By Gboyega Akinsanmi
The Chairman of Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, has said Lagos State deserves special support from the federal government, not only because the state is the former federal capital territory, but also because of undue pressure its growing population exerts on its infrastructure on daily basis.
Ashafa, currently representing Lagos East senatorial district in the National Assembly, has also revealed he has fully executed 96 projects; initiated 26 bills and sponsored 12 motions within seven and half years he had served in the Senate.
He made case for special support for the state during a telephone conversation with THISDAY at the weekend, noting that he would work with his colleagues across the federation to ensure the federal government grant the state special status if re-elected next year.
Ashafa, a two-term senator from Lagos East, is seeking re-election to the ninth National Assembly on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), which according to him, is driven by the need to complete his unfinished task.
However, a member of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Bayo Osinowo, and an APC chieftain from Epe, Chief Lanre Rasaq, have entered into the senatorial race, thereby making the contest a three-horse in the primary election scheduled to hold on October 3.
In conversation with THISDAY, Ashafa explained his decision to seek re-election to the ninth senate, noting that he had a mission “to push for special status for Lagos State in the senate. I have worked on this initiative the last seven years, but the bill suffered setback on the altar of national politics on three different occasions.
“Lagos State deserves special support from the federal government. The state is the economic gateway of Nigeria. Aside, millions of people move in and out of the state regularly, thereby making it imperative that we continue to build on our infrastructure.
“Lagos State, also, generates and remits to the Federation Account the highest corporate taxes in the country. This tax receipt is then shared across the entire country without due consideration for the state that generates the lion’s share of the funds,” he said.
He acknowledged that senators from other geo-political zones “have not really bought into this idea. We cannot force our will on the people of Nigeria. We, in the Senate, must engage our colleagues; debate the issues around Lagos special status intelligently; build strong consensus and eventually get a fair deal for the people of Lagos.
“I can tell you that this is already happening. Senator Remi Tinubu and I are working extremely hard to make this happen. Before the completion of the ninth senate, I believe we will have made tremendous progress on this. Pushing for special support for Lagos State is at the heart of my re-election bid,” the senator noted.
Speaking on what he achieved in the last seven and half years in the senate, the lawmaker disclosed that he completed at least 96 projects; initiated 26 bills as well as sponsored 12 motions apart from hundreds of women and youths he claimed to have empowered.
Specifically, Ashafa cited the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Bill, which passed into law in July 21, 2016, replaced the 61 year old obsolete Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955, noting that it would encourage the public-private partnership (PPP).
He cited the Nigerian Transport Commission Bill, which was passed exactly ten years after it was first sponsored. He said the commission “will create a multi-modal transport system that will drive the nation’s transport policy and engender speedy economic development.”
He said: “I am glad that we will be running a direct primary election where the people will get a chance to pick their preferred candidate based on a track record of performance, competence, and results. My record speaks for itself. I have been able to complete 96 projects, sponsored 26 bills and 12 motions in my time at the Senate.
“I will consider the work we did with the railway bill and the Nigerian Transport Commission as the most important for me. This is because we were able to ensure that we created a level playing field for private sector participation in the transportation sector.
“We also dealt with and eliminate various anti-competition hurdles that discourage several individuals in the private sector from investing their resources in the economy. The idea that the Kano to Lagos and the Lagos to Calabar railway will be completed in record time largely due to private funds, made possible by the legislative support that we continue to provide in the senate.”