How Fashola Rattled Senators At The Senate #MinisterialScreening
FORMER Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), was clearly the star attraction at the screening of ministerial nominees, yesterday, as the Senate cleared 18 nominees for ministerial appointment.
His suggestions on state police, review of the Abuja Master plan and apology to the Igbo over the deportation of some Igbo residents of Lagos during his second term marked one of the major highlights of yesterday’s screening of the nominees.
The former governor who appeared before the Senators from 11. 48am to 1pm told the Senators of the need to review the Abuja Master Plan which has been distorted, just as he said that it has become imperative to decentralize the Nigerian Police as he advocated the establishment of a state policing system if the nation’s insecurity problem must be addressed.
Fashola who defended allegations concerning a N78 million website and N258 million borehole, said that throughout his stay as governor for eight years, nobody has so far come out to accuse him of enriching himself corruptly, even as he said that he did not personally sign any cheque as well as his commissioners. He also apologised to Nigerians for deporting some citizens of the state,particularly from the South-East to their states of origin.
He said: “The number available to me is that we have probably a standing Police force of about 500,000, less than a million in every event to a population that is heading to 180 million. So, we are under-policed and if the Federal Government decide to take up these responsibilities on its own, can it do so in the micro level that is necessary at the state and local government levels?
“My recommendation is a compelling urgency for decentralization. I have made those recommendations to some of the committees on constitution amendment where I was privileged to make presentations. There have been arguments about why we should not go there but those argument did not go far. They did not address the fundamental responsibilities that government has. I have heard the argument that government will abuse the Police for political purposes.
“The abuse of political power is not as important as loss of lives, and everything we do to advance that cause makes us more respected as government that cares. There is a process for curing abuse of institution but there is no process known to me today for recovering lives already lost. These are challenges that are before us as a people and as a nation. At the state level, you can also wonder what governors are going through.
“They have parliaments that make laws but they have no capacity to enforce their own laws. We are talking about domestic issues — rape and domestic violence — there are criminal offences in many states across the country but who is prosecuting them? This is because the Police officer is too busy chasing a robbery. Our mothers, daughters and sisters are expected to tolerate rape. If we are afraid of abuse, one of the things I will suggest is that we start a state Police.
“I proposed a system where we have six zonal commands from existing the Police force. It is not every state that can start if it cannot fund it. States who can fund can decide to employ 1,000 men, the Police Service Commission will train and graduate and if at the end of the training, only 800 pass the exam, they would be employed. The state buys their uniforms, there is a national license.”
On security, Fashola said, “ As far as security is concerned, that is the primary purpose of every government. It is the purpose for which government exists, to protect the citizens and their assets and it is the toughest job that any government can have. It is the challenge that leaders across the world are facing — terrorism, youthful gangs, cults and so on.
“My attitude was to see criminals as my competitors and in a competition, my desire was to use my resources to outspend my competitors, out-think the competition and out-maneovre the competition. But our risks are different. As a governor, my job was to ensure that nobody died, my job was to ensure that nobody robs. So, I have no magic for error. Every citizen that was robbed, I have failed that citizen. So, I have to be right every time, the criminal has to be right only once.
“So, we brought all the stakeholders — from the banks who were being robbed everyday then without the capacity to respond and one of the things I told one of the bankers was that if he could protect and bullet-proof his banks, if he cared about his workers and customers, can the government bullet-proof every home? If you bring some of this money and we put it in a pool and give these Policemen, it will help us and so, the point here is that there is a necessity here to decentralize.
Speaking on Abuja, the nominee said, “ In deciding what to do about Abuja, these are the real issue. First, getting a hold of its resources, knowing its districts and its problems, knowing the people, sharing with them what the thoughts are. The Master Plan itself may perhaps need to be reviewed. Plans are not static documents, they must be reviewed periodically. A level of consultation and knowledge would be necessary in order to accurately say this is where Abuja should be heading. In spite of our complaints, it is still a beautiful city, getting it to be better than it is, is a matter of choice for all of us. Laws have to be enforced and it should be rigorously followed.”
On old and young politician and how they relate to economic development, he said, “The sum total of every nation is its people. The more elderly ones are the more matured ones. No matter how hard we try, we will never discount the experience, the maturity, counselling and guiding support of people who are older than us. We must continue to interface with them. I must walk away from the tendency to condemn the level of our national development. We must begin to see our cup as half full rather than half empty.”
On the alleged website project, Fashola said: “Let me say first that it raises the question of public understanding of the role governors, public servants and some have a surprise to learn that as a governor of Lagos State, I didn’t sign cheques, none of my commissioners signed cheques. I didn’t fix contract prices. It is an institutional process.
“The only training I have is that of a lawyer. Nobody can award contract over benchmark price. Throughout my tenure, I have been confronted with the price of things and the reality is that when you design a road, what you meet in reality when construction starts is usually not what you end up with. In all of these, nobody has alleged that I have corruptly enriched myself. I could not have been a master in computer and technology. I need something to do my work.”
When asked about his definition of loyalty, Fashola who noted that he remained loyal to causes he believed in said: “As for loyalty, the concept of loyalty is a strange one. The real answer to that question is, may your loyalty not be tested. I always pray that my loyalty will not be tested because you might have to take a bullet for somebody. We discuss it loosely, but in public service, I have remained loyal to causes that I have signed onto and in all my life, nobody can fairly accuse me of giving my word and going back on my word.”
Fashola calls for state police, apologises on deportation of Igbos
On deportation of Igbo people, he said: “In a federation, the right to free movement is not absolute, it carries with it a responsibility not to be a nuisance.” He said those moved to their states of origin were those who asked to be taken home. Fashola concluded his submission by saying he apologised in the interest of national cohesion.