By Dr. (Arc.) Michael Oziegbe Onolememen, Ph.D; FNIA; FNSE; FNIS; FNIQS; CON
Being The Lecture Delivered At The Combined Maiden Convocation Of the National Institute of Construction Technology & Management, Uromi, Edo State On Friday, 15th July, 2022
Let me begin this inaugural lecture by interrogating the word, “Infrastructure”, as it has become a buzz word in our Country, especially with politicians elected into executive and legislative offices, as well as bureaucrats who implement infrastructure development at the National and sub-national levels.
If I may ask, what is infrastructure? Any perspective from the audience?
Infrastructure can be defined as a system of resources that can be harnessed for the development of society, such as transportation, electricity, information and communication technology, portable water and other public utilities. In a broader sense, infrastructure would refer to the broad spectrum of facilities which derive from engineering for the use and convenience of mankind, such as sewage systems, steel plants, housing, hospitals, schools, etc.
In making investments in infrastructure, it is good practice to balance economy, social, demographic, and environmental factors to make infrastructure development effective and pointed to the needs of citizens.
Clearly, infrastructure is a cardinal cornerstone of a stable and productive society and crucial to unlocking the creative potentials of citizens in a country. In Nigeria, the need for better infrastructure that will enable economic growth, creates jobs and improve living standards, has never been greater, in the face of massive unemployment of young graduates and young school leavers. In making investments in infrastructure, it is good practice to balance economy, social, demographic, and environmental factors to make infrastructure development effective and pointed to the needs of citizens.
Rising deficits in government finances and growing infrastructure needs in Nigeria require the government to explore closer collaboration with the private sector in delivery needed infrastructure; ensure better regulation while eliminating ambiguity, ensuring stable returns on investment, to make infrastructure financing and development attractive to private investors, driven by market demands and resilient to future needs, as well as able to stimulate economic growth.
To appreciate the diverse nature of infrastructure, it may be helpful to categorize the diverse types of infrastructure; for example, physical infrastructure, include roads, rail, airport, seaport, etc. The category of public utilities covers electricity, pipe-borne water and sewage. Economic and Social infrastructures encompass health and education (hospitals and schools) that provide services. However, these divisions are somewhat artificial, because people need to experience infrastructure as a comprehensive and well-oiled machinery that is necessary for health, happiness and prosperity.
The development of infrastructures is vital to the economic growth and prosperity of any country. For example, appropriate infrastructure leads to the sustainable use of natural resources, increased productivity, provision of amenities to enhance quality of life, leading to a thriving economy. All over the World, infrastructure is key to unlocking the creative potential of citizens in a country. Infrastructure, therefore, can be regarded as the foundation of nation building.
Infrastructure Development in Nigeria
At this juncture, let us interrogate infrastructure development in Nigeria in phases, starting with the colonial administration up to the independent era; the administration of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, leading to the 1966 coup that berthed the military regimes, starting with the Major Kaduna Nzeogu’s coup of 1966, up to the administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998, making 33 years of military rule in Nigeria.
The infrastructure issues in Nigeria are acknowledged as being broad. However, to make this discussion of Nigerian infrastructure worthwhile, we would be focusing primarily on the following sectors: transportation (road, rail, air, water, etc.), electricity, healthcare, irrigation and water supply, education, telecommunications, solid minerals, oil and gas, seaports, and government services.
It would be helpful to look at the policies of the various Nigerian administrations between 1960 and 2015, to see what impact they had on infrastructure development. Let us begin by reviewing the legacy of the British colonial administration up to the time that Nigerian Freedom Charter was signed in 1960.
Infrastructure Development Prior to Independence from Britain (1955-1960)
It is widely believed by Nigerians that infrastructure development was not given the priority it deserved by the colonial masters. The British colonial administration in the 1800s, put in place a limited plan for transportation infrastructure, to facilitate increased exports from Nigeria. The rail, water and road networks that were set up by the British colonialists were used to move agricultural produce such as cotton, groundnuts, rubber, palm-oil, and cocoa from the north and other parts of Nigeria to the seaports of Lagos and Port-Harcourt for export, and to move manufactured goods from Britain and elsewhere to various parts of Nigeria. For example, in the period from 1896 to 1932, 1,000 kilometers of railway tracks were laid. Those tracks linked the city of Kano in the north with the seaport of Lagos in the south. Another railway line connected the northern city of Maiduguri with the Port-Harcourt seaport in the south, about 1,500 kilometers. The port facilities at Lagos and Port-Harcourt were expanded to accommodate enhanced shipping between Great Britain and Nigeria.
Although the British also built other basic infrastructure services, such as electricity in a few major cities, minimal health and education services, and simple communication structures, it was to support the colonial administration. However, apart from those, the leaders of the first republic inherited from the British colonial administration, a country with little or no significant infrastructure in place. Portable water and electricity were not available to the majority of the Nigerian population that was predominantly illiterate. None of the infrastructure was built to last and was already showing deterioration in the early 1900s.
As the move towards independence grew, many local Nigerian leaders pointed to the inadequate infrastructure in the country. Consequently, in 1946, the colonial administrators introduced the ten-year Plan of development and welfare for 1946 – 1955, to ensure better utilization of the funds allocated by the British government. The plan was revised for 1951–1955, and then extended to 1960, amid criticism that these were not true plans, but rather a series of projects that continued to focus on transportation, communication and agricultural raw materials. Significantly, oil was found in Nigeria in the mid-1950s, but the impact of that was not felt until the 1970s.
By 1955, it was evident that Nigeria needed to prepare for independence. While the original ten-year Plan was extended to 1960, a national economic Council (NEC) was convened to coordinate economic development issues. The Council included representatives from local governments and those leaders were poised to play key roles in the first democratic government.
Infrastructure Under the First Democratic Government of Nigeria (1960-1963)
There was much tension and conflict among the many ethnic groups in Nigeria. The resulting social unrest constituted a barrier to the kind of good governance that supports infrastructure development. However, there was a move towards development planning that had a broader scope, with the objective of setting national goals for the economy and for the general welfare of the population. The NEC that had been established in 1955, along with representatives of the British government, continued to play a coordinating role. Various government agencies were included in policy discussions, which led to the introduction of the First National Development Plan in 1962.
After the planning was completed, the British representatives began to dis-engage from administrative duties. The Nigerian leadership had little experience of administering national plans, and neither did the ordinary citizens who were brought in to take on roles. In combination with unclear objectives, there was little funding for implementation and a shortage of skilled leadership. The chances of success were not great.
Since there were few significant policy changes during this time, the institutions that had been set up under British colonial rule since the 1900s continued to exist and to provide some level of infrastructure for Nigeria. For example, the rail system that had been established by the colonial administration to bring agricultural produce from the countryside to the seaports for export to Britain was still the backbone of the transportation system, and power stations built in the late 1900s provided basic light and energy to urban centers such as Lagos.
There were a few notable initiatives in the three-year period after independence. One such initiative was the milestone in education with the opening of the University of Nigeria in 1960, which Nnamdi Azikiwe had worked on since 1955. In 1962, the Niger Dams Authority (NDA) was created to develop Nigeria’s hydro-electricity potential. In the same year the National Manpower Board (NMB) was set up as one of the earliest signs that employment would receive attention in the future. This policy faced many barriers such as weak administration and inadequate funding.
Infrastructure Policy during the First Republic (1963-1966)
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the first President of Nigeria in 1963, when Nigeria became a republic. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became Prime Minister and Head of government. The country was structured into three autonomous regions: The northern, western and eastern regions, each with wide-ranging powers, its own constitutions, public services and marketing boards. A fourth region, the mid-west region, was created less than a year later, following a plebiscite because of agitations that predated independence in 1960 by ethnic minorities for a region of their own. Importantly, each region began developing infrastructure in their region, at a pace dictated by their resources. This led to healthy development of infrastructure in the different regions.
One of the first initiatives by the time independent government was to order the first ever Nigerian census. The 1963 census showed that 80.7 percent of Nigerians were residing in rural communities. As explained previously, most of the infrastructure development under colonial rule had focused on cities, and transportation systems between those cities and the rural communities were badly in need of attention.
However, it is pertinent to state that this period saw the completion of the following projects that were started under the first National Development Plan launched in 1962:
• Niger Dams Authority, 1962
• Nigerian Security and Minting Company, 1963
• Niger Bridge at Onitsha, 1964
• Bacita Sugar mill, 1964
• Port Harcourt Oil Refining Company, 1965
• Jebba Paper mill, 1965
• Nigeria Airways, and
• Nigerian National Shipping Line
In 1965, the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa government took a giant step in infrastructure development, by commencing the construction of the 2nd Mainland bridge (Eko bridge) in Lagos, financed with a soft loan from the Federal Republic of Germany.
Infrastructure Development in the First era of Military Rule (1966-1975)
January 1966 began with a violent military coup against leaders of the first republic and politicians by some revolutionary soldiers, led by Major Kaduna Nzeogu. Although the coup was foiled, it produced the first military government in Nigeria under Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi who was the head of the Nigerian Military at the time of the coup. Despite General Aguiyi-Ironsi’s call for peace, he was overthrown and assassinated in another coup in July of 1966. Aguiyi-Ironsi’s successor, General Yakubu Gowon sub-divided the four regions in the country into a 12-state structure to foster post-colonial cohesion and streamline administration. He held power until July 1975, when he was overthrown in a bloodless coup by General Murtala Mohammed. He expanded the 12-state administrative structure to a 19-state structure. Six months later, precisely in February 1976, General Mohammed was assassinated in a failed coup led by Col. Dimka. General Olusegun Obasanjo then became the Nation’s leader. Let’s look at the infrastructure development under Gowon, Mohammed and Obasanjo, in turn.
1966–1975: Policies of Yakubu Gowon
One of the barriers to infrastructure development in Nigeria was the need to direct funds towards nation building. But an even greater challenge was the civil war that broke out in July of 1967, which followed the secession of the former Eastern Region led by Col. Emeka Ojukwu and lasted until January 15, 1970. The war which was fought for 30 months led to the loss of about three million lives, amidst much suffering. The war led to a large-scale destruction of existing infrastructure, such as roads, aerodromes, schools, hospitals, government offices and residential estates. The then new Niger Bridge at Onitsha (built by the Tafawa Balewa Government in 1964) that provided the main access to the Eastern part of Nigeria from the Western part of the country was not spared as it was destroyed during the war. The new University of Nigeria, Nsukka, established by the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, also witnessed destruction of academic buildings and structures.
Once the Biafran War was over, Gowon’s administration repaired the Niger Bridge at Onitsha to reconnect the Eastern and Western parts of the country. Sadly, resources that should have been used to develop modern infrastructure were used to finance the civil war, and partly in the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed during the war.
After the Civil War, the Gowon administration introduced the Second National Development Plan, 1970 – 1974, with an attempt to improve upon the first plan. Input was sought from the public as well as from Government agencies, such as the National Manpower Board. Plan priorities included industry, manpower, agriculture, defence, communication and water supply and expanded social services. In addition, the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was established in 1973 after a merger between the Niger Dams Authority (NDA) and the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN). Transportation systems grew in response to the demand to move the increasing supply of oil. Two Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) refineries already existed in Port-Harcourt and Warri, and in 1974, a decision was made to plan for a third refinery in Kaduna, in preparation for the anticipated growth in the oil industry. What rationale informed the building of a refinery in a location that is about 1,000Km from the oil fields? Little wonder that to date, Nigeria continued to experience fuel scarcity. Elementary economics taught us that industries are best located in areas with abundant natural resources. Today, sadly Nigeria has not been able to build additional refineries in the country, about 35 years after, despite the resources at its disposal, not to mention the huge hydrocarbon reserves in the country. Little wonder, that today Nigeria keeps importing fuel from overseas, sometimes from nations without petroleum resources. This is one sector that the leadership of the country, have failed woefully over the years. It speaks to poor leadership of infrastructure development in Nigeria.
While some of the military regimes made advances in infrastructure development from petrol-dollars, there was a corresponding expansion of corruption. Reports from that time say that there was no attempt to hide the corruption, and all attempts to remove the offenders were brushed aside. Apart from the corrupt leadership there were also widespread problems in the civil service. Organizations such as the Nigerian Railway Corporation saw growing deficits from mismanagement of finances. In July 1975, there was a bloodless coup that overthrew Gowon, resulting in a temporary stay on the unbridled corruption.
July 1975–February 1976: Murtala Mohammed
When Mohammed took over in 1975, he was determined to get rid of the corruption that had been a hallmark of Gowon’s administration. As head of state in this next phase of military rule, Mohammed set up an Assets Investigation Panel to publicly investigate the Governors that served under Gowon. In 1976, ten out of the twelve Governors had their assets confiscated, for a total of over N10 million. Mohammed’s fight against corruption also took on the civil service. A purge led to the removal of over 10,000 public servants nationwide. Despite that, problems with the bureaucracy continued.
During this regime, the Third National Development Plan was prepared for the period 1975–1980. It was intended to be more ambitious than the second plan, with an emphasis on rural development and the growth of the agricultural sector. No doubt Mohammed appeared serious and would probably have worked to ensure that the plan was implemented without the level of corruption that had become the norm. Unfortunately, his assassination in February 1976, brought an end to this interlude of anti-corruption policies, and General Olusegun Obasanjo took over as head of the military government.
1976–1979: Policies of Olusegun Obasanjo
The four years of Obasanjo’s leadership saw many new policy initiatives that directly impacted infrastructure development in Nigeria; these included:
Universal Primary Education (UPE), which provided free basic education to Nigerian children; leading to building of new schools.
Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), which focused on agriculture in the country, leading to development of rural infrastructure across the country.
Hosting of the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in January 1977, which saw the massive construction of infrastructure such as the biggest housing estate in Nigeria (Festac Town, Lagos), National Arts theatre, National Stadium, Lagos and expansion of transportation infrastructure such as roads, rails, air travels, and social services.
Establishment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in April 1977 to participate and regulate Nigeria’s petroleum industry, leading to the development of oil and gas infrastructure.
Port expansion to accommodate the increased flow of oil and development of maritime infrastructure.
Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, leading to the development of relevant transportation (aviation) infrastructure.
Dualization of Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, leading to development of transportation infrastructure.
Increased focus on road construction and safety, with the result that traffic accidents declined from 53,897 recorded in 1976 to 35,114 by 1981.
These and other developments indicated that considerable progress was made under the military regime that lasted, in total, from 1966 to 1979. Perhaps even more remarkable was that in 1979, Obasanjo could hand over power peacefully to a newly elected civilian President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
1979–1983: Infrastructure Policies during the Second Republic
Following the 1979 General Elections, Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the President of a new civilian government. He came into power at a time when Nigeria`s economy was booming because of oil production. According to reports, Nigeria became the wealthiest country in Africa during this time. There was considerable development in the new Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, and new universities were established. There was also evidence in the agricultural sector of a “green revolution”.
The Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) was established in 1979 to strategically plan and coordinate Nigeria’s national policies on energy. As part of plan to lay the foundation for industrial development, the Shagari administration embarked on building the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, Aladja Steel Complex and three steel rolling mills in Jos, Osogbo and Katsina, as well as the National Iron Ore Company at Itakpe. In the transportation sector, an ambitious metroline project was started in Lagos by the Jakande administration, to ensure mass movement of people between the mainland and the island areas of the State, due to the huge transportation difficulties in the city caused by perennial traffic jams.
However, along with some revolutionary ideas for infrastructure development there was revolution of a more alarming kind in places such as the Niger Delta. While the Nigerian economy at large was expanding, and many leading Nigerians were becoming wealthy, the general population did not have commensurate benefits. The oil-rich Niger Delta continued to be impoverished, and there was unrest led by militant youths over the lack of good roads, water, electricity and schools, while oil production was booming in the region.
There was widespread corruption during this period. In a presentation made to the US Congress in 2006, Nuhu Ribadu painted a bleak picture of what he called “the darkest period” in the history of corrupt regimes. He described it as a time of “wanton waste, political thuggery and coercion”.
By 1983, world oil prices were declining, Nigerian finances were increasingly strained, and there was ongoing religious and political violence. In a military coup on December 31st, 1983, Shehu Shagari was overthrown and General Muhammadu Buhari took over as leader of a new military regime.
1983 –1999: Infrastructure Policies under the Second Era of Military Rule
The 1983 coup marshalled in the second era of military rule, which saw four leaders at the helm of affairs: Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar. This sixteen-year period was interrupted in 1993 by a short-lived democratically elected government. However, apart from that brief interlude, this era saw significant infrastructure policies and we can review in turn what each of the four military leaders contributed.
To be continued….
1983–1985: Policies of Muhammadu Buhari
Buhari set out to follow the lead of earlier anti-corruption initiatives, including the purge of the civil service, launched during the short-lived Murtala Mohammed administration of 1975–1976. Buhari was determined to return order to the nation and launched a “War Against Indiscipline”. He began by setting up federal and state military tribunals to investigate the political leaders of the second republic, many of whom were found guilty by Military Tribunals who often did not provide opportunity to the accused to defend themselves.
Although the focus of his administration was on anti-corruption and instilling discipline in citizens, initial planning was also started towards the preparation of the fourth National Development Plan. It was intended, among other goals, to introduce a National Transport Coordinating Commission, to ensure there was investment in developing all types of transportation. Ironically, it was the Buhari administration that halted the ambitious Lagos Metroline project, which held the promise of a model mass transportation system in Nigeria. Again, the quest of infrastructure development in Nigeria, via the Ajaokuta Steel Complex project that was at 75% completion, and which many hoped would be the foundation of industrialisation in the country, was halted by the Buhari’s administration due to mere suspicion of corrupt practices associated with the project (although it was never proven). In the case of the metroline project, many believed that it was a missed opportunity to solve the chronic transportation problem in Lagos and other heavily populated cities in Nigeria. The “ghost” of the aborted Ajaokuta Steel complex, still haunts Nigeria to date, and many believe that it is probably at the root of Nigeria’s inability for industrial take-off. The Buhari administration was overthrown in August 1985, through a palace coup that brought in General Ibrahim Babangida.
1985–1993: Policies of Ibrahim Babangida
Babangida took over the leadership of the country just as the fourth National Development Plan was ready to launch, for the five-year-period, 1986 to1990. He created 11 additional states, bringing the administrative structure to a 30-state Structure and at the same time, led to the development of modern infrastructure in the new states, and transforming their communities from rural to urban areas. By 1986, the national debt had risen by billions of naira. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) intervened to assist Nigeria to set up a Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). SAP was viewed as a temporary, emergency provision to help the economy for a year or two. But it was soon realized that a longer timeframe was needed to effect the necessary changes in infrastructure development strategy.
One of the changes that began in 1990 was a move away from national development plans that lasted only a few years each, toward more continuous planning. For the rest of the 1990s, a “rolling plan” was adopted which looked towards a 15 – 20-year horizon and paid close attention to budgeting. Decrees were introduced to expand privatization and commercialization. A National Planning Commission set up in 1992 was expanded later to become the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, and its oversight helped to ensure that planning was less ad-hoc and subject to political influence than it had been under the short-term national development plans.
Although corrupt practices continued, there were some advancements under the Babangida’s administration. For example, there was a greater focus on rural infrastructure development. Some advances were made in alleviating poverty, guided by the National Directorate for Employment (NDE), which paid attention to rural women and community banks. The Directorate of Mass Mobilization for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) and the Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) also focused on rural infrastructural development and transformation.
Beyond rural infrastructure development, the Babangida administration took giant steps towards building some of the nation’s enduring infrastructure projects, such as the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos, the longest bridge in Africa at the time; Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line, Ajaokuta-Warri rail line, Aluminum Smelter plant in Ikot-Abasi, International Conference Centre, Abuja, Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja, the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Supreme Court Complex, Abuja, Abuja International Airport, and development of other key infrastructure in the new Federal Capital city of Abuja.
1993 – 1998: Policies of Sani Abacha
Following the annulment of the June 12 1993 general elections which was widely believed to have been won by Chief Moshood Abiola, a consummate businessman, and the stepping aside of self-acclaimed military President, General Babangida, the reign of government was handed over to Chief Ernest Shonekan, who was at the time Chairman of United African Company (UAC), a conglomerate where the British Government held controlling shares and was used to fleece Nigeria of its natural resources in the pre-independence administration under the British colonialist, before Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Although, Shonekan was named as the Chairman of the Interim National Government, the military still held the reins of power. The weak Third Republic was overthrown in a coup that brought General Sani Abacha to office as the next military leader of Nigeria.
Abacha initiated an investigation of the Babangida administration for corruption and excessive spending, even when himself was not any better. After his death, his family was found to have benefitted from illegally obtained funds. He has been described as one of the most evil and corrupt leaders of the time. He initiated a reign of terror in which democratic leaders and human rights activists were persecuted. Billions of US dollars that were intended for infrastructure development were diverted to Abacha and his cronies. As such, his administration had no tell-tales of infrastructure development. After his regime, enormous amounts of money were retrieved from his family. Government agencies that had been set up to help with the smooth running of infrastructure projects, or to assist with aiding the poor in rural areas, were unable to function properly during this time. Major governmental companies such as Nigeria Airways, Nigerian National Shipping Line, the oil refineries, and the steel rolling mills all suffered, along with the education sector. Profits from the oil industry were illegally diverted. Corruption was legitimized.
Abacha used coercion to get his ministers and other government officials to take on infrastructure projects and in the face of corrupt practices, many of those projects were not completed. For example, the Petroleum [Special] Trust Fund (PTF) was formed to use profits from oil to fund rehabilitation of urban and rural roads, transportation, educational and health institution infrastructure, urban water supply schemes and irrigation projects. However, virtually all the projects were abandoned. In 2000, these abandoned infrastructure projects were transferred to the relevant federal ministries for evaluations, and possible integration into subsequent budgets, which never happened.
Abacha introduced the federal character principle, a system of quotas imposed on government policies and programmes. He also restructured the state and local governments, and created six additional states by fiat, expanding the administration of the country to a 36-state structure.
Most noteworthy was the introduction of the Vision 2010 Programme, which promoted forward thinking across all sectors of the economy. However, in 1998, Abacha died under mysterious circumstance. The official announcement was that he died of a heart attack. The leadership was subsequently passed on to General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
1998 – 1999: Policies of Abdulsalami Abubakar
An experienced military officer, he set up the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which organized local, state and national elections. Abubakar oversaw the writing of a new constitution, which was earlier started by Gen. Abacha’s legal adviser, Prof. Yadudu, a professor of Islamic law. A few days after he came into power, he committed to holding an election within a year to transfer power to a civilian government. Following the victory of Olusegun Obasanjo, then Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, he was sworn-in as President of Nigeria on May 29, 1999, thus heralding the 4th Republic.
Fourth Republic: 1999-2007 – Olusegun Obasanjo
On May 29th, 1999, after a prolonged era of military dictatorship, the Fourth Republic was established with former military leader, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, serving as the democratic leader of Nigeria. It is important to stress that Olusegun Obasanjo is the first person in the history of Nigeria to hold power twice, first as military leader and later as civilian leader. President Obasanjo’s election under the banner of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) marked the end of 16 years of the second era of military rule. His first administration lasted from 1999 to 2003 and focused on achieving stability, addressing corruption and building the democratic process.
He inherited the Vision 2010 Plan, the national development policy launched by General Abacha during the military era. President Obasanjo terminated the Vision 2010 Agenda that was already enshrined in corruption at its infancy. However, his folding up of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) led to many abandoned infrastructure projects across the six geopolitical zones that would have had positive impact on infrastructure development in Nigeria.
The President Obasanjo democratic administration immediately initiated a Four-Year Plan, the National Economic Direction, 1999-2003. As a result, work began on many significant infrastructure projects. There was a focus on rehabilitating the neglected and decaying power infrastructure. Outside power infrastructure, attention was paid to building the country’s telecommunication infrastructure with the establishment of the General System of Mobile telephoning (GSM) services, to augment the system in Nigeria which, before now, had relied greatly on limited land line telephone infrastructure. The administration recorded enormous success in the GSM telephoning, which transformed the Nigerian society in a positive way.
The Obasanjo administration made several attempts to provide good governance. The Federal Government of Nigeria (2010) report stated that, under the Obasanjo administration, Nigeria’s international image and reputation, which had been tarnished by the long military dictatorships, was improved. The government wanted to position Nigeria as a leader in fostering democracy and economic growth both in Nigeria, and across Africa. The West African subcontinent, as well as South Africa, benefitted from an enhanced economic relationship with Nigeria because of the Obasanjo administration’s policies. Perhaps, the most prominent legacy of that administration was its efforts to ensure good governance and eradicate corruption from Nigeria. The Obasanjo administration established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in 2000, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003, to prosecute government and public officials for corruption, and to recover stolen funds from public servants. This was adjudged by many as a landmark government policy and an act of good governance.
Nigeria enjoyed relative peace and tranquility under the Obasanjo administration. His ability to prevent another military dictatorship in Nigeria has been acclaimed as a huge accomplishment. Obasanjo established a poverty alleviation programme, with the aim of eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life of the rural people. The long list of accomplishments by the Obasanjo administration attests to credible elements of good governance in political leadership in Nigeria. It is noteworthy that Obasanjo was the first leader in the history of Nigerian politics to hand over power peacefully to an elected civilian administration in 2007. Obasanjo’s second administration began with the inauguration of Nigeria’s 5th National Assembly in May 1999. It consisted of 109 senators and a representative from each of the 360 federal constituencies in Nigeria. The National Assembly set up committees, and many of them focused on infrastructure development, including health, housing, water supply, agriculture, education, the environment, as well as electricity. An important policy move was the introduction of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) which operated at the federal level, while the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS) were prepared by all 36 Nigerian States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Wealth creation and anti-poverty programmes through private sector development, was emphasized by the NEEDS programme. The Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act was established to regulate public-private partnerships in infrastructure development, thus laying the foundation for public-private-partnership infrastructure in Nigeria.
President Obasanjo’s government launched many infrastructure programmes despite the huge amount of debt that he inherited. Based on the ambitious reform agenda, the Paris Club granted Nigeria debt relief of $18billion in September 2005. The Obasanjo administration ensured that debt relief expenditures were dedicated to projects and programmes that benefited the country. Following the receipt of those relief funds, an overview of public expenditure in NEEDS was set up to monitor initiatives which arose out of Nigeria’s receipt of debt relief in 2005.
In summary, the eight years of Obasanjo’s administration resulted in several new policies and many innovative programmes which advanced Nigerian infrastructure, such as:
Universal Basic Education (UBE).
The Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).
State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) at the state level.
Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (LEEDS) for the local governments.
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) based on the United Nations anti-poverty targets.
Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act to oversee public-private partnership infrastructure development programs.
Due Process Policy (DPP) intended to make government and private sector businesses abide by established rules and procedures.
National Integrated Power Project (NIPP). Some existing plants were refurbished, which would have taken the country’s capacity to about 10,000 MW of electricity generation. In addition, the reform was to separate privatized power into three distinct mandates: generation, transmission, and distribution.
The recapitalization policy aimed at strengthening banks and other financial institutions.
A Pension Reform Scheme, which led to the emergence of a credible public and private pension schemes, and.
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), aimed at the development of infrastructure in the oil-rich region of Nigeria.
To be continued…..