Fashola: What a Minister?

By Modestus Okey Umenzekwe

On May 5th, this year, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, named some contractors who collected money from the federal government but allegedly failed to execute the contracts awarded to them. Fashola, a lawyer did not stop at that. He forwarded to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) documents from the Ministry’s agencies providing some details regarding the names of contractors and went ahead to invite SERAP to “inspect a compendium of verified and paid/outstanding liabilities of contractors, kept at the offices of the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Limited/GTE.”

When I heard of this, I thought it was the usual social media ranting until the SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, confirmed it. The Ministry’s letter with reference number FMP/LU/R2K/2016/T/40 and signed on Mr Fashola’s behalf by the Permanent Secretary (Power) Louis O.N. Edozien, became public and I marvelled at what kind of man Fashola is. Testimonies abound when Fashola was the Governor of Lagos state. The Economist described him as a rare good man in 2011 while in office as Governor of Lagos State. Is Fashola, a rare gem and a gift to Nigeria?

You could pass him off as an accomplished man before sauntering into politics. He is a man with vision, and was prepared for leadership. But that wasn’t enough to motivate him to trade where angels feared to trade. Was he motivated by the letter from SERAP or what? I may be wrong with history, but I presume this is the first time a serving Minister rather than be afraid of being exposed himself, if he makes any wrong move to fight corruption, wrote to a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to have information that ordinarily are hidden from them. It got me worried over who actually Fashola is?

Reading through the content of Fashola’s letter on one of the contracts where the company “was in 2014 awarded a contract for the supply and installation of test and maintenance equipment relays, etc to various NAPTIN regional training centers (RTCs) (LOT15), with the total contract sum of N87,763,302.40, out of which N79,404,892.66 was paid” to the company.

Look at that! Corruption smells in that deal even without a second look at the terms and conditions thereto. How can a contract sum of over N87 Billion, had over N79 Billion paid upfront without anything done? It’s scandalous! Unbelievable! The letter however informed that though the contract was awarded in 2014, by 2019, 6 items out of the 19 have been supplied by Pow Technologies Limited.
What kind of criminality is this? If this humongous amount was in a fixed deposit, it would’ve been more Billions and was that money invested wisely on power, the country would have resolved its power challenge completely.

The Ministry under Fashola had submitted a petition to the Commissioner of Police, Abuja on 13th January 2016 to prosecute Messrs Pow at the Upper Area Court, even sought and received legal advice to pursue a civil action at the FCT High Court while a report of criminal breach of contract has been made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

I am still confused on why Fashola took that step to expose this corruption and I couldn’t place it on FOI bill or anything. Fashola amazed Nigerians and Lagosians in particular with his sterling performance as Governor of Lagos State for eight years. His performance was unbeatable. Shall other Ministers emulate Fashola in exposing the wrath in our public service? Nigeria would be better off if it ever happens.

Talk of the Federal roads and Bridges! Fashola has reassured Nigerians of the federal government’s commitment to the completion of all on-going and abandoned projects across the country. According to him, that was the policy direction of President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government.
I am a traveller and I concur with Fashola when he said that federal government is currently undertaking 524 highways and bridges. Of this, 80 Projects prioritized to enhance ease of doing business. At least, every State including FCT has three ongoing highway or bridge projects.

There is hope on federal highways as Fashola informed that Projects including 27 Sovereign SUKUK funded roads of which 47 scheduled for substantial completion in 2020/2021, four major bridges and two roads leading to the ports. There are also 43 Federal tertiary institutions benefiting from rehabilitation of internal roads and 10 of such has already been completed.

Fashola had said: “The projects on completion will bring about reduced travel time, lower vehicle operating costs and improve the comfort of road users as well as improve the ease of doing business in the country and ultimately boost the Nigerian Economy”.

He noted that Federal roads and bridges (categorized from A1 to A9) are major arterial routes that connect all states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory, adding that the routes and bridges linked cities with high economic activities and carried majority of Heavy Goods Vehicles which gradually dispersed through the link routes to different parts of the country.

Though, I would have loved to see construction of second Niger Bridge in this category with four bridges under the priority projects like construction of Ibi Bridge, completion of construction of Chanchangi Bridge along Takum-Wukari Road in Taraba State, construction of Ikom Bridge in Cross River State and emergency rehabilitation/maintenance of Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, while the two roads leading to ports are the construction of Agaie-Katcha-Barro Road in Niger State and construction of Baro Port to Gulu Town in Niger State.

The ministry is currently intervening on roads in some tertiary institutions and in order to accomplish the objective of completing the prioritized projects in scheduled time, an additional N255.6 billion would be needed to close the funding gap for the projects. This amount was the difference between the appropriation for the project in the 2020 Budget, which stands N157.05 billion and the actual estimate for the completion of the projects which stands at N412.64 billion.

Commendation I must give to Fashola for this Trans African Highway (TRLC) Plan seeking to connect Africa from Cape Town to Tunisia either by driving through East Africa Border, the West African Border or through the Centre of Africa. The road is known as Trans Sahara road.

He informed that there is also a Coast to Coast connectivity from West to East Africa, North East Africa to North West Africa and South West Africa to East Africa. He added that a total of 9 (Nine) Highways at different stages of construction are meant to achieve this connectivity. A laudable venture as it serves 37 regions, 74 urban centres with 60 million inhabitants in 6 (six) Countries who are members of this Committee. It is important to underscore here that the critical part of the Trans Sahara Highway which in centuries past is plied by Camels and Horses for trade has now developed for use by vehicles.

For Nigerians it is important to know that 1,131km of the 9,022km passes through our country from Lagos to Ibadan, Ilorin – Jebba, Kaduna – Kano – Kongolam where we have a border with Niger Republic.

The development of the Trans Sahara Route is to ensure integration, improvement of economic activities and cooperation between Member Countries. This will provide the business community access to explore and maximise the enormous economic opportunities available within member countries. There are immense possibilities from Fashion, Agriculture, Technology, Energy to Film and Music. The journey from 1960 when the Trans Sahara Route (TSR) was established till date has not been easy, but concerted efforts must be made at realising the objectives of the TSR.

In addition, Fashola had told a delegation of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) led by the Representative to ECOWAS and Regional Director, Nigeria Regional Hub, Mr. Jean Bakole, that with the Federal Government’s commitment to the massive renewal of the nation’s roads, bridges, rails, airports and seaports meant that “in the shortest possible Nigerians will sing a new song.”

Fashola expressed delight at the amount ($60million USD) which the UNIDO has mapped out for investment in about nine sectors in the country, but, advised that instead of spreading the amount on so many areas it would be more beneficial to invest it in two or three critical areas that would be more impactful to the needs of the people. Indeed, I repeat, what kind of man is Fashola?

Umezekwe, an APC Chieftain, can be reached on 08037202353

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