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Another Opportunity For Fashola

When he emerged as the favourite of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, then incumbent governor of Lagos State, not many persons gave Babatunde Fashola, a chance. But he soon became governorship candidate of then  Action Congress (AC) in 2006, and eventually the thirteenth governor of Lagos State.

Subsequent to his outstanding performance as governor of Lagos State and as an intensely loyal party supporter, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him minister in 2015. He was put in charge of the ministry of power, works and housing, a task considered too daunting for one person to take on. Consequently, his debut performance fell below par.

Surprisingly, the former governor was one of 14 ministers from Buhari’s first term who were reappointed last month by the president for his second term administration. During the official inauguration of the 43 ministers on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, the president announced that Sale Mamman would head the ministry of power.

Regardless, Fashola still held on to the ministry of works and housing, with Abubakar Aliyu declared as the minister of state for the ministry. With this appointment, Fashola has been divested of his three-in-one portfolio which weighed heavily on him and was responsible for his lacklustre accomplishments.

As works and housing minister, he will certainly be faced with challenges one of which is to give careful attention to housing and construction of roads in his second ministerial journey. Housing provision and road infrastructural development suffered a huge setback in his last tenure because of his focus on power.

With the timely eradication of power from his schedule, the former Lagos State governor will no longer be extenuated if he fails to strategise better and devote more energy to his assignments and facilitate the completion of many of the major road projects in the country.The truth is the lack of early and regular maintenance of our roads have increased accident rate and elevated criminal activities nationwide. But beyond the completion of roads within appropriate time, a new innovation in financing road development projects is long overdue.

Equally critical is housing. This sector under Fashiola’s watch deserves special attention. It is time the federal authorities considered seriously getting involved in social housing which is the global trend. If this novel development is put on ground, substantial impact by the ministry will be made on Nigerians.

Addressing the issue of allocation of houses to beneficiaries to undermine the activities of speculators who profiteer and sabotage the process is imperative. Also, Nigerians deserve a functional mortgage to enable them to take up space in housing schemes across the country.

Since after Buhari’s re-election in March this year, some Nigerians and real estate experts have been clamouring for the separation of the ministry of power, works and housing to enable the government concentrate on the three critical sectors of the economy. With a partial disengagement done, it is expected that issues in the sector will be addressed.

The combination of the three huge sectors into one ministry was one of the biggest mistakes of the Buhari’s administration’s first tenure. Following the error, obstacles in the sector, especially housing and roads, were inadequately undertaken.

But with the imperfect unbundling of the ministry, the construction industry will benefit since its initial encumbrance has been taken away. If things will be done properly, now is the time for Minister Fashola to take stock of all federal road projects and housing schemes across the country and give them the mandatory consideration.

Those uncompleted housing estates in the country may now be built. We need to give necessary publicity and professional involvement to those projects that are unknown to professionals in the industry. Thus, the structural conditions of houses in the various housing schemes have to be examined. Some of them are of low quality such that when occupants move in, they are faced with early maintenance crisis.

The predicaments of housing and construction industry in the country seem so complicated or compounded that they defy conventional approach. Deep ratiocination and strategy might not solve them except through a radical means that will require a strong political will which one is certain Raji Fashola might want to demonstrate to justify his undeserved second chance.

Alalibo lives in Port Harcourt.

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