Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has blamed former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as partly responsible for Nigeria’s weak infrastructural base, saying that instead of paying off Nigeria’s external debts, the ex-Nigerian leader should have invested in capital projects across the country.
According to Fashola, previous governments which he said had access to a lot of money, under-invested in the country’s infrastructure, saying if he had the $12 billion, like the Olusegun Obasanjo government in 2005, he would have built rails and more roads.
The former Lagos State governor, who has been minister under the present administration since its inception in 2015, spoke during an interview on Channels Television.
In 2005/2006, the Paris Club wrote off $18 billion or 60 per cent of the $30 billion Nigeria owed the cartel, after months of negotiations, a development touted as one of the biggest achievements of the Obasanjo administration.
Fashola said that rather than deploy the funds prudently, the Obasanjo government decided to pay the country’s creditors to the detriment of the country, insisting that today, Nigeria has gone back to borrowing because the governments in the past ignored investment in infrastructure.
He said rather, the Obasanjo government decided to pay the country’s creditors to the detriment of the country, insisting that today, Nigeria has gone back to borrowing because the governments in the past ignored investment in infrastructure.
Although he did not mention names, Fashola specifically said that in 2005 (when Obasanjo was president), Nigeria had the opportunity to revamp its roads and rails, but rather was pursuing debt cancellation as state policy.
“At one time in this country, in 2005, we had $12 billion. At that time, these roads were bad. At that time there was no rail. But what did we do as a matter of state policy, it was just to pay creditors to our own detriment.
“I can only imagine if I had the opportunity then with $12 billion in my hand, we would have built rails and roads. What this government is dealing with, which I am responsible for the road side, is the infrastructure that will be enduring.
“Without the rails, we will not have roads that last. Trucks and heavy cargo is not meant for our roads. The jurisdictions we want to be like, don’t transport cargo, containers on their roads. That’s why I am so optimistic about tomorrow that if we advance this significantly, there will be a better tomorrow.
“We lost the opportunity to invest $12 billion and then we went back to borrow and the problems haven’t gone away and they will have to be dealt with,” he maintained.
While defending the current administration’s tendency for borrowing, Fashola argued that the assertion that Buhari was mortgaging the future of the nation’s children was untenable, saying that the government was only ‘positioning’ for tomorrow’s children.
“Every generation that’s responsible enough like us must position for tomorrow’s children. We should not leave this for them to come and do because it will be more expensive.
“That said, I think the way to go is to say that at the appropriate time, a tolling policy will be developed because for you to toll you must ordinarily develop alternatives. Government must also understand that not all of its infrastructure is of a commercial kind,” he stated.
The minister stressed that the Buhari government would continue to do its best to ensure that the country’s infrastructure is developed and brought at par with modern transportation systems like what obtains in other parts of the world.