (FERMA trainees)
By Jide Ajani
In this session with Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, he explains the style of administration that has been put in place in the state such that successive governments can build and improve on what has been achieved so far. He also takes a swipe at President Goodluck
Jonathan and his aides who say no administration in the history of Nigeria has done as much as theirs.
You will find him as interesting as ever, with views that are unique both in thought and presentation.
Lagos has been experiencing some urban renewal. Is this renewal an attempt at taking Lagos back to some forgotten development plan, or a haphazard work in progress?
If you follow our communication on policy statement closely, you will notice that I said from the beginning of my tenure that this was going to be a government of method; that we are going to be methodical in things that we will embark upon. Everything that we have done so far had been based on very rigorous examination of what the problems are, what the choices of solutions are and how to prioritise in order to make them sustainable. One of the first things we did after assumption of office was to conduct a trip round the state; I commissioned a team based on this to go and ask the citizens and residents around the state to specifically tell the governor, ‘what do you want him to do for you?’
That was the beginning of our local government tour. The results that came showed us that there were six main items: roads, drainages, schools, health, jobs and power. But we wanted to validate that and we went for town hall meetings in every local government. And while those things resonated across, they resonated differently. In some local governments, they wanted roads first. In others, they preferred schools. In some places, their drainages were their main concern. This formed the basis of our first full year budget in office (2008 budget). And we have kept faith with this approach.
Indeed, from each tour after we came back, it was to give instructions to each ministry or department. When we came back from those tours, we went straight into an executive meeting everyday giving out assignments as required; and we have kept track.
The second point was that of regional plan. I think the last regional plan for the state was done around 1991 or so. So, we decided to plan the state into eight towns. We developed a new regional plan. These towns are Badagry, Ikorodu, Epe, Lagos Mainland (which covers part of Oshodi, all through to Orile, to National Theater and Iddo), Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikeja; and to link them up by transport infrastructures.
Again, we did an audit of the available water supply. And we saw that we had about roughly 45 or 48 percent water supply and we developed a plan; a short, medium and long term plan to provide water for the growing population that we were anticipating. The short-term plan was to do two million gallons per day, with facilities in 15 locations. I have commissioned about nine of them. And along with that short term plan was to get the Iju water works to run at full capacity because it was running at about 35 percent capacity because of power outages. This led to the first IGP for Iju water works; the Akute IGP now runs at about 90 percent. But it doesn’t solve the problem. Some of these facilities have aged; Iju was built around 1900. That’s why you will see we are laying new pipes through Eko Bridge.
Essentially, we have almost completed the short-term plan. The medium term plan is to build bigger water works. Oto-Ikosi is completed now and being tested. That is four million gallons to feed part of Epe and support Ikorodu. We have Odo-mola, which is 25 million gallons.
There is also the Adiyan phase II, which is 70 million gallons a day. We have already started constructing this from the budget. We will finish that in 2016.
That will help us supply Alimosho and Agege, who are actually close to the water source (Iju) but who don’t benefit from it because the Europeans, who built it, didn’t include them among beneficiaries.
In Badagry, we want it to stand alone. Ishashi is four million gallons. And we are also upgrading Ishashi to 12 million gallons a day.
The same thing with water treatment and sewage! The capacity was barely 10 percent. We drew up a 10-year plan. And that is why we now have a Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission, which will regulate the use of clean water and recycling of used water.
We went into Yaba for massive rehabilitation of what was once a prime middle class community. Three roads were commissioned for construction and we finished substantially 80 percent of the works there. We are regenerating Apapa as well. Some of old roads in Victoria Island are being constructed. The same type of construction is going on in Alimosho. We have finished LASU-Iba Road. It is about 20 kilometers and four-lane, as well as Governor’s Road and a couple of other roads. This time last year, we handed over 11 new roads in Alimosho.
In all this, we have consciously kept one contractor; almost like a resident contractor. Once you finished, we move you to the next phase. In Ikorodu, for example, the resident
contractors are two; the Chinese and Arab Contractors. The Chinese are doing the main road and the Arab Contractors are doing the inner ones.
In Mile 12 and Agiliti, there is a new bridge and about seven new roads that will finish in about June. In Ijegun-Isheri, you have Hi-Tec there, constructing the bridge to link the two communities.
So, there is a conscious effort to be methodical so that, instead of demobilizing one contractor and bringing another one, we have a network of roads and we tackle them one after the other.
As you wind down on your tenure, are there any other development plans in the offing you have not talked about? And how do you react to the allegation that some of these projects are elitist?
If it is the elite who live in Mile 12, in Agiliti, then I am happy to serve them. If it is the elite who live in Ajegunle, where we handed over a new road last week, I am happy to serve to them. Also,
if it is the elite who live in Mushin, where we handed over 16 roads, then I am happy to serve them. If it is the elite who live in Ikeja, where we just finished Kodeso and Medical Roads, it is my pleasure to serve them; they are taxpayers too.
The biggest project that we are undertaking, the transport project… from Mile 12 through Ikorodu Road, if it is the elite who live in this 17 kilometer road expansion, I am happy to serve them. If you go from Orile right through to Alaba, Mile 2 we are doing the train station and if that also is for the elite who live there, I should be so delighted to serve them. These are places where no activity of any sustainable attention had been paid. Over the years, we have not really had this long period of government to really sit down, develop a plan and run with it. Yes, we haven’t served everybody and we can pretend we will be able to serve everybody. But the fact that an asset is built in a community where you live doesn’t mean that it belongs to you. And the choices that we have always made, given our limited resources, is ‘where is the most impactful area of need?’
People have now forgotten what the areas around Stadium, Barracks and Alaka used to look like. There is a seven kilometer of drainage submerged under that road today, because when we started the BRT system, that was where the buses used to get trapped. It occurred to us then that instead of going to do residential roads, ‘why don’t we fix roads that take people to places of their daily bread?’
Roughly about six million commuters move around there daily. That’s one of the busiest roads. Then we went to open up Agege Motor Road and Oshodi to free traffic that used to be a daily nightmare to people. I remember that people at the Airport toll gate were not happy with us because our effort impacted negatively on their revenue. Then, people were paying to avoid that gridlock at Oshodi only to come back to Agege Motor Road. We succeeded in putting that money back in their pockets. This debate (on elitism or otherwise) will never go away. In any case, I am proud to be serving somebody. The pain on the other side is that, today, we don’t have electricity, but does it really matter who first got it? If some people start to get it, the rest of us can hope it will soon get to us.
When you started out, not much of a politician was seen in you. But for sustainability of some of your projects, how concerned are you about your successor? Have you now transmuted to a political godfather enough to say, for sustainability, you prefer Mr. A or Mrs. B as successor?
The answer to that is to continue to insist that a government that is run around institutions is the most sustainable form of government.
Lagos State has been very lucky so far to have a lot of action governors. But how much we can continue to build on luck is another thing. Up to my immediate predecessor in office, they have all been very wonderful people in office. I think what we need is to move to action government, where whatever happens, the system will run. That is why we are doing a lot of human capacity development, training public servants; part of the reasons behind our last retreat that had become very frequent. We have also yielded a lot of independence to parastatals so that we can hold people responsible for implementation.
When ministries focus on policy formulation and articulation and allow parastatals to implement, you have a more efficient public service. Examples are already there. For example, the Ministry of
Environment is our policy formulator in waste management, whether it is solid or liquid or polluted airwaves while an agency like LASEMA is dealing with air and liquid waste and LAWMA dealing with solid waste. So, if there is particular problem, the commissioner knows who to call. We are also seeing the same thing in the transportation sector; LAMATA is dealing with the public through the BRT system and coordinating the rail.
The Lagos State Water Authority is running the water system, building the jetties and developing the regulations for the ferries. The same thing is in the Ministry of Works. The ministry now takes over the segmented maintenance of roads, through Public Works Corporation. Last year alone they did more than 900 roads – construction and rehabilitations. There is now a separate department in charge of traffic lights. So, if a traffic light fails, the commissioner knows who the head of that department is. We are creating specialization in an organic way that cascades to the pyramid of the organogram.
So, whoever becomes the next governor, all he needs to do is to take those people’s budget, give them the money they need; because they already know what to do.
There are some new FERMA-trainees seen around the state. How much do you know about this development? And is FERMA going to replace the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC?
Honestly, I really don’t know a thing about it. But when contacted, the Minister of Works said it did not have his approval. The parastatal is under the Ministry of Works, but the question to ask is
what is going on? Where is the money for this particular exercise coming from? If they are recruiting, what is the purpose? If they want to police federal highways, what is now the role of the FRSC? Is it a task force such as contemplated within the law? Have they appropriated funding for it because you can’t have an agency in a constitutional democracy without having appropriation for it in the budget! Or are you funding them with slush fund? Is it SURE-P money, meant for the development of Lagos State that is being used to do this?
And, again, you ask yourself, ‘what is the need for such a task force?’
There are about 10,000 roads in the state, out of which 6,000 belong to the state government. A little over 3,000 belong to the local government. Less than 120 belong to the Federal Government. So what do you need such a large army for, unless there are some ulterior motives? I hope we are not going back to the days of machetes.
If the resort is violence, they have served Lagosians notice. For me, if that is the way to repay Lagosians for the votes they receive here, we will review our strategies.
With the gale of defections into the All Progressives Congress, there is hardly any difference between that party and the Peoples Democratic Party. If this were so, why would one want to cast his or her vote for the APC instead of the PDP?
Even our worst critics cannot sustain any argument about the fact that in the state that we have added value; visible and demonstrable value.
Fortunately, in most of those states: Edo, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun and Oyo, the electorate have had the misfortune to have been governed by the PDP-led governments. The choice is now clearer to them. If you take Ogun State, for example, in less than two years, bridges have been built. If you take Oyo as another example, the bad stories about the eyesores have disappeared. They now even have a bridge, which is the first in about 34 years. So, the electorate have seen both sides of the coin now and they are wiser. This can only suggest to you that it is a model that is working, by peer review, by peer influence and by healthy competition among the governors to succeed; that can only be good for the states.
Now, if you look at the other side that decided to join us, you cannot dismiss their achievement by a wave of the hand; even under PDP. But they have seen clearly that development cannot continue with sudden disappearance of revenues while they are expected to keep a conspiratorial silence and continue benefitting. In terms of public accountability, we bring that to the table.
Secondly, and perhaps, more importantly, like-minds are calling unto each other about the need for the development of the country. In any political arena, people are complaining that things are not moving in the country, where the national government has 52 percent of the resources. Even with the very best effort of the 36 states and over 700 local governments, if they perform at a 100 percent, in terms of risk analysis and risk allotment, if they keep less than 50 percent of resources, their 100 percent is still not a pass mark. But in spite of these complaints, people still feel that nobody can defeat this behemoth. ‘So, we will either not vote or we will vote for them because we know they will not lose.’ And that is what APC also brings to the table for Nigerians — to give them a real choice. Ultimately, it is people of Nigeria who will get the opportunity to be in absolute control of their destiny and then whip governments into line.
Because in the cases where you have thin margins between parliamentary representation, state representations, one bad choice and you are out because the other party stands a fair chance to win
the election. Of course, there will be smaller parties. Parties can be more definitive when coalitions are necessary as we saw in Britain, where Liberal Democrats and the Conservative partnered to kick Labour out; and even they have started fighting. None of the disagreements that you have also seen here is peculiar to us.
There are appointments Obama cannot make today. You may quarrel with the morality of it, but the legitimacy of it is unquestionable. That is what lies at the heart of the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances. And the position our party has taken is a contingent position. You cannot hide behind a finger and say you don’t know what is going on in Rivers State. If you don’t, it must be in your enlightened best interest to know. Security of life and property is the primary reason government exists. And even if there is no legal duty, I think there is moral duty.
As things continue to unfold, you will see clearly that we are a party of method and of process and in the fullest of time we will unveil to you in a very clear detail what we are about. But again, you
cannot have a party without people, and we are following our plan. Our plan was to register the party, against all the odds, against history that no merger has ever been concluded. It is a defining event in the political history of Nigeria. Having finished that, we went into contact and mobilization, we are now going into membership registration which entails producing the management of the party and, when that is done, we will tell you Nigerians why we want to be members of the APC.
Your party’s directive to its members in the National Assembly to block executive bill, I read about you defending it and you have also done so here; in my word, I think it is pre mature because your party doesn’t have that majority in both houses and another thing is, what is the case of constructive engagement?
You have rushed to judgment. I don’t think that we should be repulsed by the idea, it hasn’t happened, but we are saying, if certain things do not happen as they relate to law and order, we will come to a conclusion that this is a pre-meditated design to use executive power and, if there is no communication, we will bring you to the table and one of the ways to do so is by exercising our own powers; I have always said that the virtue of power is the restraint in exercising it, but it is sometimes important to remind people that that power exists. When the party was meeting and setting up its members to withdraw operations from the executive; they were withdrawing cooperation from the executive.
If you know the way legislative business goes, you cannot have clear lines in parliament. It is also for our leadership to say, ‘Let us come together and deliberate on issues’. I think that because our democracy is just about 14 years, it is going to throw up many learning curves, it needs a lot of maturity for one to realise how much power one has and to know that you can’t act on your own. Therefore, we must see the glass as half full all the time, we don’t want the nation to collapse because we want to win and we expect that we will win.
We are beginning to witness discontent on defection from APC, how is the party handling disagreements?
The more the Nigerian public gets involved in politics and understand politics for what it is, the better; it is about interests and human beings and everybody wants something. There are conflicts defined by interests that would be resolved. That is high-wire politics going on. Let’s just decompose these things and understand them, it is happening on the macro to the micro, it is local, international and global.
The taxes in Lagos, following down to the principle of federalism, which you have always preached, will it be okay if the money you get from Alimosho with the highest population and all that is spent almost exclusively in Alimosho?
I think the first thing to do is to explain that there are different sources of revenues. Taking advertising for instance, it is income that comes to the local government under the management of LASA, which is a company statutorily created, owned by the state and local government; because the local government has responsibility for advertising which takes place on the land managed by the state, so there is a joint business.
When the income is distributed at the end of the year, there is a derivation principle that goes to the local government. In terms of how resources are allocated, the needs across the state are not the same; in some places, all you need to do is patch a road while in others you have to start from the beginning. Every time you construct a road, people take positions, capital appreciation follows road construction and the way to go is to ask where the taxes for roads like the LASU- Iba and Ijegun come from. There was a time when the kind of development and construction in Alimosho didn’t go on and so at the end of the day, it’s not easy to isolate and say this is what came from here, the only way we do that kind of isolation is if we collect capital development levies for land sold in any estate, we use the money from that estate to build its roads, drainages and infrastructure; it doesn’t go a lot but it helps.
That is why we have scheme accounts; Lekki phase one has a scheme account. When the residents pay, the money goes back to them; after UACPDC bought 1004 Estate and paid their capital development levy, we used it to start phase two of Adetokunbo Ademola Road.But that did not fund the road to completion of the Lekki -Epe Expressway.
The point is that all the revenues go to the consolidated revenues of the state and what we do is a budget based on input and on development plan.
Many of us are worried about the place of the local government in your development plans. Where I live there is absolutely no impact of that level of government at all…
No, they may not have served your personal needs at the moment and that will not be good to generalise; because you don’t feel the impact, those who could see appreciate it. Local governments are driving primary healthcare and primary education, which are the foundation of development of the most important resources, the human resources-making him or her health and giving him or her skills.
You can see that we are yet to develop certain parts of Lagos. People are building at a pace higher than we are able to respond and that is not our fault or yours.
Now, it’s the understanding that we seek because how fast can we get across to you is a function of time.
We are not planning 100 rooms now but we are planning 400 rooms at once across all the local governments. So, at incremental level, the work is progressing.
For instance, in 2007, how many streets did you see with streetlight at night? But we started with Awolowo Road. There were streetlights but they were not working. What happened? It was one vulcanizer at TBS, who was heating tyre and melted the cable in one of the poles and that affected light. We fixed it and switched on. We started putting diesel and we drove on that road and it looked like our small London.
We continued like that; last year alone, we had over 50 roads with streetlights because there is an incremental capacity. We are making poles in Lagos and this year we are looking at doing another 100 roads.
Alimosho had about 11 roads lit up last year. And around Agege Motor Road, we lit up the road and traders can now sell till night and that means doubling their income. These are the elite that I’m serving.
In Shomolu, they used to stop selling their akara and dodo by 6pm because of fear of insecurity. We gave them light and, today, they sell into the night. Obalende is back.
Your Commissioner for Budget and Planning gave the debt profile at N120 billion, but I’m aware that Lagos is the only state that pays salary from IGR. How sustainable is this system?
Simple, there are few things to understand. There are upper limits of debt profiles by global standards, in relation to a certain percentage of the GDP. We are not near that threshold anywhere.
Secondly, what types of debt profile is it, is it for recurrent expenditure or capital? It is for capital.
If in less than two years to go, I went to the stock market to raise N85billion and it was fully subscribed and you know bankers do not want to lose money; they know what is coming from that and they keyed in; with these projects people earn income and because they earn income, they pay taxes. We are simply moving the money round.
In 1999, when my predecessor took over, we were working with N14 billion IGR and we are now having a budget of almost half a trillion naira and how do you want us to finance that? Is it the money under the pillow? You can’t build a city like that. We want rail and all that, you don’t do it waiting for people to bring kobo kobo.
For instance, the track Europeans built are still there. It is a 100-year asset. You have to finance it by debt and it will pay off.
During Tinubu’s time, when he drew N15 billion out of N25 billion bond, they said he had mortgaged Lagos.
I paid that debt in my first year in the office. The first bond that we took is maturing this year.
It is a N50 billion bond. We have N90 billion in trustees account to pay off N50billion.
If we keep waiting until the money gathers together, you can’t begin to tell me that there is no road to your house. Where am I supposed to build them? The road that Asiwaju built with N15 billion, I can’t touch again with the same amount of money. The dollar was trading at less than one to a naira, but it is almost doubled.
When I assumed office, the dollar was at $1 to N112 and we were borrowing at 10 per cent. Now you are lucky to get at 17 per cent.
Dollar is now $1 to over N170. Those are the realities and we must salute our economic team for the investment they have been able to achieve.
If not for that, would you have LASU-Iba Road, that rail, or make Ikorodu Road motorable today; Badagry expressway and others? The money we are spending on Ikorodu Road is a loan. It’s a long-term loan. Take the money now and pay back later as long as the people continue to pay their taxes and financial capacity continues.
Was your visit to Edo State solely to endorse the presidential ambition of Governor Adams Oshiomhole?
Really, our country needs development and knowing Edo well, with the things I saw there, I think it’s a development that should come on board every state if that experience is brought to a larger theater of expression.
I’m in support of everybody, who has worked so that we will not come up to say we will not have electricity because we do not have gas.
That gas is not gotten from one alien country, it’s seated underneath us.
It baffles me each time thing I hear we have money, but we are looking for the whereabouts of 12billion dollars. Let us even say for the sake of argument, why couldn’t that money be spent on pipelines to pump fuel over the country or even repair the pipelines?
The issue is, after many years that the country has been extracting crude oil, are the pipes not due for change? I’m changing water pipes on the bridge. So we spent huge sums on power project yet there is no solution.
And I begin to wonder what the United Arab Emirate spent in their total power energy? They powered the desert. How much more can it cost? So it was in that context that I said that I will support any one who is doing well and who has done well, so that such development will come across on board.
In this moment of power shift, will the northerners in your party support him?
I can’t speak for a group. That is your fear. I have a stake. At the end, you can’t speak for a group. They decide on what to be done. For now we are still early in our party programme to discuss the issue of candidates. Until we put in place the organs of party and officers, that question will not be addressed.
The Information Minister, Labaran Maku recently said that, at all levels, no government has done what the Jonathan administration had done. But here you are reeling out achievements. How does that make you feel, compared to the assertion that they have done the best?
All I can say is that I hope the best of Nigeria is really further ahead. I don’t want to be the best governor of Lagos. I want better governors to come after me. I think that it’s a leadership problem.
When this sort of statement is made, you must contextualize it into whether or not we really have prepared ourselves for the kind of responsibilities that we have. Would there have been a Nigeria if those who fought the war didn’t sacrifice? So, for somebody to come after that to say, ‘we are the best…’ That was governance. Keeping the peace and unity of this country, people lost their lives. They served.
How do you dishonour their memory and service by saying nobody has done what you have done? I have never heard any government that wants to progress say those kinds of things. There must be a place for your predecessors. Its a ladder and a house built on so many blocks of blood, sweat and tears. And whether you like it or not, you will hand over the baton. How would you feel after that, when somebody says you haven’t done anything? Let’s look at power. Did they pass the legislation? They are concluding the process.
There is pension reform today. Did they pass the legislation? It’s a process of thinking and doing sometimes. As
I told people, Thabo Mbeki hosted the World Cup, was he the one who did the bidding for it? What is the value they have added to the GSM today? There are more drop calls now than when the system started. Were they the ones who did it? It was a government that licensed private TV otherwise all of us would be locked on to NTA today and you won’t be here because there would only have been Daily Times. That’s the incremental contributions of your predecessors. So, how are they supposed to feel? And you want to build a nation? You’re provoking everybody? I think there can be better tactics to underscore your development. We can’t show that we are good by showing that everybody is bad. Unfortunately, it’s a strategy that has also worked in some states, but I have always said, look, you must acknowledge what your predecessors have done. They may not have done as much as you have done. They may have operated at a more difficult time than you are operating, but they added value. I don’t believe that anybody is absolutely useless. Everything operates in a time and space. It’s a leadership problem. Democracy is growing. We are building a nation undoubtedly, but we must recognize everybody’s contributions.