The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, on Tuesday, 2nd September, 2014, put the responsibility for lack of real growth in the nation’s economy at the door-steps of the Federal Government saying unless adequate power supply is provided by the central government the economy would remain stagnant.
Fielding questions at a Channels Television Business programme “Business Morning”, Governor Fashola said the existing paradox of growth in the economy with high index of poverty and unemployment in the country was because the growth was artificial.
According to him, “Growth, yes, but what did we contribute to the growth? The logical way to explain the growth is that the economies of the West are currently underperforming and even in an economic undertaking there is a point where you plateau”, adding that the growth is not one that the nation can take benefit of until she solves her energy problem”.
Citing the example of a welder who was on the station’s programme earlier in the morning complaining of the cost of supplying his own power to work with, the Governor declared, “When you see what power inadequacy has done and you begin then to measure the extra cost you have to incur, first to live, then to produce, you will see how difficult it is to run this kind of economy”.
On how it has affected the economic growth of the state, Governor Fashola said many of the industrial estates known for their high employment capacity in the state had to shut down as a result of lack of power adding that such estates like Isolo Industrial Estate which used to operate three shifts daily had shut down throwing many into the unemployment market.
“On the Apapa-Oshodi-Isolo Expressway, there are about four industrial estates there – the Apapa Industrial Estate, the Matori Industrial Estate, the Isolo Industrial Estate and the Ilupeju Industrial Estate. I know that Isolo Industrial Estate used to be a very busy area with people resuming work as early as 8.30 a.m. when I used to go to school as a teenager.
“Coming back in the afternoon, that morning shift was closing. If you were up late at night as I occasionally was, that night shift was closing. They are no longer there anymore. All of those industrial estates have shut down and why so; because there is no power”, he said.
The Governor, however, said the state has, since the privatization of the power sector by the Federal Government, made an informed intervention in the sector pointing out that although by the privatization policy in the power sector, government was supposed to take a back seat, as the host state to some of the distribution assets and the distribution companies (DISCOs), the state government became both the local and municipal regulators.
He said the state government had since expressed its willingness to partner with the DISCOs because of the benefit such partnership would bring to the people of the State adding that by installing street lights alone in Lagos over the last seven years, government has reenergized a night economy.
“Before this time, night economy had literally died. There was no pharmacy store that I can recall on any major high street that opened beyond 8.00p.m. in 2007. They open now till midnight and sometimes they run a 24-hour service; and the same thing with petrol stations and wherever you have a trading outlet, you have people, you have employment”, he said.
Such places where night economy has been revamped, the Governor said, include Ipaja, Bariga, Shomolu, Obalende and Oshodi where, “we did a clean-up”, adding that the measurement that came back to the government was that “people who closed by 7.00p.m. because they were afraid, people frying akara, dodo and all of that were now trading late into the night”.
Speaking on what his administration has done to boost power in the state, Governor Fashola said, “We have done the Akute Power Plant to supply power to our waterworks, the Iju Waterworks and Adiyan Waterworks. These are the only waterworks I know in the country that have their own independent power”.
Other power plants completed and functional, the Governor said, include the Lagos Island Power Plant which services the state house, the Island Maternity, General Hospital, Zone 11 Police Command, Lion Building, City Hall, the e-Learning Centre and about 11 schools and the Dolphin Waterworks.
He said government has also done the Alausa Power Plant and is currently finishing the Ikeja Power Plant where a pre-commissioning test is now going on adding that hopefully the Lekki Power Plant should finish before the end of this year to add to the capacity of government to supply water to Lekki.
Noting that the government was prevented by current regulatory regime to go into distribution of light to homes “unless the DISCOs open the door and say ‘let’s create some partnership here so that we can take Power to the homes”, Governor Fashola disclosed that the Government has already written to the companies to intimate them of the existing opportunity for partnership.
“There are embedded generation possibilities here in estates like Lekki, in estates like Abraham Adesanya on the Island, in estates like Magodo and Ogudu GRA on the Mainland. Let us demonstrate, in the shortest possible time that Power can be delivered. We will undertake to provide the embedded Power within the DISCOs operational area and let us work out an arrangement to finance this”, the Governor said adding that a response was still being awaited.
The Governor expressed satisfaction with the rate of growth of the state’s economy over the last seven years saying that although there have been challenges but Government has always overcome through its approach of “planning for the worst and hoping for the best”.
He said the migration to Lagos from both within the country and across the Continent of Africa, the vehicular traffic and all other allied activities are all indices of economic growth pointing out that people would probably be leaving the city if nothing was happening to give them hope of realizing their life expectations.
Describing Lagos as a land of great opportunities, the Governor declared, “When you look at the vehicular traffic, the migration from within and from across the Continent really, then you will know that there must be something happening here or they wouldn’t be coming, they would probably be leaving.
“So if you measure the economy by the opportunities that it offers, jobs in spite of the challenges, businesses; if you measure by the number of banks or by the teledensity or by the internet penetration or by the fact that this is the first market for food, goods and services, then something definitely is happening here”, he said.
He, however, reiterated that being a commercial city is not a reserved right but a development that is earned by hard work adding that the economic growth the State is enjoying today was earned by the work that many of the past leaders of the State have done and on which his administration has built upon.
According to him, “The right to remain a commercial centre is not a birth right, it is earned by hard work and you could see that in some other countries, states by mismanagement, have lost that capacity and that right and businesses have moved on to where they think there is better service”.
Governor Fashola said the suitability of the State as a commercial hub of Nigeria could be measured all “by the level of security and commitment to protection of human life and how responsive the Judiciary is” adding that the Government’s emergency response in containing a major epidemic in the state was an indicator of the robust nature of the State’s Health System and health capacity.
Other parameters to measure the economic growth of the state, the Governor said, include and the housing and the construction industry which, he noted, “is giving opportunities not only to construction firms and their employees but also to people who are in the value chain to supply iron rods, cement, food, water and so on” adding, “So by clear multiples the economy is heading North”.