Fashola: Finishing Strong in Buhari’s Cabinet 

For Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, his brilliance and resilience in carrying out his responsibilities, especially with the recent construction of the Second Niger Bridge, have deservedly earned him accolades. Uzoma Mba reports that by all parameters, he is finishing strong 

Although President Muhammadu Buhari, is a man of little words, some of his recent gestures point to the fact that he is impressed with the brilliance with which a former Lagos State governor and Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, is carrying out his duties as a member of his cabinet. 

Sources close to the president say he is particularly satisfied with how Fashola scrutinises and supervises projects, thereby ensuring that they meet the standard of government and Nigerians.

In an obvious show of appreciation for a job well done, in July 2022, President Buhari approved the naming of the newly re-constructed Agege Railway Station after Fashola. Other notable beneficiaries of such gesture are former Lagos State governor and presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Apapa Station), Mobolaji Johnson (Ebute Metta Station), the late Lateef Jakande (Agbado Station) and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (Kajola Station), among others.

Later in October of the same year, Buhari conferred Fashola with the prestigious honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). The minister was listed alongside 443 other Nigerians, who had contributed to national development one way or the other.

Sometime in April 2018, the president openly commended Fashola; former Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the Kaduna State government, Julius Berger, and the security agencies for the roles they all played in the early completion of work on the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, saying he looked forward to such a display of inter-agency cooperation and efficiency in the operation of his entire federal government machinery.

During an interview with TVC recently, Fashola expressed some very important factors, which seemed responsible for his tenacity and commitment to achieving the ultimate possible result from every project in his ministry. 

According to him, the road projects were not the main promise President Buhari made to Nigerians, but economic recovery, so infrastructure development being the vehicle for economic growth, there is a need to give it all your best.

“What I do every year with regards to infrastructure, is to go back to the people from time to time and say, how is it this year, how long for example is your journey time, when you travel this year? And the report I have got year after year is that ‘my journey time is better this year than last year,’ because it is not a light bulb switch; it is a very well-coordinated progressive journey.

“Building road, for example, kilometer after kilometer until it is finished, let’s say like Lagos-Ibadan, 127km of dual carriageway, that is not something you do overnight, or the Abuja to Kano, 375km of dual carriageway, but as you progress, you’ll begin to feel, and so, we have enough feedback. Not what we say, what the people, who are using the roads are saying; that ‘I used to spend three hours on this road, I now spend one hour.’

“That is the economic impact, because the cost of traveling will reduce, and time spent in traffic will reduce. That time saved can be turned into other productive activities. And that is why I say you cannot isolate a conversation on infrastructure from the economy. President Buhari didn’t campaign on infrastructure, he campaigned on the economy, so this is a driver of the economy.

“In other places, we have built a road for example, what the survey shows us is that the land value across the adjoining areas, has increased by 30 to 40 percent. That land doesn’t belong to the federal government, they are individual communal corporate lands. So, those value asset improvement – capitalisation of assets if you like. So, they are richer because they can make more money with the increased value of their land.

“You can experiment with it in an area, where there is no road, when there is a road, your landlord is going to increase rent. That rent goes into his pocket. That is part of wealth creation. 

“You can also drill down the supply chain. On one project, I think it was a section of Lagos-Ibadan, when I asked the contractor to tell me how many suppliers he was using, he was using 145 suppliers, and this is how we touch the lives of people,” a very satisfied Fashola stated.

National Assembly member representing Alimosho I Federal Constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Mr. Bisi Yusuff, said President Buhari’s choice of Fashola as the Minister in charge of Power, Housing, and Works, had selected the best hands capable of driving the change agenda.

Another chieftain of the APC and member, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Chief Modestus Umenzekwe, who was convinced that the South East, had received significant interventions from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, expressed satisfaction about the understanding between President Buhari and Fashola.

He said, “You see I don’t normally discuss tribe, when I am talking about politics, but sometimes it is necessary for drawing a positive lesson in certain situations just as the question you asked. You see, that is part of the irony of Nigerian existence. Muhammadu Buhari from the North appointed Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) from the West to oversee the Works and Housing Ministries, and you see him doing the work without tribal considerations, and the President, on the other hand, also gave him free hand to do his work.

“What I advise the tribes is to synergise. Only the best should go for us. Those who were appointed in the last dispensation, who were predominantly of South East extraction, what did they do? History will be kind to the duo of Buhari and Fashola. I am sure of that.”

He said the APC, has done well in the aspect of infrastructure development and that everyone, irrespective of political leaning, would acknowledge that the APC, has done well in the area of infrastructure, because it can be seen in the entire six geo-political zones without minding if they voted for the party or not, because it is no more a party issue, but governance issue.

According to him, the APC government, has done very well in the South-East, saying, “If we must go by the ratio of votes from each region, I think APC loves the region. Let us be more practical now, look at the Second Niger Bridge at Asaba/Onitsha. 

“By the end of 2021, more than 60 federal road and bridge projects, across the five South-East states are ongoing, completed, or at various stages of progress and completion; financed through SUKUK bond and other deliberately designed funding mechanisms.

“Look at Sections 1 to 4 of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway was done by this government; construction of Ihiala-Orlu Road in Isseke town; Amafuo-Ulli with Spur (Ihiala-Orlu-Umuduru Section) – all in Anambra State. There is the rehabilitation of Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe Road Route Section II: Anambra/Imo States border – Ibinta-Okigwe Road; there is the construction of the Oseakwa bridge in Anambra State.

“We also have the rehabilitation of Old Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road (Agbogugu-Abia border Spur to Mmaku); rehabilitation of Nsukka-Obollo-Ikem-Ehamufu-Nkalagu Road in Enugu State; rehabilitation of Owerri-Umuahia Road Sections I, II & III spanning Imo and Abia States; rehabilitation of Bende-Arochukwu-Ohafia Road Section I in Abia State; rehabilitation of Abakaliki-Afikpo road sections I and II in Ebonyi State; and there is also the rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. Should I go on? These are verifiable landmark projects,” Umenzekwe stated.

Undeniably also is the help the opening of the Second Niger Bridge was to travellers this past Christmas season. The 1.6 km long bridge, 10.3 km Highway and Owerri interchange was intended to relieve the perennial traffic road users face on the existing Niger Bridge, especially during the Yuletide and it did just that.

The Second Niger Bridge, which is a key national infrastructure, with immense socio-economic benefits for the contiguous states and indeed the entire nation, was kicked off through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, in collaboration with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

Therefore, 42 months after the work began, the opening of the bridge for the yuletide eased traffic flow, improved road safety, and created greater opportunities for local residents by advancing the commercial viability of the immediate area and regenerating economic life.

Quote 

By the end of 2021, more than 60 federal road and bridge projects, across the five South-East states are ongoing, completed, or at various stages of progress and completion; financed through SUKUK bond and other deliberately designed funding mechanisms

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