Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has condemned what he called the forceful occupation with soldiers of two parcels of Lagos State land meant for housing estates.
He described the action as unconstitutional as, according to him, all the documents related to the properties show that they belong to the State.
The parcels of land, which are currently being developed by the Government into housing estates for its Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme, are located at Oyingbo in Ebute Metta and slated for Oyingbo Housing and the one intended for Ilubirin Housing Estate. Work in both estates was stopped by agencies of the Federal Government.
Explaining why work has stopped in the two estates, Governor Fashola, who spoke at the question and answer session of his 2,500 Days in Office Account of Stewardship rendering event at the LTV Blue Roof Hall, Ikeja, said it was because the Federal Government has moved soldiers to the site of the construction claiming that the land on which the structures are to be built is owned by it adding, however, that contrary to the claim, all the documents handed over to the State Government by the Federal Military Government through the former Federal Commissioner for Works showed that the land belongs to the State Government.
He continued, “Just this morning as I was approaching the venue of this event, I was informed that an agency of the Federal Government is now claiming the ownership of the Ilubirin site where the State Government has already commenced work for a housing estate that a year ago, the State Government issued contract for reclamation of the area to Julius Berger and that while all this was going on the Federal Government never realized it belonged to her.
The Governor said he was even informed that the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, was at the Ilubirin Housing Estate site with soldiers on Saturday, adding that such actions portend a threat to the State’s housing projects and the poor people who are looking forward to it.
The Governor also disclosed that the State Government has appealed the recent judgments of a Federal High Court on the multi-million Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge as well as filed a motion for a stay of execution of the judgment while also describing the economy of the State as stable, good and performing adding that this has been confirmed by FITCH ratings which, he said, has remained constant at BB- Stable.
Governor Fashola, who had been asked a question about the implication of the two judgments, delivered last week, for investment on infrastructure and water transportation, argued that its execution would not be carried out until such a time that the court decides on the motion for stay of execution adding that until then the operation of the judgment remains temporarily in abeyance.
The Governor, however, decried the contradictions in the nation’s quest for development wondering how a nation that yearns for investment in order to create job opportunities for its teaming unemployed as well as develop its economy would at the same breath pass judgment against investments.
“It is a very sad statement overall about investments drive as a nation. Indeed, it is contradictory, because on one hand, investors are being invited to come and in another breath, judgments are being given against investments”, the Governor said
On the regulation of water transportation, the Governor, who described it as not different from road transportation, argued that if a state has the capacity to run its own bus system, it was only simple logic that any state that has bodies of lagoons and creeks within its jurisdiction should also be able to regulate the operation of ferries and canoes within its territory.
“If that is not so, then it means that any villager who wants to operate a canoe in any part of Nigeria, in the creeks of Ondo, the Niger Delta and the Edo and Sapele will have to go and get a permit from the Federal Government and that is how grave it is to local water transportation”, he added.
On the State’s economy, especially the insinuations about its debt profile, the Governor, who assured that the economy was stable added that although it borrows money from the financial market, such borrowings have been done sensibly and deployed to sustain economic growth of the State.
He debunked the insinuations that the State resorted to local borrowings because the Federal Government has refused to okay external borrowings for it, stressing that all local borrowings including Bond issuance must have approval of regulatory agencies controlled by the Federal Government for such to become applicable.
Describing such people as uninformed Governor Fashola declared, “The question is not about whether the state borrows but that it borrows sensibly and sustainably”, adding that even if critics do not belief the administration, at least they would believe the ratings of the State’s Economy as stable and performing by the highly rated Global Finance agency, FITCH, while many other states are losing their ratings.
Commenting on the return of tanker drivers to the roads in Apapa, the Governor said the problem of Apapa was traceable to the activities that are going on at Apapa Ports and the Tin Can Island Ports both of which belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He added that from the Apapa Port, the problem of tankers parking indiscriminately escalated after the concessioning of the port as the concessionaires took over the park and dislodged all the tankers unto the roads.
According to him, “What is, however, curious is that close to the Apapa Ports is an old railway that was left by the British but which has been left since then unutilized. What has stopped the Federal Government from fixing the rail and moving all the containers that presently pass through the roads?”
The Governor disclosed that recent interactions with the officials of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has shown that the only tank farms from which tankers can lift fuel is located in Apapa and thus making it imperative for the tankers to go to Apapa in search of fuel to load.
He expressed dismay that nature’s gift to Nigeria, which is crude oil, “is presently characterized by loss or stealing of money” adding that in the past couple of weeks the citizenry have been subjected to the hassles of sourcing for fuel with several hours at filling stations. “It is clear from the foregoing where Nigeria’s problem is coming from”, he said.
On complaints of delays over issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of Os), the Governor gave a commitment that Government has started issuing out the electronic version and that the issue was within his purview and being speedily treated.
Governor Fashola, who also spoke on a question about some ethnic groups resident in Lagos not getting a fair share of political offices, explained that elective seats were always available for contests by candidates and not awarded adding that people should feel free to contest for such elective posts.
Pointing out that the administration in Lagos runs an inclusive government, Governor Fashola, however, advised that people should desist from the temptation of ventilating grievances on ethnic or religious grounds.
The Governor, who also responded to a question on the issue of locating buildings under high tension power lines, said people living in such buildings are endangering their lives as the State Government has not given any building approval for structures under any power line.
Emphasizing the gravity of the dangers which such people are exposing themselves to, the Governor said such danger could be observed by putting an electric tester under the roof of the house that is located under a power line adding that the tester would show live electricity currents.
On the contention that Lagos State has two ministers representing her at the Federal level and whether it translates to better representation for the State, the Governor said to date the only Minister representing the State is Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who according to him “is representing the State as a junior Minister”, adding, “The Constitution provides for such appointees to represent states in the Federation as it is applicable in the National Assembly where people are elected to represent their states.
He pointed out that even in the appointments to the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court, people are appointed from all parts of the country to represent their areas, adding that the same should apply at the Federal Executive Council where the members should represent the interest of their states and not the central government.