Continuation Of Excellence

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Text of the address delivered by the Lagos State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Otunba Henry Oladele Ajomole, at a press conference at the party secretariat, Acme Road, Ogba, Lagos on Thursday, 3 March, 2011.

 

It is with great pride as the Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the most progressive, fastest growing and result-oriented political party in Nigeria, the Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, that I will welcome us all to this press conference. On behalf of the leadership and teeming members of our great party, I express our profound gratitude to the gentlemen of the press for honouring our invitation and consistently partnering with us over the last 12 years that we have been systematically transforming Lagos into Africa’s model mega-city.

 

Our country stands again at another crucial crossroads as we prepare for the next elections to decide those who will pilot our affairs at various levels for another four years. For the last 12 years, the people of Lagos State have consistently and overwhelmingly entrusted the destiny of our state in the hands of our progressive party. It is indisputable that we have justified that confidence and trust. The Lagos of today has been vastly transformed from the deplorable situation we inherited in 1999. Sadly, the same thing cannot be said of Nigeria as a whole.

 

The unfortunate truth is that every part of this country has suffered severely due to the lack of a competent, purposeful, dynamic, focused and transparent government at the federal level since 1999. Nigeria has earned more oil revenues over the last 12 years than at any other time in our history. As we all know, the bulk of this money has accrued to the PDP-controlled Federal Government. Yet, most parts of the country, including PDP states, have sunk into greater poverty, unemployment, disease, ignorance and insecurity. The vast majority of our people across Nigeria are worse off today than they were in 1999.

 

Amidst this deep darkness of poverty and misery, we are proud to say that Lagos State is a shining light of what can be achieved if a progressive and competent party is voted into power. We are a model of how Nigeria can be transformed and modernised through competent, compassionate and creative leadership. Unlike what has happened at the national level, we have not squandered the opportunities of the last 12 years in Lagos State. The evidence is there for all to see.

 

It is, therefore, with great confidence and renewed determination to lift Lagos to greater heights that we are set to commence our statewide campaigns for the next elections. Our governorship flag bearer, His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, is widely acknowledged by friends and foes as the best performing governor in Nigeria today. Governor Fashola has been commended both within and outside Nigeria as a model of transformational leadership.

 

Despite the depth of talent available in our party, it is, therefore, not surprising that this dynamic, industrious, knowledgeable and versatile legal practitioner was unanimously returned unopposed as our governorship flag bearer. His running mate, Mrs. Joke Orelope Adefulure, the current Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, is an accomplished social worker, former state legislator and experienced administrator. The grace and dignity with which the current Deputy Governor, Princess Sarah Sosan, took the party’s decision is symbolic of the maturity and discipline of the AC N.

 

As a result of the immense success and popularity of the ACN in Lagos, thousands of highly capable and committed men and women sought to represent our party as state and national legislators. The spaces available, however, are constitutionally limited and not everybody can serve at once. We are, therefore, presenting to the electorate a team of House of Assembly, House of Representatives and senatorial candidates that will complement the efforts of Governor Fashola’s administration and help consolidate the tremendous gains we have recorded in Lagos State.

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we believe that for the PDP at the centre and the ACN in Lagos, the next election must be a referendum on our respective parties’ performances in the last 12 years. In other words, where were we as a country 12 years ago and where has the PDP’s leadership of Nigeria taken us today? In a similar vein, where was Lagos State 12 years ago and where has the ACN’s leadership taken the state today? It is the clearly demonstrable answer to these questions that should determine what choices are made by the electorate at the forthcoming polls.

 

At the commencement of this dispensation in 1999, Nigerians were complaining of inadequate electricity, barely functioning refineries, dilapidated high ways that were death traps, antiquated, largely non-functional rail transportation, poorly equipped and manned hospitals, chronic poverty, mass hunger and unemployment, decline in manufacturing, the virtual collapse of public education including tertiary institutions and insecurity of lives and property among other ills.

 

Today, what is the cry across Nigeria under 12 years of PDP’s leadership? The country is still plunged in darkness with total electricity generated less than 300 MW despite billions of dollars squandered. Our highways all over the country are even in worse condition than in 1999. Many of the roads give the impression that we have just emerged as targets of saturation bombing from a major war. Not one step has been taken by the Federal Government to provide the country with a modern, integrated rail transport network. We continue to export crude oil and import the refined product because our refineries continue to operate below capacity and no new ones have been built.

 

National indices of poverty and unemployment have steadily worsened every year since 1999 and power insufficiency continues to hinder the revival of manufacturing. Millions of our people lack access to efficient and affordable healthcare as public hospitals are still poorly staffed and equipped. No Nigerian university is today ranked among the top 200 universities in the world including Africa; an indication of the total decay of our tertiary institutions. Our primary and secondary schools across the country are hardly better. Kidnapping, armed robbery, religious and communal strife, militant insurgency and other forms of violence destroy lives and property daily in different parts of the country. Yet, the PDP-controlled Federal Government, which is best placed to address most of these problems, has cornered the largest share of the resources accruing to Nigeria since 1999. It is certainly the greatest joke of the century that the PDP now claims it will do for the country in the next four years what it failed to do in 12 years!

 

Now, let us apply the same test to the AC N in Lagos State since 1999. Like Nigeria as a country, Lagos in 1999 was effectively a failed state. The roads across the state were riddled with potholes and in many cases, large craters. Furthermore, most of the roads had become too narrow to cope with the phenomenal increase in human and vehicular traffic. This compounded the problem of public transportation and chaotic traffic management, which had a negative impact on business performance and economic productivity. There were hardly any traffic lights and the few ones were mostly non-functional.

 

In 1999, Lagos was routinely derisively described as the dirtiest city in the world with mountains of refuse all over the state endangering public health. All over Lagos, people could be seen carrying buckets and basins in search of water. In the same way, across the state, thousands of public primary and secondary school children carried their desks and benches to and from school daily. Public schools had been so badly neglected to the extend that there were frequent cases of school walls collapsing, wounding and in some cases killing pupils and staff.

 

Public health facilities were insufficient and too poorly equipped to cope with the pressure of a mega city. Insecurity was a major problem as we had to contend with communal violence and riots in places like Mile 12, Ketu, Ajegunle and Mushin. The phenomenon of area boys and juvenile delinquency was aggravated by poverty and unemployment while the lack of electricity worsened the rate of crime at night.

 

Our party in 1999 inherited a public service bureaucracy that was too archaic and inefficient to effectively confront these problems and deliver qualitative service to the people. In addition, Lagos State was virtually financially insolvent. The total budget size of the state at the inception of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration in 1999 was a little over N14 billion while the state’s Internally Generated Revenue was approximately N600million monthly. Yet, the monthly public sector wage bill was N800 million. The implication was that Lagos State was entirely dependent on allocation from the centre, which was grossly insufficient to meet the huge challenge of re-building a state that had been neglected and allowed to decay for over two decades.

 

How did we move from this situation to the Lagos we have today that is financially viable and autonomous of the Federal Government; where lives and property are secure; public infrastructure is being aggressively modernised and expanded; there has been a dramatic improvement in the quality and efficiency of public health care, education, the environment, water supply and public transportation; a Lagos that attracts new investment in diverse sectors on a daily basis despite the depressing national economic climate? What did we do right in Lagos that the PDP failed to do at the centre for the entire country?

 

First, the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration from inception drew up a clear and focused Action Plan for the state in conjunction with critical stakeholders including the Organised Private Sector, Civil Society Groups and the Public Service. The result was the evolution of the 10-Point Agenda focusing on education, healthcare, job creation/poverty alleviation, power and water supply, public transportation/traffic management, physical planning/environmental renewal, infrastructure renewal, justice/law and order, food security and public sector reforms.

 

Second, the administration re-structured the machinery of government creating new ministries such as Housing, Physical Planning Sports and Youth Development as well as Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation for more effective policy implementation.

 

Third, seasoned and accomplished technocrats were brought into government as commissioners and special advisers in their areas of expertise. Indeed, one such technocrat that was a key contributor to the Tinubu administration’s success story is His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, who first served on some transition/advisory committees before formally coming into government as Chief of Staff in 2002.

 

A fourth reason for the success of the Tinubu administration in laying a solid foundation for the development of Lagos State was the recognition from the beginning of the critical role of an efficient and effective budgetary process for rapid development. Through meticulous planning and disciplined implementation, the budget size of Lagos State grew from N14.200 billion in 1999 to N240.866 billion in 2007. Today, under Governor Fashola, Lagos has attained a budget size of N450 billion. At no time in the last 12 years has budget implementation performance fallen below 60%. This is in sharp contrast to the Federal Government, which has never exceeded 30% budget implementation since 1999. While the Fashola administration, for instance, achieved 80% budget implementation for Y2010, the Federal Government could hardly achieve 30%. Again, unlike the Federal Government, Lagos State under the AC N has consistently maintained an annual budgetary ratio of at least 60%-40% in favour of Capital over Recurrent expenditure to ensure rapid infrastructure development.

 

Over the last 12 years, the ACN has transformed Lagos from financial insolvency to fiscal buoyancy. Through creative and innovative financial engineering, the ACN took Lagos from a yearly Internally Generated Revenue of N14.64 billon in 1999 to N60.31 billion in 2006. by March 2007, the state had achieved a monthly Internally Generated Revenue of N8.2 billion and today the state’s IGR is about N15 billion monthly under Governor Fashola. Consequently, less than 25% of the state’s total annual revenues come from the Federation Account giving Lagos substantial financial autonomy.

 

This impressive revenue performance achieved by the ACN in Lagos State over the last 12 years did not happen by chance or luck. It was due to carefully thought out and effectively implemented policies such as the introduction of the Electronic Banking System/Revenue Collecting Monitoring Project, computerisation of the revenue collection process, introduction of Electronic Tax Receipts, re-organisation and professionalisation of the former Board of Internal Revenue, now the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, tax administration reforms and the creation of a robust data base of tax payers. It is also noteworthy that millions of Lagosians now voluntarily pay their taxes because they can see tangible evidence that public funds are being prudently utilised to develop the state.

 

Lagos State in the last 12 years, has been the pace-setter in sound and innovative public sector financial management. In September, 2002, for instance, Lagos State was the first government in Nigeria to raise funds from the Capital Market for infrastructure development. This was in recognition of the fact that long-term funds were necessary for long-term projects. The state raised a N15 billion Floating Rate Redeemable to prosecute such development projects as roads construction, millennium housing, waterworks, construction and rehabilitation of courts, waste management projects and millennium classrooms among others.

 

The bond has since been fully redeemed and other states and even the Federal Government have copied the Lagos State model. Again, in 2003, the ACN-controlled Lagos State government invested N3.84 billion in Celtel (now Airtel) and by the time the state divested from the company in 2006, a surplus of N19 billion had been reaped, which was invested in the provision of infrastructure. As a result of its financial ingenuity, prudence and discipline as well as extensive public sector reforms for improved service delivery, the lasting legacy of the ACN in Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 are there for all to see. They include:

 

•Massive road construction, dualisation and modernisation across Lagos State such as Kudirat Abiola Road, Oregun, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Akin Adesola Road, Ikotun-Igando Road, Yaba-Itire Lawanson-Ojuelegba Road, LASU-Iba Road, Ojo; Ajah-BadoreRoad, Eti-Osa; Oba SekumadeRoad, Ikorodu; Adetokunbo Ademola Road, Victoria Island and the ongoing expansion and modernisation of the Lagos-Epe Expressway as the largest concessioneering project of its size and complexity in Africa among several others.

 

•Reconstruction and upgrading of the Lagos Island Central Business District including the modernisation of 16 roads in the area and the historic Tinubu Square.

 

•Upgrading of the buildings and facilities at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, to world class grade; expansion and rehabilitation of old General Hospitals in Lagos, Gbagada, Epe, Isolo, Ikorodu, Badagry, Agege and the Island Maternity; building of new General Hospitals at Mushin, Shomolu, Ibeju-Lekki and Isheri-Iba as well as the upgrading of existing health centres to full-fledged hospitals at Ijede, Ketu, Agbowa and Agege among others.

 

•Provision of free health services for children under 12, the aged above 60 and free ante-natal care for women; free eye screening, eye treatment, eye surgery and provision of free eye glasses popularly known as ‘jigi Bola’, free treatment for malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy, free limb deformity corrective surgery, free cleft-lip corrective surgery and the introduction of the quarterly Eko Health Missions that provides free medical services including free heart surgeries to local communities.

 

•Elimination of mountains of refuse that used to deface and disgrace Lagos through the introduction of community-based Private Sector Participation, PSP, in refuse collection and disposal, expansion and modernisation of land-fill sites, construction of Transfer Loading Stations, establishment of waste-to-wealth facilities in Ikorodu as well as the re-organisation, modernisation and re-equipping of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA.