Buhari’s Midas Touch in Nigeria’s Road Infrastructure
By Rahma Oladosu
President Muhamadu in late late 2015 appointed a celebrated legal icon and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Babatunde Raji Fashola as Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing.
Before then, Babatunde Raji Fashola is a household name, in the country’s political governance firmament having been a successor to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Lagos’ Number 1 Citizen.
President Buhari must have studied how Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and his successor Fashola piloted the affairs of Lagos, the State of the Aquatic Splendour, offering purposeful leadership, that was evident in the uncommon tranformation of the Centre of Excellence’s bourgeoning infrastructural economy.
To revamp Nigeria’s power crises and mass housing deficit, together with obsolete road infrastructure, Buhari opted to look no further than the ebullient and soft-spoken Fashola.
The erstwhile Lagos Chief Executive, in Buhari’s estimation, may just be a technocrat-politician. One that is endowed with the uncommon magic wand to turn around the fortunes of three critical sectors of the nation’s economy.
Though, Buhari was not oblivious of the enormous challenge that confronts the country in the Power, Works and Housing Ministry, after becoming the president in 2015. He has however ensured that he assigned people of integrity to prove their mettle, and discharge their responsibilities creditably, as administrators of no mean repute.
In just eight years, the country’s power, works and housing sectors have long started catching a breath of fresh air. The country’s road sub-sector, in particular, is now contributing hugely to the Nigerian economy.
Small wonder, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his budget speech while presenting the 2023 budget proposal to the National Assembly, last November, highlighted some of the progress made by his administration in transportation, over the last seven and half years.
President Buhari started by highlighting the establishment of the Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (InfraCorp), in 2021, with a seed capital of N1 trillion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).
According to Mr. President, his government has been leveraging finance through the NSIA into the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), to facilitate the accelerated completion of the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Abuja-Kano Road.
He also said that through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme pursuant to Executive Order #7 of 2019, his administration has incentivised responsible companies to invest billions of Naira in constructing over 1,500km of critical roads in key economic corridors.
Under this Scheme, it is worthy to assert that the Dangote Group has substantially completed the Reconstruction of 34km Apapa-Oworonshoki-Ojota Expressway and 43km Obajana-Kabba Road.
It is pertinent to also mention that the Nigeria LNG Limited is on track to complete the 38km Bodo-Bonny Road and Bridges Project by the end of 2023.
“Under the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, we are undertaking the construction and rehabilitation of about two thousand kilometres of roads and bridges, nationwide, to be financed by the grant of tax credits to investing private companies,” Buhari had told the lawmakers.
He also identified the Sukuk Bonds scheme, under which since 2017, over N600 billion has been raised and invested in 941km for over 40 critical road projects nationwide, complementing the Ministry of Works and Housing’s Highway Development and Management Initiative and other interventions.
Credit must be given to the Buhari administration for investing significantly to restore national railways, while also completing and commissioning the 156km Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail (and its 8.72km extension to Lagos Port); the 186km Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge Rail; and 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail.
These completed projects, in no small measure, will complement ongoing investments in Light Rail, Narrow and Standard Gauge Rail, Ancillary Facilities Yards, Wagon Assembly Plants, E-Ticketing infrastructure as well as training and development of our rail engineers and other workers, by the All Progressives Congress-led government.
The president also highlighted the completion of New Airport Terminals at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, and reconstruction of the Abuja Airport Runway in its first overhaul since its construction in the early 1980s.
There were other investments by the Buhari administration in airports safety facilities, and aeronautical meteorological services delivery complement, together with the ongoing development of seaports and ancillary infrastructure at the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Bonny Deep Sea Port, and Onitsha River Port, as well as the Kaduna, Kano and Katsina Inland Dry Ports to create a truly multimodal transport system.
“Over the last year, this Administration has implemented several priority projects. Our focus has been on the completion of key road and rail projects;… we have awarded several contracts to rehabilitate, reconstruct and construct major arterial roads to reduce the hardship to commuters and increase economic activity,” Buhari said.
Fashola, on his part, said that in spite of the shortfall in the federal government’s revenue, arising from weakness in the global economy that led to drop in oil revenue, the Buhari-led government has been able to construct and complete over 8,352.94 kilometres of roads and created no fewer than 339,955 jobs between 2016 and 2022.
The minister also stated that the rehabilitation of 12 major roads – spanning 896.187 kilometres across the country – within same period has led to reduction of travel time by 56.20 per cent and added value to the people in the communities, where the roads pass through.
Fashola who stated this at a press conference to highlight the achievements of the Buhari-led administration in the areas of works and housing, last October, (then) also revealed that the federal government was expected to open the Second Niger Bridge to the public on or before the 2022 Christmas.
Fashola explained that the Buhari’s administration had devised a number of initiatives to draw down funds for the construction of critical road infrastructure in the country and end the suffering of Nigerians on certain roads that were notorious for being in bad shape.
He listed the initiatives to include the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF); the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, Sukuk Fund; the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, Multilateral loans/grants and collaboration with other government agencies such as the North East Development Commission.
For instance, he said the PIDF assisted immensely in the construction of the rehabilitation, construction and expansion of Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Dual Carriageway Section I (Lagos-Shagamu) in Lagos State; rehabilitation, construction and expansion of Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Dual Carriageway Section II: (Shagamu-Ibadan) in Oyo State; construction of main works, including associated infrastructure for the 2nd Niger Bridge, and the rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Dual Carriageway, Sections I, II & III.
In the housing sector, the minister reported that the ministry was undertaking no fewer than 6,022 housing units nationwide, but has completed a total of 2,864 units in 35 states and the FCT and created 29,030 direct and 57,874 indirect jobs in the process.
Also, Fashola disclosed that as of December 2021, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) had released N183.1 billion under the road infrastructure tax scheme which was inaugurated last year. In all, the minister said 8,424 persons had been employed under the initiative.
Indeed, the Ministry of Works and Housing, under the stewarding of Fashola, is present in all the states of the federation either through a road, bridge, National Housing Programme, federal secretariat or Special Intervention Project.
If prior to 2015, the complaint was the neglect or lack of life defining infrastructure across the country, today these infrastructures are being completed or within the finish line. They are the indelible legacies President Muhammdu Buhari’s administration, through the auspices of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, will be bequeathing for history and posterity.
Rahma Oladosu, Staff Writer Economic Confidential