Muhammad Bello and Hammed Shittu
Former Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, Tuesday lamented that the nation’s infrastructure deficiency would continue if urgent and drastic actions were not taken to save the sector from imminent collapse.
Shonekan’s revelation came on a day the Federal Government also identified huge infrastructure deficit as one of the major factors stalling economic growth and development of the country.
But Shonekan, who disclosed this after he led the Governing Board of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), which he chairs, to present the 2011 annual report and audited financial statement of the commission to President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House, Abuja.
He noted that this had become imperative despite Federal Government’s effort in transforming the sector.
The former Head of ING enumerated the challenges confronting the commission in the realisation of its goals to include its inability to mobilise long term funding for project development, inability to commit Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to a stable and coherent pipeline of Private Public Partnership (PPP) and poor project preparation by MDAs.
He suggested to President Jonathan that, “addressing these challenges is critical to the success of ICRC and the attainment of the infrastructure component of your transformation agenda.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, while speaking in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, at the opening ceremony of the annual national conference of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE)in Ilorin, said the impact of infrastructure deficiency in the country had affected the ability to improve the quality of life as envisaged in the present administration’s transformation agenda.
“As from year 2013, all engineering and construction projects below N5 billion in the ministry of works will be exclusively reserved for Nigerian contractors as a deliberate effort of the Federal Government to help build local capacity and promote local content in the industry,” he said.
Speaking further, he said: “To reverse this trend, special emphasis must be placed on local capacity to develop and effectively deploy technology and know-how that is required to build and sustain our nation’s infrastructures.
“Continued reliance on imported technologies and professionals to build most of Nigeria’s infrastructure such as roads, power, energy, water supply and transportation is simply not sustainable in the long run.”
He recalled that within its first two years, “the commission recruited key staff, developed organisational processes and engaged MDAs and other stakeholders. Developed a National Policy Framework for PPP, held regional engagement workshops across the country to secure the buy-in of stakeholders” on the policy and issued operational guidelines for PPP to MDAs. The commission also worked on bridging institutional knowledge gap and collaborated with states to set up their PPP units, transfer best practices, provide a legal, policy and regulatory environment that is conducive to private sector investment in infrastructure projects.”
Between 2010 to 2012, Shonekan said the board focused on harnessing the commission’s regulatory role and cap its achievements with the winning of the Africa’s Investor Award in South Africa as well as the 2010 Public Private Partnership Award of the Commonwealth Business Council.
Presenting the commission’s 2011 report, Shonekan said it received a little less than N1.1 billion appropriated for it and expended N1.016 billion.
“The sum of N325,811,000 was brought forward from 2010 financial year and the balance in the capital vote of N8.5 million was moved forward to 2012,” Shonekan explained.
He said out of this N325,763,039.45 was spent as the remaining N47,960.55 “was returned to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”
He said in spite of the enormous opportunities which were abound in the sector, the construction and engineering industry was still being dominated by foreign contractors, thereby “creating a huge capital flight.”
Onolememen added: “The best practices around the world has taught us that Nigeria cannot overcome its infrastructure development challenges unless necessary reforms are embarked upon to bring them in synic with their peers in the developed and most developing nations of the world.
Given the huge financial outlay needed to prosecute infrastructure projects, it is clear that Nigerian government alone cannot effectively handle these projects hence, the involvement of the private sector under the Public Private Partnerships (PPP).”
He noted that the PPP policy clearly articulates the steps that the government would take to ensure that private investments is used appropriate to address the infrastructure deficit and improve public services in a sustainable manner.
Onolememen also noted further that, “over the years, one of the major problems of infrastructure in our country has been the lack of adequate and timely maintenance”, adding that: “In most cases, huge resources are spent on the construction of infrastructure while no provision is made for the maintenance.”