Fashola Urges Lagosians To Support, Pray For His Successor, Akinwunmi Ambode
• Advocates massive investment in construction as quickest means to reflate nation's economy
• Insists on Special Status for Lagos, hopes incoming Federal Government would look at the issue more positively and more favourably
May 28, 2015 - As he leaves the stage as Governor today, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Thursday thanked Lagosians for their support and cooperation with his administration in the last eight years urging them to give even more support and cooperation to his successor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
Governor Fashola, who spoke at a Live Television Valedictory Media interaction at the Lagos Television, Agidingbi, said the incoming administration would need all the support and prayers of Lagosians in order to move Lagos even to higher heights adding that with their cooperation, Lagos was bound to witness greater progress.
Describing his successor as committed and hardworking, the Governor enjoined Lagosians, "Stand by your Governor, he is a very committed man, passionate about Lagos, I know that because he worked with me and he is a very hardworking person. Stand by him, support him, pray for him and I am sure all will be well".
Responding to a question on the nation's economy, Governor Fashola said the quickest way to reenergize the nation's economy was to invest in construction and infrastructural renewal saying it would generate economic activities that would ultimately lead to economic prosperity for the nation.
Governor Fashola, who expressed dismay at the current state of the country's economy declared, "At this time, the quickest way to reflate the economy is not by spending more on the recurrent but spending more on the Capital; building, construction, expansion, upgrade; because what you will be doing is pushing money into much more diverse parts of the economy".
"What I am saying essentially is that it is better to invest more on Capital than Recurrent Expenditure especially in a developing nation where the infrastructure is not yet enough. No society will grow or advance more than its infrastructure. So our productive capacity, for example, is defined by the state of our powering; our productivity as a nation today is defined by how we transport ourselves", he said.
Explaining further his preference for budgeting more on Capital rather than Recurrent Expenditure, the Governor said, "In recurrent expenditure, you have to deal with Overheads, which is the cost of running government as distinct also from Personnel cost, dealing with salaries, pensions and all of that. The sitting staff is already sitting so you will pay".
"But when you award a road contract, invariably an engineering firm is involved, architects are involved and quantity surveyors are involved. Consequently, merchandizing follows; people have to supply rods, bricks, iron rods, water supply and at the construction site too food vendors will lock into the system", the Governor said.
According to him, "Anywhere in the world where construction happens, you will see a rise in economic activities. In the aftermath of construction, what you also see is prosperity because life just becomes better, roads are cleaner, faster, better, businesses move better, services are delivered quicker. Even in a depression, the way to jackknife the economy back to life is to invest more money by way of stimulus spending even in a bad economy".
"Brazil, China and all other economies that have today become great across the globe, all of them have done it, we won't be an exception", Governor Fashola said adding that a nation would be wise to borrow to build infrastructure that would sustain the economy and deliver better life to generations yet unborn.
Justifying borrowing as a strategy for economic growth, the Governor explained, "If you borrow money to build a rail line that is going to last 200 years, 300 years, and pay for it today and conclude the deal today and pay back over 20 years, 15 years or eight years, you have done a great deal because in 100 years time that project would have been subject to economic dynamics which could make it 100 or 1,000 times more expensive".
He buttressed the argument by pointing out that some of the projects that his administration took on in 2007 could no longer be undertaken today because of the spiral rise in the exchange rate noting that at the time such projects were embarked upon, the exchange rate was between N118 and N120 to a dollar.
"We committed to a number of projects at that time and borrowed to deal with them. The interest rate for borrowing as at then was about 11 per cent and I know that some lenders gave us at 10 per cent. Now you are talking of 24 per cent interest rate; now you are talking about N200 to the dollar on the official rate if you see it; in the parallel market it is N220", he said.
He continued, "So multiply this with those things we did for N5 billion, N1 billion seven years ago. So if we didn't commit to them, that is what we would be using to build today. But we are now paying back at yesterday's cost and the assets will be there long after we have fully paid".
Citing some of the projects that were embarked upon in the early years of the administration to include Ikorodu Road, Governor Fashola wondered what the cost would have been if the project was started much later. The Governor pointed out that the cost of embarking on the project at the present time would have been unimaginable.
"Imagine that we have to start the Fourth Mainland Bridge today. As at the last time we did the quantity survey on the Fourth Mainland Bridge, I think in 2011, the alignment we were looking at was a N240 billion project. So we now have to change the alignment because of the airport and the seaport because you can't build another bridge like that in a hurry", he said.
On the issue of special status for Lagos, Governor Fashola recalled that the late General Murtala Mohammed made a statement that it would be unfair to let Lagos bear the burden of maintaining the Federal Infrastructure in the City after the nation's Capital was moved to Abuja, expressing dismay that Lagos has been left alone to bear that burden ever since.
"What has happened essentially is that there are Federal assets left here, roads, bridges and others that fall under the Federal Government limit to maintain the assets. But what we often hear is "Oh they are Federal Government roads, don't advertise there". But there is no such thing as Federal road as far as I am concerned", the Governor said.
On the unresolved debt owed the State by the Federal Government as a result of the former's intervention on the roads owned by the latter, Governor Fashola, who noted that the amount was N59 billion as at two years ago while the Federal Government certified to pay N51 billion, added that the Stat Government had continued to intervene because it is the citizens of Lagos that suffer the effect.
The Governor said, "I honestly would like the Federal Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Works or a combination of them or Debt Management Office at the Federal level to answer the question of why they are still owing Lagos over N51 billion over the State government intervention in the maintenance of Federal assets in Lagos".
Arguing that there is nothing like a Federal territories within a state, the Governor, who described it as an anomaly, said although the maintenance of the assets was supposed to be a shared responsibility, the State had continued to carry the burden because it concerns the people of Lagos. "So on our own, we are carrying on alone but no city state around the world that I know does it alone", the Governor said.
"The question I always ask myself is, is it Federal citizens who suffer? And the answer is no, it is Lagos people who suffer, so I say, go and fix it and then we will sort out the accounts later", he said adding that when the claim was last submitted, the Federal Government only agreed to pay N51 billion which they are yet to remit.
He expressed the hope that the incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari would pay the money noting that the President promised during his campaigns to look into it adding that during one of his rallies in Lagos that Buhari actually asked the new Lagos State Governor, Mr. Ambode, to remind him of the debt.
"I want to collect the N51 billion and I hope that with the commitment General Buhari made during his campaign that there were issues he would like to look at more positively and more favourably", the Governor said adding, "They will also help settle some of our obligations to contractors".
On the suggestion that Lagos could be given a Ministry of Lagos Affairs as part of efforts by an All Progressives Congress led Government to assist the State, Governor Fashola said although there used to be such a position in the past, it existed under a different constitutional setting adding, "We now have a fully Federal structure where each government has its own clear responsibility".
The Governor asked, "What will the Minister be doing in Lagos. Will he be running in competition with the Governor? And imagine if they had a Minister of Lagos Affairs 15 years back just imagine what the Minister of Lagos Affairs would have done here; he would only paralyze the Governor. So, legally no, politically, not advisable".
"All that the Federal Government can do first is what is in the Exclusive Legislative List and what is in the Concurrent List. Managing a state or indeed managing Lagos is not part of what is in the Exclusive Legislative List. And, therefore, if you don't have responsibility for a particular Act, why are you setting up a Ministry for Lagos: it's a matter of simple logic", he said.
Arguing also against the existence of a Ministry of Tourism, Governor Fashola said the only responsibility in Tourism that the Federal Government has was in respect to Tourist traffic, issuance of entry permits, visas and all of such things adding that it does not have the power in licensing hotels.
"In the same way I will question the existence of Ministry of Lands at the Federal level. Land is a Residual Matter. It is not in the Concurrent List and not in the Exclusive List. Some of these things are anomaly from the Military. So the Federal Government will only have ministry in respect of areas it has constitutional responsibility", the Governor said.
Responding to an online question about the prospect of completing the Lagos Light Rail soon, Governor Fashola said although the initial plan was to test run the coaches by now, it has not been possible because the coaches were yet to arrive adding that because the project was an international transaction it would not be easy to predict when it would finish.
He, however said the Rail could now run the service between Mile 2 and Costain, an eight kilometre service, adding "So, all things being well, if the money is fully finally remitted and the trains come, then we can begin to say in real terms when to commission the project".
Responding to another online question on when the embargo on residency training programme in the State's University (LASU)would be lifted, Governor Fashola who said the State Executive Council had already approved the lifting, however, said it was coming with conditions.
"We have done so on condition that first we do not think that Residents who are doctors in training, whose training is being funded by us have a right to go on strike, because Residents are doctors in training funded by us. So we have drawn up a Code of Conduct that EXCO has passed and we have asked the Ministry to share it with the Residents themselves in order to get their buy in", the Governor said adding that from the report available to him the doctors have agreed.
Responding to another question on affordability of the Housing being provided by his administration, Governor Fashola said aside the completed housing projects across the State work was currently going on in 26 sites.
Defending the affordability question, Governor Fashola declared, "It is affordable because you are not paying once, you are paying over ten years. The deal is that if you calculate how much you pay as house rent where you are currently living, calculate how much you will pay over the next ten years and when your relationship with your landlord breaks down and you walk out with nothing, you will see that I have given you the best deal because over ten years you become the final owner".
"And what will be affordable too is reasonable. If your monthly income is N100,000 per month and you want to live in a N60 million house, is it affordable for you? Houses are not things that any government I know gives out to people free. All over the world, it is mortgage. So you choose the house that fits your income and also the location that fits your income; that is life", the Governor said.
The Governor also pointed as another advantage, the fact that the buyer pays 30 per cent of the cost and shows that he could pay the balance over the next ten years as the only condition to collect the keys to his house adding the Government also gives interest rate at 9 1/2 per cent over the next ten years guaranteed. "No bank can give you that. Therefore it is affordable if you pay gradually because you are also paying rent somewhere", he said.
Fielding questions from the news men after the Valedictory Media Session, Governor Fashola, reiterated his call on the Federal Government to give adequate support to the Lagos State Government so as to improve on her infrastructural developments.
The Governor, who insisted that the Federal Government has no Constitutional power to administer Lagos, pointed out the Federal Government could not create a Ministry in respect of an area over which it has no Constitutional Authority, either in the Exclusive Legislative List or the Concurrent List.
He said the idea of a special status for Lagos was really on funding support to deal with the massive infrastructure that the Federal Government left in the State when it was a Federal Capital adding that the Government could do that as a matter of annual budgeting.
"In other countries where they have moved capitals, they have not created to my knowledge a Ministry of New York Affairs, but the Federal Government still gives support to the Mayor and Government of New York in America; so it is a budget and financing thing otherwise it will be creating really structures that are not constitutional to themselves", the Governor said.
Reiterating his call to Lagosians to support the incoming administration, Governor Fashola enjoined the Federal Government to collaborate with the new Lagos State Governor in terms of funding "because of the responsibility and strategic position of Lagos".
The Governor was joined in the studio of Lagos Television by members of the State Executive Council including the Deputy Governor, Hon. (Mrs.) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire' Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed and his Transportation and Information and Strategy counterparts, Mr. Kayode Opeifa and Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba, and the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji, among others.
Members of the Interview Panel at the Media Interactive Session were the Editor, The News Magazine, Mr. Ademola Adegbamigbe, Deputy Editor, Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Eze Anaba, On Air Personality and Anchor of OWUROLAWA on LTV, Mr. Adeyinka Kabir Adewoye and moderator of the session, Senior Journalist and presenter, View from the Top on Channels TV, Modele Sarafa-Yusuf.