Nigeria’s Road Infrastructure Renewal and China Relations

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Charles Onunaiju writes that Nigeria’s economic relations with China are well made and beneficial

Of the various strands of Nigeria-China comprehensive and strategic cooperation, infrastructure renewal which would fill the important gap in the Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan constitutes a vital core. The strategic plan of President Buhari administration to put infrastructure construction at the center of economic revival, objectively elevated and squarely put the Ministry of Works and Housing in the front-line of re-engineering the country’s economic outlook through building critical infrastructure.

The ministry of works and housing with its resourceful and erudite helmsman, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has obviously taken their mandate seriously, understanding the historic significance of their effort to actualize the vision of President Buhari’s government. Realizing the ancient wisdom that if you want to get rich, build roads, a metaphor clearly indicating the fundamental roles of infrastructure in any meaningful effort at sustainable and inclusive economic development, the ministry of works and housing under Fashola has enlisted high caliber and credible Chinese firm to discharge the mandate of building sound and solid transport network that would form the major artery for Nigeria’s economic recovery.

The Nigeria-based China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) which has been in the Nigerian construction market in the past 26 years has demonstrated strong faith in the country and has been at the cutting edge of shoring up and filling in the gap in the country’s infrastructure deficit.

Nigeria-China strategic cooperation has in recent times focused on enabling the strategic fundamentals that would stimulate sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Nigeria that will open the socio-economic space of the country with a view to creating employment, generate productive economic activities and help maintain social balance for stability and progress. China Harbour Engineering Company has brought both experience of its parent company and its international exposure in delivering high-quality projects on schedule to bear on its craftsmanship in delivering world-class infrastructure service in Nigeria.

Currently, the company is a major contractor, delivering the expansion of the 5.4Km Abuja-Keffi expressway and dualization of Keff-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi Road, a key project of the larger continental trans-Sahara highway. The trans-Sahara highway project is a continental-scale infrastructure that passes through six African countries namely, Algeria, Chad, Mali, Nigeria, Niger and Tunisia and has the objective to make enormous contribution to the development of commercial exchanges through roads connectivity and promote regional integration. As key artery of a regional highway network, it would seamlessly integrate in the framework of the Belt and Road framework of international cooperation, initiated by China as a global massive infrastructure connectivity scheme, which facilitates trade and enhances people-to-people contacts among other things.

China Harbour Engineering which is handling the Nigerian component of the trans-Saharan highway brings speed, efficiency and corporate social responsibility in the discharge of its work. Already the pace of work at the Abuja 5.4Km expansion project has stunned residents of the city, since work commenced in April last year with the speed, efficiency and thoroughness of the contractor. The project is the first road project with 85% funding by the China Export and Import Bank in the form of preferential export buyers credit, an innovative financial model, under which the federal government would provide a counterpart funding of 15%.
The plan demonstrates a vital innovative insight of the federal ministry of works to deliver the timely and necessary infrastructure projects that would quicken economic recovery and development.

In addition to the imaginative insight of the ministry of works under the resourceful and focused leadership of the minister Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the ministry has demonstrated a viable partnership with the contracting firm by effective supervision and monitoring. As a principal and core actor in the government’s efforts to re-position the economy and deliver sustainable and inclusive growth, through provision of enabling infrastructure, the ministry has creditably discharged its mandate and is still doing so to the satisfaction of discernible Nigerians.

The duration of the project is 36 months and work on the site which commenced on the 1st of April 2019 is expected to be completed in 2022.
If the speed, efficiency and commitment of China Habour in handling the Abuja – Keffi Expressway expansion project is replicated in other places of the trans-Saharan highway project, the ultimate vision of its planners whose idea was first proposed in 1962, would be realized in delivering a functional continental unity underwritten by practical integration and connectivity.

For the Keffi-Lafia-Makurdi road project alone, China Habour has trained over 80 qualified engineers and other 1000 skilled workers, with direct employment certain to increase as the construction makes progress. While over 2000 jobs would be created to absorb local skilled manpower, more than 3,500 indirect jobs including suppliers would be created in the period of the project construction. Because, China Habour has been part of Nigeria’s social fabric, since 26 years of its debut in the Nigeria’s infrastructure market, it has taken time and shown enormous keenness in fulfilling its social responsibility. To this effect, it has diligently installed water pipes outside its construction sites to relieve the tension of water supply in local communities. Well aware of its support services to local communities and the need to promote robust and healthy relationships with host communities along its project routes, China Habour has dug wells, provided free clean water and donated books and other educational supplies to local schools, with hope to contribute in building the capacity of young Nigerians. China Harbour complete fate in Nigeria and its future is demonstrated by its investment in the country’s human capital through support for education and health of their host communities.

China Habour Engineering Company which has accumulated extensive experience since its entry into Nigeria’s infrastructure market has executed various projects in different fields including dredging works in Calabar River, rehabilitation of Terminal B of Warri Port in Delta State and construction of breakwater in Lagos. Currently, the firm is engaged in two large scale projects, the Lekki Deep Seaport and Keffi road project, a clear illustration of the firm’s technical and financial capacity.

Evidently the partnership of China Harbour Engineering Company, a foremost and experienced infrastructure service provider with an astute Nigeria’s minister of works, will deliver nothing short of revolution in the road infrastructure sector of Nigeria’s economic recovery and growth plan and lay solid foundation for the emergence of one of Africa’s strongest economies.
––Mr. Onunaiju is director, Center for China Studies, Utako, Abuja.