The Chairman of the Resort Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has said ignorance was responsible for infrastructure deficit in Nigeria.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday at the Annual Lecture of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), themed “Infrastructure Development and Growth in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges,” Babalakin said Nigerians were suffering for “a deep level of ignorance”.
Explaining that the country has gotten its educational system wrong, the senior lawyer said the system did not teach people their rights and the fundamentals of building a strong society.
Babalakin, who is the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), said there was need for Nigerians to hold the government accountable and persistently demand for their entitlements.
He said development cannot happen in a situation where people are too ignorant of their rights to question the status quo.
“You can go through the primary, secondary and university systems today without realising that government owes you anything or knowing that telling the truth is fundamental in building a society and you say you want to develop infrastructure,” he said.
Explaining that infrastructural development was not about money but serious commitment and a lot of intellectual rigour, Babalakin cited an example of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2), which was built by one of his companies, Stabilini Visinoni Limited (SVL), 12 years ago and is being managed by another of his companies, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL).
The businessman said those who approved the concession for the terminal did not want the project completed, adding that he completed the project against the run of play.
“And from the first day, they took away 60 per cent of our revenue against our agreement,” he added.
He identified the problems he experienced with the government as ignorance, deliberate refusal to understand and malice.
“It’s been 12 years since we completed MMA2 and no government, including the state government, has done anything comparable. This is because infrastructural development is not about money. It is about serious commitment and a lot of intellectual rigour. A few terminals have been built but they are not workable,” he said.
On his challenges at MMA2, the lawyer said it took 10 years to prove that BASL was never indebted on MMA2.
“The Supreme Court only ruled on April 5 that government was owing us N132 billion. Where were the bankers since 10 years? They were nowhere to be found. As soon as there was a hitch, they surrendered us to be consumed by the system. We had a clear agreement on where the money was going to come from and when somebody breached the agreement, I expected them to file behind me to address the issue, but they didn’t do so. They just abandoned us,” he explained.