Fashola Under Fire For Saying Obasanjo Should Have Built Rails, Roads, Instead Of $12bn Debt Cancellation
Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, on Saturday came under fire for criticizing former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as partly responsible for Nigeria’s weak infrastructural base.
Speaking in an interview on Channels Television, the minister said that instead of paying off the country’s external debts, the ex-Nigerian leader should have invested in capital projects across the country.
The ex-Lagos State governor has been minister under the present administration since its inception in 2015.
He said 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.
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.
He 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.
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.
Fashola, while defending the current administration’s tendency for borrowing, 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.
On Saturday morning, “Fashola,” was trending on Twitter, with young Nigerians blasting the minister.
“So Fashola came out of hiding to tell us that governance is not magic coming, from someone he said he can fix Nigerian power problem in six month and failed shameful and woefully at it. Fashola will eventually go into oblivion,” said @UnekuE.
@iykimo wrote: “Nigerians are complaining that this regime has plunged the country into debt trap.
“Fashola is saying OBJ shouldn’t have paid off part of Paris Club debt to get debt forgiveness.
“APC is taking Nigeria back to 1999.6 years of APC misrule.”
@RealSolaKuti wrote: “Fashola: Obasanjo Should’ve Built Rails, Roads, Instead of $12bn Debt Cancellation.
“Says the man who has not been able to complete Lagos-Ibadan expressway in 5 years.”