By Olasunkanmi Akoni
LAGOS State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday, gave a breakdown of how his administration expended the N160 billion World Bank loan it acquired, saying the state maintained a healthy debt profile.
Fashola, who spoke during his commemoration of 2,700 days in office and achievements in the last 100 days, in Alausa, Ikeja, said long overdue refund would go a long way in reducing the debt profile of the State, which he said the Federal Government recently published to mislead the public.
He said, “Recently, our political adversaries issued statements that we have borrowed N160 billion. What they have not told you is what we are doing with the money.”
Enumerating his government’s activities within the period under consideration he said; “In the last 100 days, we have commenced work on providing street lighting on the Muritala Muhammed Way in Yaba.
This is 10 kilometres of public lighting which will be completed by the end of this month. On Eko Bridge, Carter Bridge, Ikorodu Road, Lekki-Epe Expressway and every street and highway where there is street lighting in Lagos, it is the Lagos State Government that supplied the poles, the bulbs, the diesel and the maintenance.
“The only major highway we are not managing for street lights is the 3rd Mainland Bridge.
Fire engines, to secure lives, rail transport from Okokomaiko to Marina, with four stations of eight kilometres completed, and work heading to Marina, with piles appearing near the Eko Bridge every day are the places your Government is spending money. The expansion of the Lagos Badagry Expressway to a 10-lane highway is another place where your Government is spending money.
“What the voodoo economists will not tell you is that N51 billion of certified works, done on Federal Government Roads by the Lagos State Government, is owed to our Government by the Federal Government and is not yet paid. If we had N51 billion, what we would borrow will be reduced by that amount.
If they take up projects, like rehabilitating the expansion joints on the bridges built in Lagos when she was the Federal capital, our burden will reduce. If they provide electricity to schools and hospitals, the cost of Government will reduce.
“Whatever the case, let me assure you that your state can repay every debt that she has contracted; in order to provide services for you. This year our 2009 bond for N50 Billion fell due for repayment.
We paid without any problem. After payment there is still a balance of N82.3 billion in the Consolidated Debt Service account, which will continue to grow because of the monthly savings we make into it, in readiness to pay our three outstanding bonds of N57.5billion, N80billion and N87.5billion which are maturing in 2017, 2019 and 2020 respectively.
“Your state is safe, its finances are secure. It has a Fitch International credit rating of BB-, stable with a positive outlook, which is the same as that of the Federal Republic. Just last month, Fitch upgraded the state’s National Long-Term rating from AA to AA+ with a stable outlook which is an indicator of the financial resilience of Lagos.
What further assurance of stability can you ask for? “This is the only state in Nigeria with that rating. This is possible because an APC Government runs this state.
“This is the fifth largest economy in Africa, please remember that when you go out to vote. It is not a place to experiment with beginners. So when next the voodoo economists come to you about debt, remind them that they said the same to you in 2003 when Lagos issued the first state bond of N25 Billion and drew N15 Billion to build roads and schools that are still there.
Tell them that Lagos has paid that debt. When next they tell you about debt, tell them that private companies, who have no responsibility for security, for water supply, for public health, for road construction and many other public services are borrowing in excess of what Lagos has borrowed.
“When next they come to tell you about debt, remind them that they approved the borrowing. And if they ask you about debt still, ask them to account for over N2 trillion spent on fuel importation without appropriation, and to explain what happened to $20 billion. ”