By Omogbolahan Adisa
As controversies continue over the alleged missing $10 billion petro-dollars in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Monday called on all those concerned with the missing money, including the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diesani Alison-Madueke, to speak out in the interest of all Nigerians.
Governor Fashola, who spoke at the Lagos House, Ikeja, while hosting the Consul-General of Lebanon, Mrs. Dima Haddad and members of the Lebanese Nigeria Initiatives who had come to present the cheque for N80 million and the keys to a troop carrier truck donated to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, said continued silence of the stakeholders on the issue constituted an injustice against the ordinary Nigerians who have had to contribute from their meagre earnings to fund projects and programmes that are constitutionally the responsibility of government.
Such projects, the Governor said, include security for which individual Nigerians and private organizations are contributing to secure themselves and their environment while the national government could not account for its collective wealth adding that the said missing money could go a long way to fund the Police and strengthen security in the country.
Thanking organizations and individuals who have been contributing to the state’s Security Trust Fund, Governor Fashola said, “The tragedy of our nation is that while we are debating whether we have accounted for $20 billion dollars or $10 billion dollars, ordinary citizens are contributing money to fund the responsibility of government.
“It hurts me but this is where we are because you can only wonder and imagine what $10 billion dollars can do for the Police, what $10 billion dollars can do in terms of vehicles, in terms of the kind of truck that you have donated, in terms of equipment. But I hope that things get better”.
Urging all those concerned in the missing money saga to speak out, Governor Fashola declared, “I have said the issue of the accounting for that money must be resolved publicly in the interest of Nigerians. It is a debate that all of us must participate. Peacefully, we will resolve it, whether it is $10 billion dollars or $20 billion dollars, we must know where that money ended up and everybody that has a duty, including the Minister herself, must speak up now”.
Governor Fashola called for vigilance among the citizens saying that the most important aspect of security lay in the level of vigilance among the people and that there was need for everybody to be vigilant at all times and in all places pointing out that security is not what anyone gives but something that starts with the individual.
Acknowledging that Lagos is comparatively safe, the Governor, however, pointed out that this should not make people lax at being security conscious in their workplaces, their homes and any environment in which they find themselves at anytime.
According to him, “Lagos is safe but that does not mean that people should go to bed without locking their doors and checking their windows. It doesn’t mean that people should put their jewelries at the front of their house and go to bed.
“So, in their enlightened self interest, the first security is self-protection, safety consciousness, where to go and when to go there, where to walk, whether to go alone. In some of the most popular cities of the world there are some places I will not go alone, there are some places I will not go at night. And so people must understand this”.
He told the 19-member Business Group led by the Consul-General of Lebanon in Lagos, Mrs. Dima Haddad, “I want to make two or more important appeals to you because I know you are industrialists, manufacturers, you are employers of labour, you are managers of public places and entertainment places, that while your donation will go a long way in helping us, the real security starts from you with your employees.
“You could never spend more time than at this moment on the need for vigilance by educating your employee on vigilance, at workplace, vigilance on the highway, vigilance in the home place. They must be interested in their own security; it is not something somebody gives to them”.
Governor Fashola said his administration was ready to send experts on security to their organizations to help them give group talks on the kind of things they should be aware of adding, “Security consciousness in your business environments is what you must help us build; and safety in the industrial areas, more goggles, more hand gloves, more protective shoes and more protective helmets. They show also the value we have for human life which is our important assets.
He also offered to deploy the state’s Safety Commission to help the organisations in this regard; to look at their safety compliance and make recommendations about the things they can do to improve the quality of their workplaces adding that most industries and organizations are now recording zero accidents at workplaces.
“These are the kind of standards and ideals we want to happen here because we place very important value on human life”, the Governor told them adding that it would also help the security of their assets if CCTVs are installed in all their offices, factories and work sites.
“The price is coming down, it can help keep records and as we go on we can hook together into our own network. We can manage the main highways but we can’t be in every home, we can’t be in every factory, we can’t be in every business. Our job is such that we have to be right all the time. Criminals have to be right only once. We want to be in a position also where if they get it right once we are able to reverse it by bringing them to justice. That is where the cameras can help”, the Governor said.
Governor Fashola also called for safety consciousness on the roads expressing dismay that there have been series of avoidable accidents in the city recently involving, especially, heavy-duty trucks pointing out that the accidents had occurred mainly as a result of over-speeding by the drivers and other human or mechanical errors.
The Governor told the delegation, “More importantly, for those of you who are into distributorship, haulage and use of heavy trucks, I want to make a public and special appeal not just to you alone but to all drivers of heavy duty trucks. In the last one week we have had, I think, one accident too many and they were all caused by heavy duty trucks.
“Obviously there is a high possibility of over speeding, in a sense there is high possibility of human error or mechanical failure. So, as you go back today, I would like you to please start from this meeting to look at your transport managers, transport side of your business, how frequently your heavy trucks or other vehicles that you use are being maintained”.
Charging officials of the state’s Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to be up and doing and ensure that heavy duty trucks do not speed through metropolitan or municipal areas, the Governor added, “When we see heavy trucks running at break-neck speed in the city we wonder how efficient are their braking systems, how aware are their drivers in terms of speeding in the city and how they can stop if something goes suddenly wrong”.
Thanking the visitors for their donation, Governor Fashola said the gesture has demonstrated their commitment to security in their host country pointing out that although they are Lebanese nationals most of them are Nigerians as well as they have Nigerian citizenship.
“This is how it has been really and one salutes your capacity for what I call dual commitment because you have shown as much commitment and as much love for this land as if it were your first home. This is your home; many of you have committed life savings and life assets here and this was how it was in the generation before mine”, the Governor said adding, “It is a long history that I hope will continue to mature and blossom like an oak tree”.
Speaking earlier, the Consul-General of Lebanon and leader of the delegation, Mrs. Dima Haddad, said the donation of N80 million was in redemption of the pledge made to the Government by the Lebanese Nigeria Initiatives at the last Annual Town Hall Meeting of the state’s Security Trust Fund.
The Consul-General expressed her appreciation and the appreciation of her countrymen to Nigeria and Lagos for opening their arms to the Lebanese community adding that her people would continue to demonstrate such appreciation in all spheres of human endeavour including contributing to the efforts of the Government to make Lagos a secure place.
Also present at the occasion were the state Deputy Governor, Hon. (Mrs.) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire; the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Lanre Babalola; Secretary to the State Government, Dr (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule; the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba; his Agriculture and Cooperatives, as well as Science and Technology counterparts, Prince Gbolahan Lawal and Mr. Adebiyi Mabadeje respectively among other members of the State Executive Council while on the side of the Consul-General of Lebanon were: Chairman of Chagoury Group, Mr. Ronald Chagoury; Mr. Faysal El-Khalil of Seven-Up Bottling Company Plc.; Mr. Hasib Moukarim of Nigeria Gas & Steel Ltd; and Dr. Massaad Boulos of SCOA Nig. Plc., among other company executives and top officials.