Nigeria: On the throes of infrastructural boom?

 

NIGERIA, home to over 160 million people, has, over the years, been called the giant of Africa, due particularly to its large population and abundant natural resources. However, the ‘giant of Africa’, over the years, has been plagued by the corrupt attitude of its leaders and people in power. This has stalled the economic and infrastructural growth of the nation and encouraged the scourge of poverty among its citizens.

For decades, the nation depended on its agricultural products and later, with the discovery of crude oil, petroleum resources which till date, has helped grow the country’s economy but not without attendant crises from the Niger Delta region from where the bulk of the crude oil is extracted.

The nation was grossly lacking the basic infrastructure needed by its citizens, which was not helped by the corruption and careless attitudes of the then governments which led to a lot of good projects being abandoned midway or not adequately maintained.

But fast forward to the present day Nigeria and all that seems to be changing drastically. From the capital cities of states to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, it is obvious that most urban centres are wearing new looks, with major infrastructural projects being implemented by each state government to give necessary facelift to its immediate environment.

The visible changes that are taking place all over the nation range from various road constructions to building of bridges, rebuilding of drainage to the reconstruction of rail lines, upgrading and building of airports and stricter laws enacted to regulate corrupt practices between government officials and contractors. Even to the ordinary eye, according to an engineer, Femi Ogundele, infrastructural development is taking centre stage in Nigeria.

For example, the Federal Government, recently approved a contract worth N1.61trn for the modernisation of its railway system, and about 15 different railway projects were pencilled down for completion between now and 2015.

According to a document on the 2013 capital projects of key federal ministries released, 13 of the projects will receive attention this year at a total cost of N44.35bn.

The railway investment, it was learnt, would involve the construction of new rail lines across the country and rehabilitation of the existing narrow gauge lines. Also, the federal government’s agenda to revamp the sea and air ports will be valuable to federal, states and the local governments, importers and exporters.

Toeing the line of the FG’s transformation agenda, many states have also initiated and embarked upon various infrastructural developmental projects.

Apart from enhancing the aesthetic beauty of major cities in the country, the general development, according to societal critics, has also contributed immensely to the socio-economic sectors, more so, with the creation of the needed employment opportunities for jobless Nigerians.

Today, the construction industry is flourishing as everywhere one turns to there is one construction or the other going on.

According to Godson Ihenacho, an electrical engineer, Nigeria is in the throes of an infrastructural boom. “At the beginning of this political dispensation, we were made to know the agenda of some elected members, including the executive arm of the state. With the deplorable state of infrastructure in most states of the country, one would truly affirm the need for any government to focus mainly on infrastructure while making sure that collapsed public infrastructure is rebuilt to make life more comfortable for the people. I am happy that the governments of most states are taking note”.

Even cities which were known to be critically short of infrastructure are now changing. In this regard, Oyo State, for example, is not left behind in pursuing efficient urban renewal programme, aimed at making the state to compete favourably with other states in the provision of quality infrastructure for socio-economic transformation and sustainable development.

The Governor Abiola Ajimobi-led government had embarked on massive road construction and maintenance, pulling down old structures and relocating roadside traders to newly built markets. Today, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, is wearing a new look and residents are beginning to marvel at the new emerging mega city.

In Ogun State and in most states in the South-West, the same story is the order of the day, with each state governor embarking on state-wide constructions and restoration of state order.

A point of reference is Lagos which, over time and with successive administrations, had enacted laws prohibiting illegal roadside trading, parking, settlement, and with law enforcements agencies more diligent than before, dislodging illegal traders, while earthmoving equipment demolished marked illegal structures in many areas. Illegal structures built on drainage and walkways had been pulled down to pave way for easy movement and traffic flow. Also, the proposed Eko Atlantic City is a project of the Lagos State government that says volume about how aware governments have become about the importance of adequate and tasteful infrastructure for its residents. When completed, the Eko Atlantic City is estimated to accommodate over 400,000 residents and a daily flow of 250,000 commuters, thus increasing job creation for Nigerians and foreigners.

The Tinapa project in Cross River State and the Ibom Tropicana resorts in Akwa-Ibom are also testaments of infrastructural boom in Nigeria, with increased tourism potential.

Today, there is a massive inflow to develop present infrastructure. According to Ihenacho, this would generate economic and social benefit.

So, what are the gains from these infrastructural developments? The strong positive link between infrastructural investment and the rate of economic growth is empirically well established. No doubt, quality infrastructure is an ingredient for sustainable development.

According to an architect, Bala Shehu Awwal, without quality infrastructure, good roads, efficient transportation, sanitation and hygienic environment, thriving energy, it would be hard for any society to prosper because poor and inadequate infrastructure hampers growth, more importantly it limits access to penetration into the global economy.

“An environment with good infrastructure will lead to improved access to education and services such as health. It will generate employment and enhance any country’s ability to trade while reducing cost of goods and services. There will be ease for economic actors to do business in an improved, conducive environment. Access to good roads, railways and ports for instance, are essential for smooth running of such sectors as agriculture, industry and tourism. Efficient transport infrastructure will improve the delivery of other services. Towards achieving a stabilized and buoyant economy, improved infrastructure is a key ingredient to integrate into the global economy,” he said.

However, the question on the lips of many, as regards the renewed vigour and commitment with which governments across Nigeria are carrying out infrastructural projects is whether these projects would be adequately maintained in the coming years. Over the years, public facilities in Nigeria had been neglected or abandoned by successive governments and Nigerians argued if this wouldn’t be the case this time. According to Henry Aderibigbe, a public servant, the neglect and lack of maintenance of public facilities would, just as it had been before, lead to depletion or a state of disrepair in infrastructure and therefore make economic growth slow because infrastructural development in any country imposed on the cost of running business.

He stressed that infrastructure needs continuous upgrading in order to meet the demand of the growing population. He added, “That’s the challenge that most developing nations such as Nigeria face afterwards. Many stakeholders are of the view that governments that invest in such projects should be commended because it takes foresight to invest in things that will mostly benefit future generations.  Infrastructure doesn’t only include roads and bridge construction but cuts across designing that affords networking of highways; creating a network of well-maintained highways is a boom to industries, as highways that link major growth centres to seaports and airports, would afford speedy and efficient transportation etc. Also, the building of efficient and strategically positioned seaports, the development of industrial and specialized parks, these and some other developments would help take the nation to greater heights

Source: Nigeria Tribune

Author: nmmin

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