Buhari must have had deep reflection on who will be in what position – Fashola
Former governor of Lagos State Mr Babatunde Fashola and six other eminent personalities were conferred with awards by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a global, Brussels-based NGO dedicated to preventing and resolving conflict, to mark its 20th anniversary. Fashola, a current minister-designate by President Muhammadu Buhari, is cited for “his commitment to building a just and vibrant society.” Interviewed by telephone from Abuja before his departure to New York for the October 26 ceremony, Fashola spoke to AllAfrica about his eight years in office (2007 - 2015) and how his country can move forward. Excerpts: During your Senate screening of them, and whenever that (as a ministerial nominee), happens, what needs to be you were asked about done is to enforce the law and expulsions of people from insist on compliance. That is Lagos while you were in office. what I have sought to do. But How do you respond to that we must be careful. There are criticism? some instances where people
First, I think it isn't level allegations when they appropriate to classify it have no shred of evidence or as an expulsion. It wasn't. they misapprehend the way We had citizens who had the system works. no address and probably migrated from God-knowswhere to our state. They were living as destitutes. Some had psychiatric problems. Some had other health issues. We rehabilitated them. When they got rehabilitated, they had to leave because it cost a lot of tax-payer money to keep feeding them on a daily basis, year-in, year-out. In some cases, they said they wanted to go home. And as I said during the screening, we didn't know where home was except for where they told us. We wrote three letters to their home governments. None of them was acknowledged. We had to do something. As I said during the screening, we took them to the boundary of the state they called home, in the belief that they would be able to reintegrate themselves back to their communities. Perhaps we could have done a little more. But we were not assisted by their state governments.
There is a misconception that people can move freely and do what they like. The laws and the constitution that guarantee the freedom of movement for citizens across the country impose obligations not to constitute themselves into a nuisance in whatever other state they move to. Just like any law that guarantees freedom of speech does not guarantee you the right to defame people. And so those rights can be curtailed in order to protect the rights of other citizens. As I said during the screening, they went to court, and the court took the view that [they had] an unmeritorious claim.
How did you tackle corruption as governor?
My approach was to see that we got value for money and that there was good governance and the supremacy of law and order. Human beings will fall short of standards their society expects
There are reports that you spent 78 million naira on a website (U.S. $400 thousand) and another large amount on boreholes (water wells). How do you respond to those criticisms?
First of all, the reports are untrue to the extent that they accuse me of any wrong doing. Specifically to the boreholes, it never happened. But I have chosen not to continue to defend myself on the pages of newspapers because that is not the place to resolve allegations of criminal wrongdoing. [You do it] in a court of law. These are institutions of state who have the authority to ask me to answer. As far as the website is concerned, first of all it was I, as governor, who insisted that every procurement be published on our state website. So if we had anything to hide, it would stand logic upside down to be publicizing our wrongdoing ourselves. And as I said during the senate screening, as governor I headed a network of institutions. If we wanted anything that had to do with computing, science and technology, we had consulting ministries. In this case, the ministry of science and technology was the consulting ministry. They vetted the proposals and approved the prices. There is also an independent procurement agency that validates procurements. All I did as governor was to sign off and approve expenditure after the procurement agency approved.
It is important to also make this point: I wasn't elected with any limitations of powers of expenditure. It was I as governor who set limits on what I could do and what procurement agencies do. I want to add that some of these allegations come out of a misunderstanding of how our processes work. As I said during the screening, I didn't sign checks and I didn't fix prices. And so if you wanted to accuse me, the only thing you could perhaps say, which is still very debatable, is that our pricing mechanisms were wrong.
This website was not only
a We installed applications to allow smartphone users to download applications. We had an application for android phone users, one for Microsoft and [several] others. The advice we received was that, if we asked users to pay for those applications, we would not have the kind of traffic and footprint that we expected from people who wanted to know what government was doing. So we paid for the different applications. We also paid for hosting overseas, and we had a contract for a web master to manage all the information - speeches, executive and more.
It wasn't just a website upgrade that cost 78 million naira. In any case, all the documents are with the government so they can be examined. videos, orders
There was great excitement after the March election and President Buhari's Inauguration in late May. Are those high hopes continuing?
I would think so, but human beings being what they are, people expect rapid results. The easiest way to sustain optimism is to continue to show results. It has been a very challenging one-and-a-half years for the country. We spent a lot of time preparing for elections and, globally, when elections are coming, things generally slow down. Ours took 15 months. The economy has been challenged as a result of that. We need to get back to production and productivity, and people need to see their institutions at work.
It has taken President Buhari longer than many expected to nominate people to serve as ministers. Do you expect things to start happening now?
My sense is that people are waiting to get a clear direction. I am optimistic that the president will begin to show results. The time frame is the challenge: how much more time will Nigerians afford him? Having been a governor before, I know that the first 6-to-9 months are defining. At the level of national government, which is a behemoth, it takes time to get a grip on it. The president has picked people to assist him, some of whose experience and reputations are quite inspiring. I think when the budget comes out it will signify a clear direction about what the government will do, where it will be investing energy and resources. I think people will respond accordingly.
What do you regard as top priorities for the new government?
Security is one. The economy is the other. Within the economy, you have components such as infrastructure - transport infrastructure [and] energy infrastructure particularly. If transportation gets better, goods and services and people will move much more efficiently and that can only lead to productivity and the prosperity and quality of life that people want to see. The President is clearly focused on security. We have seen some results, and it will get better. Dealing with the criminals who now terrorize parts of our country in a faceless manner poses challenges for our security apparatus, who were trained to deal with conventional opponents rather than these unconventional methods where soft targets are their victims. And government really, with all its best intentions, can't be in every home and every corner of our society
Can you ministerial hold?
Only the president can tell. He nominated us, so he would have a very clear idea what role he wants each of us to play. I believe he must have had deep reflection on who will be in what position. tell us which post you will
Mr Babatunde Fashola