Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, revved up his disagreement with Lagos Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, with a statement in Abuja Thursday detailing why he believes Ambode was less than sincere in his claims that he, the minister, was “frustrating the state government’s plan to reconstruct the road that links Murtala Muhammed International to Oshodi.”
There has been a quiet battle of wits between both men since Ambode emerged the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and subsequent winner of the last gubernatorial elections in 2015. There were muffled talks Fashola was not too cosy with Ambode’s choice by strongman of Lagos politics, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as his successor.
Ambode, Wednesday accused Fashola’s Ministry of frustrating the plans of the state government to reconstruct the road linking Murtala Muhammed International Airport to Oshodi, adding that the ministry withheld approval for the handover of the Presidential Lodge, Marina to the state contrary to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He disclosed that the Presidential Lodge was central to the state’s fiftieth celebration, adding that the State “has been being tossed about by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the Department of State Services (DSS) even after Buhari has approved that the Presidential Lodge should be handed over to the state government.
“Buhari has actually approved handing over of the Presidential Lodge, Marina. As we speak, nothing has been done on Mr. President’s directive. We are being frustrated. The approval of Buhari should be honoured. We believe we should take possession so that we can take over.”
He lamented the national eye-sore the Oshodi-Airport road had become, noting that Lagos government had the resources to give it a new look.
Said the governor: “In the spirit of the regeneration and urbanisation that this administration has set out to achieve, we believe strongly that the image that is exhumed by the decadence of that road must be repaired.
“We took it upon ourselves to redevelop the road. We also took it upon ourselves to appropriate the 2017 budget that the House of Assembly should approve the total reconstruction of the Airport Road from Oshodi to the International Airport.”
The state government, he added, has a design of 10 lanes for the road and the contractor was rearing to go.
“We already have the cash, but alas we are having challenges with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. This is a federal and not a state road. The Federal Ministry of Works believes that they should do the road, but they have not been able to do it all these years.
Ambode urged the federal government to reimburse Lagos with over over N50 billion owed it.
“Even if they are not willing to pay us now, we have the money to do it. It is a national disgrace and we would not be part of it. We would like to do it as part of the celebration of Lagos at 50.”
In a comprehensive statement by his spokesman, Hakeem Bello, Fashola listed several requests his ministry has approved for Lagos adding that Ambode failed to acknowledge he spoke with Minister who explained on going processes to him.
Fashola revealed that Lagos government has refused to provide land for National Housing Programme.
Fashola said further: “The allegations of lack of cooperation from the Ministry and frustration of Lagos State Government development initiatives are simply not true and the facts do not bear them out.
“In 2016, the Hon Minister for Power Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, approved the use of the Federal Ministry of works yard at Oworonsoki for Lagos State Government to create a lay-by to ease traffic.
“The Hon Minister also approved that Lagos State be granted the Rights to manage the Street Lighting on the 3rd Mainland Bridge to support the security initiatives of the State, a request which the previous Federal Government administration had denied Lagos State for years.
“During the same year the Hon Minister also supported the approval of the World Bank Loan of $200m to Lagos State, again a request the previous administration had denied Lagos State.
“As far as International Airport Road which is currently the ground for alleged “frustration” is concerned, the correct position is that the Lagos State Government presented a request for FOUR roads that it would wish to take over.
“This is consistent with the position being canvassed by the Hon Minisiter for States who are interested to apply to take over Roads that are within their States.
“The Ministry has presented the Memorandum conveying the request of the Lagos State Government to the Federal Executive Council as was done with a similar request by the Kaduna State Government in 2016.
“Due to the fact that TWO of the roads also connect Ogun State, the Federal Executive Council could not reach an immediate decision on them because it requested the input of the other State Government affected.
“The Kaduna State Government requested the Federal Government to transfer two roads within Kaduna Metropolis to the State in November 2015. Due process was followed and the request of the State Government was approved in August 2016, a period of ten months.
“Federal Executive Councill Memorandum are debated and commented upon by all members and in cases of roads, surveys, maps and other material have to be provided to assist members understand the location and connectivity of the roads, (in this case Four roads), in order to assist how they vote on the Memorandum.
“As far as the Presidential Lodge is concerned, it is under the management of the Presidency and not the Ministry.
“After the approval by Mr President that the Presidential Lodge be handed over to the State Government, there was a directive to the Ministry to work out the modalities for handing over.
“The Ministry has prepared a vesting instrument to convey the transfer and all that is needed is a survey plan.
“The Presidential Lodge is a high security location and officials of the Ministry also require security clearance to enter in order to do any works.
“Access to the lodge is not under the control of the Ministry.
“The motive behind this public accusations must therefore be scrutinized coming barely a week after the Governor spoke with the Honorable Minister, Mr Babatunde Fashola SAN on the outstanding requests of the State for several minutes and the Minister took time to explain the situation of things to the Governor. (The first telephone conversation the Governor has had with the Minister since May 29, 2015).
“If there is any lack of co-operation it is on the part of the State Government that has refused to acknowledge not to talk of approving the Ministry’s request for Land of the National Housing Programme in Lagos.
“The Ministry is not frustrated by this lack of response and remains optimistic that a response will come from Lagos State.
“The Ministry remains committed to serving the Government and Good People of Lagos and will treat all their requests on Merit and in accordance with necessary due process as will be done to other States.
“As far as the refund of N51Billion is concerned this is not a new item. Almost all if not all states have these claims and the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing has verified these claims.
“What is left is the process of raising the finance to pay the Debt owed to the States.
“Those who are familiar with the workings of Government will attest to the fact that it is an intricate sequence of processses, consultation and collaboration.
“Equating processes to a lack of co-operation is therefore akin to creating a storm in a tea cup.”