Metro Babalakin at 60

Babalakin at 60


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Babalakin at 60







Doers are defined by their doings.  Two important development projects demonstrate the importance of Resort Group Chairman Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN), who turns 60 on July 1.

A development-minded doer, he was on familiar turf at the 2019 annual lecture of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in Lagos, where he spoke on “Infrastructure Development and Growth in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges.”

Babalakin shared some of his group’s experiences concerning the Murtala Mohammed Airport Domestic Terminal 2 (MMA2) and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

He said MMA2 “was built against the run of play, those who gave us the project did not want the project completed… How do you cope with that?”

He continued: “It’s been 12 years since we completed MMA2 and no government… has done anything comparable. This is because infrastructural development is… about serious commitment and a lot of intellectual rigour.”

”The Lagos-Ibadan expressway project is unthinkable,” he said.  ”We signed the contract in 2009 to design, build, operate and transfer… they terminated the concession for lack of performance without disclosing to the public that they had held us down for 22 months.”

Babalakin added: “It is sad that seven years after the project was cancelled, the road is only 40% ready. They are building 40% of what we wanted to build and the project has no design.

It is just a repeat resurfacing of the 1977 road. The architecture of that place has changed phenomenally since 1977 and our design accommodated all the changes… Our total cost was N112b. Now, over N350b has been spent on 40% of what we planned to build and they are still at 40%.”

In 2017, when the Federal Government announced plans to concession 22 airports, Babalakin observed that “our eye-opening effort had led to the upgrading of some airports in Nigeria and the decision of the Federal Government to concession airports.”

Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika recently received the Outline Business Case Certificate of Compliance for the concession of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano International Airports from the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

”With these certificates of compliance we will go ahead to the Federal Executive Council for approval for the full business of concession to proceed and that will turn the airport terminals to their full potential in private hands…” Sirika said.

It remains to be seen whether the process and the outcome of the agreements would advance public-private partnership.

It will take much more than words to achieve public-private partnerships that work; and it is only when such collaborations work that the country can enjoy the benefits.

Babalakin is a consistent and convincing advocate of the public-private partnership approach to development. Guided by personal experience, he listed the enemies of public-private partnership in Nigeria  at the 2016 Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, including the attitude of the government, lack of respect for sanctity of contracts and the rule of law, lack of investor security, corruption and malice.

His thoughts on the country’s underdevelopment are thought-provoking. “When we break down the issues, we’ll see that what we are suffering from in this country is a very deep level of ignorance,” he stressed at the CIBN event.

He argued: “In the course of the evolution of the country, we got our educational system wrong. So you have a system of education that doesn’t teach people what they should be asking for.

They don’t even know what their rights are. You can go through primary, secondary school and university today without knowing that it is important to have a clean environment.

“You could go through these whole processes and not realise that the government owes you anything.

You could go through these without knowing that it is fundamental to building a society that we all learn to tell the truth and you say you want to develop infrastructure. Where do you start from?”

He illustrated the problem with an anecdote: “Last week, I had a meeting somewhere in Surulere on Ajao Street. I got there at about 1:30pm.

The water level was about one and a half feet and I saw students returning from school rolling up their trousers and wading through the water.

I saw mothers doing the same thing and they were smiling all the way because really, they don’t believe it’s anybody’s responsibility to ensure that the place is drained.

“They believe it is their lot that they found themselves there and God can by miracle take them out and they would not look back.

They would expect the other people too to go and pray to God to take them out of the situation. When you have that level of lack of demand or any form of entitlement, how do you begin to drive the system? How do you start?”

This lesson is about development consciousness.  When the people are development-conscious, they will understand that it is their responsibility to ensure that the government lives up to its responsibility.

In November 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented that n1 trillion had been earmarked for constituency projects in the last 10 years without visible grassroots benefits.

National Assembly members in the period were to blame, according to an investigation.   Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Chairman Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye said: “Constituency projects are intended to be developmental, such as provision of water, rural electrification, rural clinics, schools, community centres and bursary for indigent students.

”In the light of annual budgetary allocations to constituency projects and based on actual releases by the government, it is firmly believed that the impact of constituency projects on the lives of ordinary Nigerians ought to be more visible…

The concern is that in Nigeria, rather than address the needs of constituents, many constituency projects have become avenues of corruption.”

Development is human-driven, just as underdevelopment is human-driven. The point is that constituents affected by undelivered constituency projects should demand explanations from their representatives.

When the people ask questions about underdevelopment, the government will need to provide answers to underdevelopment.

“The Nigerian system today is still very pedestrian. We haven’t started the race,” Babalakin lamented at the CIBN event. This is food for thought as the country struggles with underdevelopment.

It is noteworthy that Babalakin was born three months before Nigeria’s independence from British rule on October 1, 1960.

He champions development by constantly highlighting the difference between development and underdevelopment.

Babalakin at 60 Babalakin at 60
Babalakin at 60
Parrot Nigeria
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