By Segun James
Lagos State governorship candidates at a debate yesterday expressed different opinions on the alleged failure of the state government to domesticate the Freedom of Information Act and what they would do differently in promoting accountability and transparency in government.
The four candidates were Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi of the Action Democratic Party (ADC) and the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Owolabi Salis.
In the debate, organised by The Platform and broadcast on Channels TV, the candidates promised to ensure that government was more open.
Responding to a question on how transparency would improve, Agbaje said he would domesticate the FoI Act, which was passed by the National Assembly eight years ago.
He said, “The Lagos State government has been running an opaque system. Nobody knows about award of contracts.
“You cannot be accountable if you are not transparent. In my first 100 days in office, I will domesticate the FoI Act,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said he would look into the FoI matter but said he would first set up a portal through which the people of Lagos State could communicate with his government directly.
Gbadamosi, however, said there was no need domesticating the FoI Act since the Court of Appeal had ruled that it already applies to every state.
He, however, said it was unfortunate that the Lagos State Government had appealed against the Appellate Court’s ruling at the Supreme Court.
The ADP candidate said the FoI Act was not sufficient as regards promoting transparency, adding that it didn’t cover financial statements.
The candidates – except Sanwo-Olu – also lamented the negative effects of vested interests in the state, which had affected the prosperity of the state negatively.
The governorship candidate of the AD, Chief Owolabi Salis, said the commonwealth of the state was in the hands of an individual.
“I want to release the commonwealth to the people. Lagos is the image of the African black nation and I am going to open Lagos to the rest of the world. This state should not be ruled this way,” he said.
Gbadamosi said that if elected, he would use the money that Alpha Beta Consulting was generating to develop the state.
Alpha Beta, a consulting firm given exclusive rights to collect Internally Generated Revenue on behalf of the Lagos State Government, was in 2018 accused of tax fraud to the tune of N100 billion.
Agbaje said pupils in Lagos schools were not exposed to technology, adding that the state government blocked Google plan for selfish reasons.
He said, “Those that have been there for the past 20 years have put obstacles on technology. We have had Google that wanted to give us free Internet, but they keep putting blockage for vested interest and that is what we are going to do.”
However, Sanwo-Olu called for caution, adding that the platform was not for making baseless allegations.
On how they would tackle the traffic congestion in the state and the Apapa Port area in particular, the candidates all agreed that there was a need for other means of transport to be developed.