Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday, 29th May, 2014, assured Lagosians of continued prompt response to their needs saying his administration would serve them with creativity and vigour till its last day on May 29, next year.
Fielding questions at a live television interactive session with media executives at the Lagos Television, Ikeja, to mark Democracy Day in the state, Fashola said his administration would neither relent in its efforts nor in its commitment but would render service until its expiration in the next twelve months.
He declared, “For me it is work in progress. The demand is still coming, they have not stopped and they were not fixed seven years ago. As the Centre of Excellence we continue to push the frontier so that what was the destination becomes a starting point.
“It could always be better. We are not relenting in our efforts, we are not relenting in our commitment, we have another 365 days and a few hours to go and we are going to push it right to the wire”.
Commenting on the strike in the state university, LASU, Fashola reiterated that the increase in fees regime of the school was one of the many recommendations made by a visitation panel inaugurated at the instance of the students in a petition to the state House of Assembly.
“There were many recommendations made by the panel many of which we accepted. It is the school fees that have become so vexatious as it were. What we have done is that we looked across schools, Federal and State and private schools and tried to stay somewhere in the middle”, the Governor explained.
He said government also decided that the new fee was not going to affect sitting students but only new intakes adding that in consideration of qualified but indigent students, Government also increased its budget for scholarships and bursaries from N700 million, to about N1.2 – N1.3 billion “in order to ensure that no child was left behind”.
On reason for the increase, Fashola further explained, “We felt that there was no convergence of universal learning. We had begun to see LASU as a school only for children of the poor. For me that is a very dangerous thing to do, a university where children of the rich and the poor cannot sit together. The rich are taking their children to private schools; for me that is a time bomb for the future. They may not see it now.
“In the event, the students have come back to me three years after at the instance of their lecturers who are saying that we should reduce the school fees otherwise they would go on strike. But the same lecturers are asking us under ASUU to increase their salaries”.
He said, however, that government has engaged with the students in meetings where it was agreed that they present a position paper to the government, adding that the students have already done that and the paper is receiving the attention of the State Executive Council.
“My understanding is that they are saying ‘we don’t say don’t increase but some of your parameters for calculating the fees are wrong’. I have passed it out to the Council. We have told the students that we are not inflexible and where we see the need for adjustment or amendment, we will do it so that they might understand it better”, he said.
The Governor assured Lagos residents of the safety of their lives and property saying his administration has the capacity to secure the state. He added that although there is the awareness that there are bad people in every society, his administration is sufficiently positioned to curb the activities of such people.
“Lagosians have no reason to fear. We acknowledge that there are bad people everywhere, but the Lagos State Government has the capacity to fight them here”, the Governor said adding that security agencies in the State are conscious and alert to their responsibilities,” he said.
He, however, called for vigilance among the people as he noted that the responsibility of securing the State was a joint one in which every citizen is concerned. “However, we advise Lagosians to be vigilant and report all suspected persons, situations, events and objects to the security agencies”, he said.
On whether there is enough money and resources to fight crime in the State, Fashola replied, “Money for security will never be enough because the capacity of the criminals to carry out crime is constantly being upgraded, so the capacity to fight them will continue to be upgraded ahead of them. But we will ensure that whatever we have is distributed to the police and other agencies to fight crime”.
He faulted allegations from some quarters that his administration’s policies were elitist saying such perception is not supported by the evidence of the development across the state in the last seven years especially in the area of infrastructure and the environment.
Describing pedlars of such allegation as lacking in the knowledge of the State, Fashola asserted, “There is no part of Lagos that we have left behind. At the moment, there is no local government where we are not rendering service of one type or the other”.
He continued, “The truth is that the services needed at one part of the State at one time are different from the type of services needed in another part of the State at another time”, adding that in places like Ikorodu, Alimosho and Ajegunle, Government has built quality Maternal and Childcare Centres to curb maternal and infant mortality in those areas.
“The feedbacks coming to us from those areas included pregnant women losing their lives or their children at childbirth, this is why we built our Maternal and Childcare Centres there, very top quality hospitals providing subsidized quality services, in most instances free”. The Governor added that road networks have also been provided in those areas
According to him, the needs of the people vary from place to place as people in some other part of the State such as Ikoyi and Victoria Island may not need hospitals as Alimosho residents may clamour for because they choose to have private healthcare but their priority may be roads and drainages. He added, however, that in spite of all the explanations and clarifications in the past, the perception has persisted.
“What I choose to say is that in a democratic dispensation you are never going to have a unanimous acceptance. But those who dissent, thankfully, are in the minority. But it is still our work to persuade them that there is an equitable distribution of resources”, the Governor said.
Recalling a situation where government had to cancel a road contract in Victoria Island in order to fix another road in Alimosho, Fashola declared, “We see these things but sometimes the mere fact that we have not gotten to some areas is enough reason for them to say they have been abandoned”.
The Governor also blamed the delay in equitable distribution of infrastructure on such distractions as court actions by citizens pointing out that in such cases development has to stop until the case is settled out of court which most times involves the Government paying huge compensations.
“For example we are trying to build a pedestrian crossing on Ipaja Road to prevent school children from being run over by vehicles, somebody took us to court that the bridge would be looking into his compound. So we stopped and this has got to be decided before we continue. Also, I think on Ago Palace Way in Okota area we were in court for almost a year before the contractors could mobilize and we had to pay compensation in the region of about N4 million to settle out of court to provide a road”, he said.
Saying that Government is working in most vulnerable places even unknown to most people including those who spread the elitist allegation, the Governor declared, “Those people know we are serving them. Those perception builders only know Route One, the route to the Airport; they don’t know Lagos. The real people we serve know that we are providing service to them”.
Responding to a question on the Environment, the Governor said one of the reasons his administration has been labeled elitist was because it insists on enforcing the law pointing out that Government has from inception persisted in sanitizing the environment by removing illegal markets and habitations.
“Now, a lot of vulnerable people are involved in these activities that devalue the environment in their bid to eke a living. Everywhere is a shop; everywhere is a place for car sales. So, if it is not elitist, it is tribal when we act. So we must ask ourselves what we want”, the Governor said.
He expressed regrets that a lot of the citizenry still choose to disobey the State’s laws, adding, “What is bad has no other name and when a society decides to live above the law; one of the consequences is that it depreciates the quality of life of the whole society. On one hand we want a good life but good life requires that people live by rules”.
Urging Lagosians to pay their taxes as and when due, the Governor, who pointed out that it is one of the obligations of the citizens as stated in the Constitution expressed joy that reliance on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has enabled the State take its destiny in its own hands.
“It has given us control of our destiny. There is nothing I like better than to be in control of my life. I will not be a passenger in the decision that affects my life. So this is the opportunity that payment of taxes gives”, he said adding, however, that some have allowed the notion to persist that collection of taxes is an unfriendly policy. “But it isn’t and all of the countries and societies that we want to be like live by taxes”, he said.
On his administration’s housing policy, the Governor expressed joy that although not everybody would benefit in one fell swoop from the on-going Home Ownership Scheme (Lagos HOMS) he has been able to put some people on the ladder of the scheme adding that if those people are consistent in meeting their mortgage obligations more people would get onto the ladder.
Fashola said that democracy has thrived in the State due to awareness and inclusion adding that people have been able to participate in governance through meeting their obligations and ensuring that their taxes are put to good use.
He said, however, that democracy neither guarantees good governance nor does it guarantee that a candidate is going to be God fearing or a despot adding that the electorates could only discover the qualities of a candidate through democratic processes such as debates and assessments.
“We must ensure that those democratic processes, debates, assessments and others take place so that they help the electorates to choose the candidate that they better vote for. In Lagos we have moved in leaps and bounds but it is not perfect and we continuously seek to improve”, he said.
In an interview after the session the Governor told journalists that there is still much work to be done pointing out that although across the states of the Federation there are some visible signs of improvement but the country was yet far from the expected destination.
Zeroing in on Lagos, the Governor said, “I have never believed in self appellation, but we have worked hard here and I believe we have added value but we are not an Island of prosperity”, adding that many of his colleagues across the states would be in the better position to assess Lagos and his administration.
Calling for observance of the rule of law in the country, Fashola said many of the problems bedeviling the country today are results of choices made before now by the people to stay out of the law adding, “If you suppress your business by not obeying the law, you suppress yourself.
“If you are in a society where you are not identifiable, you do not carry identity card, you have no address, you would not be registered, that society cannot respond to you”.
He said that there is close to N7.2 trillion businesses existing outside the legal business framework as a result of people choosing to conduct their businesses extra-legally.
On the possibility of free and fair elections in the country, the Governor urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to first convince itself that it has the capacity to conduct free and fair elections before attempting to convince the people, saying Ekiti and Osun States have again provided the electoral body the opportunity to convince Nigerians that it could conduct free and fair elections.
He, however, admonished the electorate to come out to vote on the day of election adding, “There is no magic in the process. It is not going to deliver for you what you did not put in. What people should go and put in is their ballot papers”.
The panelists comprised of: Mr. Yori Folarin, On-Air Personality and presenter of This Morning on Television Continental (TVC); Mr. Abraham OIgbodo, Editor, Guardian on Sunday; Mrs. Omotunde Adebowale David (a.k.a. Lolo), On Air Personality on WAZOBIA FM; and Ms Sola Salako, Co-Presenter on the Bimbo and Sola Connect programme on LTV.