Nigeria’s government drive to achieve development through its economic growth and recovery plan (EGRP) has yielded 13,000 kilometres of roads nationwide, in 6 years fuelled by its massive spending on infrastructure.
This was disclosed by the country’s Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
According to businessday.ng, Fashola, who spoke at ‘An Evening with the Minister of Works and Housing’ hosted by the Lagos Business School recently, explained however that the roads were still under various levels of construction, rehabilitation, maintenance, etc, citing Bodo-Borno Bridge, Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano expressway among others.
He assured that all these road projects would be completed within the life of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, noting that a generation of Nigerians now travel by rail through the Lagos-Ibadan railway and the Abuja-Kaduna railway, both commssioned by the administration.
The minister, who was apparently defending an administration whose public perception is general non-performance across sectors, insisted that though people might not like what they do or believe what they say, they could not, in all honesty, disbelieve what they have done in the area of infrastructure.
“We believe that building infrastructure helps the economy to be productive; it also makes businesses to be efficient and competitive and the more efficient and competitive and efficient they are, the more they need manpower,” the minister said.
He explained why the present government has chosen to borrow extensively as they have, especially in the last couple of years which has raised eyebrow among Nigerians and their friends. “The only alternative to borrowing is raising taxation and yet that will do nothing,” Fashola reasoned.
From a national debt stock of $63bn, out of which $10.3bn were external loans in 2015, the Debt Management Office (DMO) says Nigeria’s public debt stock is N33, 107 trillion which is about $87.239 billion dollars) as at March 31, 2021. At the present exchange rate, the debt stock could be more.
But the minister said that the government was borrowing because it believes that borrowing to build infrastructure helps the country to become a better and competitive economy, adding that what limits or enhances business growth is the infrastructure or environment in which it operates.
“For us, enabling the private sector for optimum operation means providing the necessary infrastructure,” the minister noted, stressing that the only way to achieve inclusiveness, sustainability and development was to build infrastructure.
Responding, Suleiman Ndanusa, a Senior Visiting Fellow at Lagos Business School, agreed with the minister on the importance of infrastructure to business and economy, pointing out, however, that lack of funds has made infrastructure to be in deficit.
He agreed further that the present administration has done well in providing infrastructure, but they could have done better if, according to him, the administration had courted the private sector from the onset.
Nigeria lacks good roads. The country has the largest road network in West Africa and second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Its total road network is estimated at 200,000 kilometres. About 2,627 kilometres are said to be dualised while only 35 percent of the entire network is motorable.
This means that the country’s road infrastructure is in dire situation, needing a large chunk of investment to fix. A glimpse into the country’s infrastructure master-plan gives a better understanding of the situation.
According to the Nigerian Infrastructure Implementation Master Plan (NIIMP), the value of the country’s infrastructure deficit is $3 trillion, requiring about N100 billion annual investment for the next 30 years to bridge.
A recent report on global infrastructure problem puts it more succinctly. Globally, the report says, the infrastructure gap by 2040 is estimated at $15 trillion with Nigeria’s share of that put at ₦3 trillion.
It says that raising funds continues to be at the forefront of the national discourse. The National Pension Commission (PENCOM) has directed that Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) invest a minimum of 60 peercent of their infrastructure funds in projects within Nigeria. This is yet to happen.
The importance of roads infrastructure can hardly be over-emphasised. Apart from opening up communities, linking cities and facilitating trade and commerce, roads encourage and enable real estate investment. It reduces cost of construction and, by extension, house prices.