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No Money Was Stolen” – Fashola Denies Alleged Illegal Payments In Ministry

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 Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN

Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has dismissed a report on alleged illegal payments in the erstwhile Ministry of Power, Works and Housing he headed until 2019. The Mnistry of Power is now a standalone ministry led by Saleh Mamman.

In an investigative report published last week, Premium Times had reported that between September and December 2019, a princely ₦4.6 billion was illegally paid into the private accounts of some directors and employees of the erstwhile ministry.

The medium reported that the ministry’s payments of monies into private accounts violates chapter 7, section 701 of the financial regulation of the country.

But responding in a statement he personally signed, Fashola described the report as “stupid” and “irresponsible journalism.”

The minister explained that not all government officials have enrolled on the Integrated Payment Platform and Information System (IPPIS).

He said this had led the Directors of Finance and Accounts (DFAs) to obtain approval of the Accountant General of the Federation (AuGF) to pay these monies through the accounts of an approved few who were on the platform.

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Fashola noted that those approved then collect the money and disburse to the beneficiaries who sign receipts all of which are retired and available for verification as approved by the AuGF.

He further explained that the move was to ensure that government work was not hampered.

The minister emphasised that no money was stolen or is missing.

“The stupidity of the THOUGHT that a public officer will take such money on a consistent and repeated basis with impunity reveals the mindset of Premium Times about what they can do in such circumstances,” Fashola said.

“The pen writes what the mind thinks. That stupidity is magnified by the thought that the public officer who is trying to steal would be paying the money into his bank account where it can be found.

“The stupidity initially informed my decision not to respond to Premium Times in their latest publication headlined under my Name. It is a continuing line of a series of Attack FASHOLA.

“Regrettably, what Premium Times has done is to damage its reputation as a news medium for those who seek the truth.

“Clearly, no investigation was undertaken in respect of this publication as the report was from “Open Portal.”

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“If it was from the Open Portal then there was nothing to hide. If Premium Times had conducted any investigation it will find and report that payments like this occurred in many other ministries and have been a source of concern reported in other media by Compliance Authorities.

“If Premium Times investigated, it would have found and reported that Ministers do not manage accounts and finances of Ministries.

“A little investigation would have shown Premium Times that Directors of Finance and Accounts (DFAs) are those who do this job and they are staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and seconded to the Ministries as part of financial controls.

“If Premium Times investigated it would have found and reported that government in 2007 initiated a payment platform called Integrated Payment Platform and Information System (IPPIS).

“Any well meaning and right thinking member of the public will recall that this administration has been engaging all sectors of Government to fully migrate to the IPPIS platform.

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“What has happened is that not all Government Officials who, from time to time, needed to be paid for approved expenses were registered on the platform.

“In order to ensure that government work was not hampered, the DFAs sought and obtained approval of the Accountant General to pay these monies through the Accounts of an Approved few who were on the platform.

“Those so approved then collect the money and disburse to the beneficiaries who sign Receipts all of which are retired and available for verification as approved by the Accountant General.

“The Accountant General has recently issued new guidelines to deal with this process because not all public officials have fully enrolled on IPPIS and the DFAs have the mandate to comply and not FASHOLA.

“In all, no money was stolen or is missing. There is No Smoking Gun to criminalize Fashola.

“If anything has been stolen it is the Trust of the public by Premium Times. I will not believe anything they write again. This is not investigative Journalism. It is Irresponsible Journalism

Housing

LASG REFUTES SOCIAL MEDIA ALLEGATIONS OF CONDONING PLANNING INFRACTIONS IN OSBORNE FORESHORE AND PEACE VALLEY ESTATE, MAGODO

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The Lagos State Government has unequivocally denied a social media allegation that it was tacitly condoning the violation of Physical Planning laws by some developers in both the Osborne Foreshore Pase II and Peace Valley Estate, Magodo.

The Lagos State Government position was contained in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako, in Alausa on Monday.

One Mr. Yacoob Abiodun, who addressed himself as an Urban Planner/ Planning Advocate, had taken to the social media with the allegation that residents of Osborne Foreshore Phase II and Peace Valley Zone, Magodo were crying foul of the activities of some developers “whose development on the two estates violate the extant Operative Development Plans and the Approval Order for the localities”

He also alleged the introduction of new Building Approval Order 2013-2033, sequel to the change of estate’s Master Plan, and wrongful classification and change of the Osborne Foreshore Phase II Approval Order without consultation with residents of the estate.

While expressing his displeasure at the twist of facts by the writer, the Physical Planning Commissioner said that it was important to correct the misinformation peddled in the social media report in order to disabuse the minds of Lagosians by setting the records straight.

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Salako retorted that contrary to insinuations, the residents of Osborne Foreshore Phase II had influenced the increase in height of the area from the original 4/5 to 10 floors, while Phase I still remained 4/5 floors.

He explained that the review of the Approval Order for Osborne Foreshore was precipitated by the continuous agitation of the residents as original allottees had brought about increase in height and density of the estate, while the Government came in to ensure a proper review to the benefit of all concerned.

Dismissing the allegation of non-involvement in the review, he stated that the ongoing review process, which was borne out of several consultations and engagements with the resident association, was in line with the extant regulations guiding development planning in the State.

He added that the review could not have been more inclusive, having met and dialogued with residents of the estate for more than ten times, the outcome of which was the Ministry’s encouragement of the residents association to engage a consultant, thereby leading to the engagement of Messrs. MOA Planners to prepare a revised Plan along with the review sent by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. The Revised Plan will still be subjected to stakeholders engagement before final Approval.

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” It is therefore disheartening that despite repeated dialogue, the latest of which was held with the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu three weeks ago, the best that the Osborne- Foreshore Residents Association Phase II (OSFRA) could do was to resort to the social media to intimidate and embarrass the Lagos State Government”, he said.

He averred that the writer’s portrayal of the incident at the Peace Valley Zone, Magodo was not less misleading than the entire writeup as it attempted to denigrate gallant officers of the Nigeria Police who were in the estate on lawful assignment; whereas the Police officers were not only professional and diligent but they acted with utmost respect for the rule of law and engagement.

The Commissioner, who, being present at the scene, intervened alongside the former Prelate of the Methodist Church, Pa Sunday Ola Makinde to restore order and get the understanding of the police on the arrest warrant, expressed his dismay at the erroneous social media report which exagerated the incident and glorified some people who claimed to have twarted the arrest of the estate chairman.

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Salako noted that it had become apparent from the unwarranted social media outbust that some people were out there to take advantage of the social media and information technology for personal ends.

He emphasised that no amount of pressure would compel the government to outsource its responsibility for Physical Planning to groups or individuals while the State Government would continue to protect the built environment and relate to everyone equally, irrespective of status or creed.

Mukaila Sanusi
Assistant Director
Public Affairs
March 1, 2021

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Housing

Lekki Estate Residents List Conditions for Toll Gate Re-opening

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Residents of estates around Lekki, under the aegis of Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA), have given the Lagos State Government and Lekki Concession Company (LCC), managers of the Lekki/Epe Expressway, conditions for the re-opening of the Lekki Toll Gate.

 

These were contained in a press statement issued by the association, comprising over 80 estates and communities, on Sunday. In the statement signed by Olorogun James Emadoye and Mr. Gbemi Adelekan, LERSA President and Secretary-General respectively, the residents asked the state government and managers of the road to provide viable alternative roads to the tolled roads, implement round figure fees at the toll and immediately improve the tolling system technology to guarantee free flow at the toll gates before commencement of tolling.

 

LERSA noted that its members have been victims of insecurity and disruption of movement since the ENDSARS protests of October, which led to the destruction and eventual closure of the toll gate and Saturday’s protest against the order for its reopening.

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While appealing for restraint among angry youth, LERSA called on the government to allow free expression of discontent in a way that guarantees protection of lives and properties.

 

The association also called on LCC to create an enabling environment for people and businesses along this axis, adding that the experience of road users at the toll plazas on the road before the shutdown was very unpleasant.

 

“Our road experience prior to the October 20thshutdown of the toll gates was that of hardship and suffering, with the long traffic at the toll plazas. A tolled road is supposed to provide a quick, safe and motorable experience, where users will be happy to pay for,” the statement said.

 

It added that the government, through LCC, should realise that toll plazas cannot re-open and operated the way they were before the shutdown.

 

“Without a doubt, we are the only citizens in Nigeria that are forced to pay toll on a road that is less than 25km, completed in 14 years.   With the poor experience and services at the toll plaza, we are actually paying for inconveniences rather than for convenience, as we spend on the average of 20 to 30 minutes to pay. We, therefore, ask for viable alternative roads to the tolled roads, implementation of round figure fees at the toll and immediate improvement of the tolling system technology to guarantee free flow at the toll gates before commencement of tolling,” the statement added

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Housing

LASG STOPS LAND EXTENSION, RECLAMATION IN BANANA ISLAND,OSBORNE FORESHORE

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The Lagos State Government has issued a suspension order on all approvals in respect of land extensions into the Lagoon at Banana Island and Osborne Foreshore, Ikoyi.

The Government at the weekend, in a statement jointly signed by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako and his counterpart in the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Arc. Kabiru Ahmed Abdullahi, stated that it had noticed the increasing and continuing degradation of the Lagos shoreline as a result of indiscriminate illegal dredging, reclamation and land extensions into the Lagos Lagoon.

The statement reads: “of particular concern to the State Government are the extensions being illegally carried out at Banana Island and Osborne Foreshore, Ikoyi”, while it added that such land reclamation and extension activities had resulted in gross violations of the Physical Planning Laws of the State and impinged on the ecosystem of the entire area.

The Commissioners stated further that the indiscriminate illegal proliferation of dredging and reclamation practices had brought about serious distortion in the aesthetics of the shoreline with high potential for causing environmental degradation, which is capable of producing dire consequences if unchecked.

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The duo declared that: “Government hereby suspends all existing, pending and subsequent approvals in respect of all Land Extensions into the Lagoon at Banana Island and Osborne
Foreshore, Ikoyi”

The Lagos State Government also ordered the immediate cessation of all ongoing works, constructions, reclamations and other similar activities on account of extension approvals granted or being processed at Banana Island and Osborne Foreshore, Ikoyi.

In addition, it urged members of the public to comply forthwith with the Stop Work/ Suspension Orders or risk facing criminal charges and the confiscation of their dredging equipment by the Lagos State Government.

Mukaila Sanusi
Assistant Director Public Affairs
January 31, 2021

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