•Says he performed worse than many governors in his set
•Flays Buhari over opacity in handling of oil revenues, social investment funds
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
A spokesman of the Atiku Abubakar 2023 presidential campaign, Dr Daniel Bwala, has disputed claims by supporters of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, that he (Tinubu) practically built Lagos as governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.
In an interview with News Central, an online news outlet, Bwala argued that as a former national capital and a former colony, Lagos already had the trappings of a developed city.
He stressed that the agenda being pushed that Tinubu is the father of modern Lagos was baseless, insisting that Tinubu actually did worse than many governors in his set.
According to Bwala, Lagos already had several infrastructure put in place by the federal government as well as the colonial administration before Tinubu took over in 1999, including the airport, seaport as well as the security architecture which he inherited.
“They are pushing it as an agenda or as a rhetoric that he did well in Lagos. But I will tell you that between 1999 and 2007, if you take out context, he actually performed worse than some governors in Nigeria.
“This is because even the Lagos they said he improved the revenue, he only collected tax. All the infrastructure needed for a state or for a country to develop were already on ground.
“Lagos used to be the Nigerian national capital. Before Nigeria was formed, Lagos was a colony. You had all the infrastructure for economic development. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu did not establish them.
“There was seaport, there was airport, you had commercial activities. All the embassies were there. So transactions with foreign embassies in Lagos, all the hotels were headquartered in Lagos. All the banks are headquartered in Lagos. All the security agencies operated from Lagos.
“Every facility and infrastructure for economic development was in Lagos. He didn’t build them. Asiwaju did not invite or introduce or bring to Lagos any serious foreign or domestic investor and these revenues we are talking about that they claimed he generated, it’s just that the previous governments didn’t have the infrastructure in collecting them,” he opined.
Bwala posited that even the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that Tinubu’s supporters had always boasted that he increased, did not have much basis, since anyone offered a huge commission on a deal will be motivated to exceed expectations.
“So what he did throughout this period was to collect tax. That’s what they claim by revenue. And even then, the reason he did that was because the company that was collecting the tax is allegedly traceable to him.
“If you pick a man on the street and you tell him, I want you to collect tax in a given area and your percentage is 30 per cent, he will be optimal , he will be highly effective. This is the summary,” Bwala added.
On the other hand, the Atiku campaign spokesman pointed out that Tinubu was destroying basic democratic principles in Lagos state by ensuring only persons he endorses get any position in the state.
“But let me tell you what he did in Lagos. He attempted to destroy democracy and wanted to introduce what we call monarchical democracy, a democracy that is not reflected by the will and wishes of the people.
“It is reflected by the choice of a man and the people he has around him. He introduced the kind of politics in Nigeria we call ‘follow the queue’. He was the only governor in Nigeria that during the period of seven years , he had to impeach his deputy governor three times and changed them.
“He is the only politician in Nigeria that nobody wins under his tutelage unless the person is chosen or positioned by him. You don’t win by your popularity or because you have ideas, but whether he has approved you,” he argued.
Bwala stated that the House of Assembly in Lagos, throughout Tinubu’s period never had independence.
“This is a man they said promotes democracy . In fact when allegedly the drug conviction in Chicago happened and Gani Fawehinmi was all over the place that he should be probed or prosecuted, the assembly sat down and all they did was clear him,” he said.
Also, Bwala criticised the Muhammadu Buhari administration for the alleged lack of transparency in its handling of Nigeria’s oil revenues as well as the so-called social investment funds.
He argued that despite the fact that the rest of the oil-producing countries and multinational companies were cashing out on the back of rising international oil prices, Nigeria’s economy remains depressed.
He maintained that in the past when there were periods of oil boom, Nigerians would ordinarily feel the impact, but noted that under the Buhari administration the reverse has been the case.
“The war between Russia and Ukraine has created an advantage for every country that exports oil because there is an increase in oil price. In fact, it is projected that by this December if the crisis continues, the value of oil per barrel in the international market will be between $150 a barrel to $200 to a barrel.
“During this period of crisis, Saudi Aramco not only profited, but they posted a profit of $90 billion from which they put some in their stakes in the US, and some they deployed back to their economy. Nigeria made profits, they have not been able to tell us what they did with it,” he lamented.
Bwala stated that when he recently challenged the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the issue, his excuse was that that the more profit Nigeria is making out of the sale of the oil, the more responsibilities it has to take care of.
“That is called irresponsibility. So I ask the question, is it a curse to enjoy oil boom? Because in the 70s, when we had oil boom, you saw what Nigeria did with the oil?
“The simple answer to that is the irresponsibility of the government in not dealing with the removal of subsidy, because they are actually paying some few individuals in Nigeria with the subsidy instead of channelling these funds to productive areas of the economy,” he added.
Alleging that most of the social investment funds disbursed by the current government end in private pockets, he wondered why there was no data on who is getting what under the scheme.
He added that it is the reason the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has refused to believe that government has no money to meet their demands.
“The National Assembly committee summoned these individuals managing the funds because of the volume of amounts that they claimed to have disbursed. When they came, they couldn’t produce data.
“All of them, from the intervention to humanitarian ministry, even the one the Minister of Labour is executing, he refused to give the data.
“Their defence was that the data contains the names of the beneficiaries, their BVN numbers and their contact numbers and that will amount to breach of privacy. I have never heard in this life that kind of baseless excuse. That’s not how democracy works,” he added.
According to him, the National Assembly is empowered by law to perform oversight functions, because they also have the power to approve monies and loans and there has to be a congressional hearing for the sake of accountability.
“You cannot ask the National Assembly to go to the streets and start verifying,” he maintained.
Recently, Bwala stated, the National Assembly came up with a finding that out of the 100 million litres of oil that they say Nigeria consumes every day, 60 per cent goes outside the country.
“So we are subsidising a private few. There has never been a time in our democracy since 1999 where the members of the government show so much degree of disdain for the parliament like this government.
“Some will appear, one will fake that he is fainting, one will come and walk out on them, then one will not show up. They have never accounted for anything about the social investment programme,” he insisted.
He also called on the government to account for the COVID-19 relief fund , stressing that despite several calls for accountability, the managers of the fund have refused to do so.
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