- As Governor hosts a delegation from Royal College of Defence Studies, United Kingdom
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Monday made a strong case for the diversification of the nation’s economy saying aside the fact that the present mono-cultural economy of oil and gas is transient, total dependence on it was robbing the country of the development of its major resource, the human resource.
Fashola, who spoke at the Lagos House, Alausa, while hosting a 14 member delegation from the Royal College of Defence Studies, United Kingdom, said although it is important to pay attention to oil and gas as the strategic resource and life wire of the nation, it was more urgent to pay attention to the people by way of education, provision of skills and other empowerment as the basis for diversification.
The Governor, who had an interactive section with his guests told the senior military officers, “Yes, it is important to pay attention to the strategic resource that provides a sizeable portion of our incomes and revenues. But it is much more important to pay attention to the people in the way they utilize those resources ultimately and that will be the basis really for diversification”.
According to him, “It is important to educate them, to strengthen them in terms of healthcare and life expectancy; to provide skills for them by way of education and it is only those skills that can form the basis and totality of understanding that resource itself is not an end but only a means to a larger end to do many more things in our society”.
Recalling that until the late 1950’s nobody was talking of oil and gas in Nigeria but Agriculture and agric produce, Fashola insisted, “Across the world, in spite of oil and gas as a major resource, the most important resource really any nation can have is her people. Oil and gas today is only a seasonal resource”.
“Of course, there are local issues in terms of securing oil assets, oil platforms and all of that but they only go back, in my view, as demonstrative of the reaction to a lack of education and therefore a lack of skills to earn a living in a competitive and more productive way”, the Governor said.
Acknowledging that the nation has experienced some boom and bursts in the management of the mono-cultural economy with the present boom being the longest, the Governor warned, “This will not be forever; so it is important also, not only as we see it today but that we ensure that the proceeds that come in today are put into maximum use in terms of infrastructure, investment to support the totality of our population; infrastructure such as Transport, Energy, Health facility and so on and importantly, of course, educational facilities”.
Fashola also reiterated his call for multi-level policing which, according to him, would give the federating states more participatory role in the area of security arguing that to the extent that the state government has a judiciary, a lawmaking institution by way of a Parliament, it must have the necessary coercive power to enforce its laws.
The Governor, who was responding to a question by one of the delegates on the separation of powers in the nation’s federal system, said, “But the truth be told, the place where I would like the states to have more participatory role is in the area of security, particularly in the area of municipal policing so that there is multi-level policing even as the Federal Government retains its current policing capacity”.
“But now there is a debate going on out there that why should it be so because of our past experience; because that was how it was before the military intervention in the late 1960s and the police was centralized”, the Governor said adding that contrary to such notions, the municipal policing would only take care of places where arms may not be needed.
Such places, he said include, securing the people and enforcing laws, traffic laws, environmental laws, issues relating to domestic violence, protection of women at the local level, adding, “These are areas that will not create any conflicts at all if they are kept within the ambits of the states”.
Advancing more reasons for such a multi-level policing, Fashola said, “There is a lot more that we can do, not only in terms of crime management but also in employment, the ability to employ people and develop career in law enforcement for young graduates who have the competence and take them off the streets.
“We will also create a sense of local ownership of protecting our local neighbourhoods instead of depending on federal officers who do not always have the necessary local knowledge or local experience and neighbourhood connections that are very critical in resolving crimes; getting information, identifying suspects and so on”, he said.
The Governor also expressed the need for more powers to the federating states in the country pointing out that such devolution of powers would accelerate the development of the whole country in that the states would have more latitude to expand their horizons and capacity for development which would ultimately result to the prosperity of the whole country.
Taking Power for example, the Governor said until recently, the authority to distribute Power was the exclusive prerogative of the Federal Government pointing out that such situation was a disincentive to investment in the sector as, according to him, no state would want to generate power it will not be able to distribute.
He said as a result of the centrality of authority which was derived from years of constitution written by the Military, the ability of the states to continuously express themselves within the Federal Republic of Nigeria was limited especially in terms of the ability to do things at their own speed.
Citing example with Lagos, the Governor said, “We have issues in Lagos, like the control of our waterways. We can do very well without those interference from the Federal agencies so that we can ramp up development on our local water transportation. It’s like having ropes round your ankle, sometimes in places where you want to move faster”.
On the use of taxes, Fashola said what has happened in the State was not as a result of new tax laws adding, “What has happened is only simply by the engagement of professionals, use of technologies, increase of checks and balances. It is not something that has come as a result of a new tax law. The law has always been there”.
“What we have done is to accelerate and dedicate ourselves to the process of collection and make people see the value of those collections by ensuring that they see the delivery of social services and of course there is also enforcement, sometimes we have to go to court to prove the point”, he said.
He noted that the coming general elections would be conducted peacefully in spite of the present threat of insecurity in the country adding, “But I believe also that we will be done with it, hopefully in shorter time, in a way that it will not impede the ability of Nigerians to make the choice that they are entitled to make at the next elections”.
Welcoming the delegation to the State, the Governor expressed the hope that the period they would be in the country, particularly in Lagos, would afford them the opportunity to be able to interact sufficiently with the people in order to put some content in the purpose of their mission.
Earlier, in his opening address, leader of the delegation, Rear-Admiral Jonas Haggren said the delegation was made up of officers from nine countries adding that they were in Lagos as part of the tour of three African countries to study strategies of leadership including economic and political strategies.
Present at the occasion from the State Government side included, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule, Chief of Staff, Mr. Lanre Babalola, Commissioners for Information and Strategy, Commerce and Industry, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Works and Infrastructure and Special Duties, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, Mrs. Sola Oworu, Mr. Ade Ipaye, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and Dr. Wale Ahmed, among other members of the State Executive Council and top government functionaries.
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