Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola yesterday in London made some controversial claims about his state in an exchange with correspondents of Saharareporters.
Mr. Fashola was in London to participate in a seminar at the London School Economics. The seminar was titled "Lagos: Confronting Change in a Global Megacity".
During the question and answer session, Saharareporters asked Governor Fashola several questions regarding allegations of corruption against his government, the ownership of the companies involved in collecting internally generated tax revenues in the state as well as the perception that he was indifferent towards infrastructural development in areas in the state considered poor neighborhoods.
During the presentation, Gov. Fashola claimed that Lagos state had not experienced any fire incidents in the last three years, meaning since the end of 2007.
When reminded that there was a major fire incident that claimed 30 lives in Lagos earlier this year, the governor denied it. He said to the applause of the audience that the accident happened in Ogun State even though numerous newspapers had reported that the fire took place in front of the Michael Otedola Housing Estate in Lagos.
However, an investigative research by Saharareporters revealed that Lagos had several deadly fire incidents including multiple vehicles accidents, pipeline explosions and domestic infernos that claimed several lives in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
An obviously miffed Governor Fashola reacted angrily to a question Saharareporters put to him regarding allegations of corruption made against him by a group named "True Face of Lagos." The group’s efforts to expose Mr. Fashola’s alleged acts of corruption before the Lagos State Assembly have been stalled by court orders granted against the probe at the behest of the governor.
Governor Fashola would not address why he went to court to stop the probe. Even so, he challenged his accusers to present concrete evidence about his alleged corruption.
Mr. Fashola also denied that a company named Alpha Beta, which is involved in collecting taxes in the state, is owned by his predecessor, Mr. Bola Tinubu. He challenged Saharareporters to present "proof" of Mr. Tinubu's ownership of the company.
Governor Fashola systematically evaded directly addressing questions as to whether Alpha Beta was being over-compensated for its job of collecting internally generated revenues for the state. Many critics have accused Mr. Fashola of funneling huge pay-offs to his predecessor in fulfillment of a deal signed before Mr. Tinubu anointed him as a successor.