By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Nigeria’s Lagos State says those criticizing his administration over its debt profile are ignorant people and voodoo economists.
Fashola spoke while on a statewide tour of ongoing projects in Badagry area of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. The governor said the critics did not know the intention of government which made it to borrow to finance capital projects.
“They are un-informed voodoo economists. We are seeing a rehash of an old plan. They are voodoo economists. This was the same plan during the tenure of my predecessor, saying Lagos has mortgaged its future for 50 years when the first Bond was taken. The initial N50 billion bond my administration took has paid off. When we took the bond, many said we had mortgaged the state for 50 years, but we have paid that.
“The other that we took is due for repayment, the amount in the consolidated debt service account is about N62 billion as at December last year. The liability that we have is N50 billion and is not due until next year, by which time the amount in the debt service account will reduce,” he explained.
Fashola stated that the state had shown that it had the capacity to pay its debt, adding that this is why I have chosen to ignore all those voodoo economists, that is why they are in the opposition and they will never get government because clearly, it’s dangerous from the way they are talking, they don’t know what the economics of governance is.”
Explaining the rationale behind the state’s budget, Fashola stated that the demands which the state government got before its budget from various communities, roads, schools amounted to about N750 billion but because the administration knew that it could not generate N750 billion, it had to scale the budget down to around N497 billion which was over and above what it could reasonably foresee.
“We are aspirational and ready to take on bigger challenges than our realities show because that for me must be part of what governance entails. It is about being audacious and forward thinking.”
“The only reason why we are working hard is how to bridge that deficit in a sustainable way, raise the money, collect the taxes from those who are hiding, who don’t want to contribute and also prepare for the generation that is coming behind.”
“As we are here, new children have arrived, some people just got married this morning, in nine months’ time you will get the results. Some are also leaving school; somebody is in the lands registry for a land transaction.
“I have to plan for all that. So if it’s just this kobo, kobo economics that they are thinking, it won’t happen. China just borrowed $640 billion to build the world’s fastest rail and create jobs in its economy. So I have chosen to ignore them,” he added.
On the on-going construction of Slave Market and other tourism development projects of the government in Badagry, Fashola said it was all about tourism as it represented one of the historical sites that Nigerians pay money to visit in other parts of the world.
“What you would see on the beach front ultimately is opportunity for the people of Badagry to show all of their skills. All of our people who sell fabrics, batik, who make dresses and beads which are all products from the skills centres,” he said.
The governor emphasized that it would be a big market ultimately for the sale of souvenirs for the people of Badagry and for the people of the state where tourists could benefit , eat the local delicasies such that people in the culinary business could set up businesses as part of efforts at waking up the economy.
Speaking on what transpired during the inspection, Governor Fashola said work on the Magistrate and High Court complex is not moving as quickly as he would like but that the contractor has promised to finish it by April this year.