In modern times, the citizens demand from their leaders basic social amenities that would not only guarantee their happiness and welfare but also promote the security and socio-economic development of the nation or state.
Reflecting on the dividends of nationhood, how has the provision of social infrastructure propelled economic development and national growth?
To be sure, by social infrastructure, we refer to such basic social amenities critical to human existence and societal growth as well as economic upliftment which are best served by government through taxes by the citizenry. They include good roads, railways, waterways, housing, potable water, power, security and job creation.
A cardinal objective of the Nigerian government since the commencement of the 4th Republic is to leverage on its immense natural and human capital endowments as a leading African nation to join the league of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020.
To give fillip to this objective which is called Vision 20:2020 by the Nigerian government and which was inherited from the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, President Goodluck Jonathan introduced the Transformation Agenda with the promise of massive growth and development in key sectors of the economy including roads, rail, water and air transportation, power and oil and gas among others.
Regrettably, the bold initiatives and huge financial investment of the present government in fast tracking socio-economic growth, which had also led to significant improvements in key sectors of the economy, have been undermined by insecurity, fuelled by poverty and unemployment.
It is sad that while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been on the increase in recent times, poverty and unemployment have not been effectively addressed.
A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria’s relative poverty measurement stood at 69 per cent (or 112,518, 508 Nigerians). According to the report, North-West and North-East geo-political zones had the highest poverty rate in Nigeria with 77.7 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively. In essence, the present security challenges in the country have a lot of economic undertones. Where there is pervasive youth unemployment and poverty, ready-made battalions of potentials are made available for use by extremists.
It therefore requires immediate and long-term economic policies that would actually impact on the citizens because growth and GDP is not enough.
Here are some social amenities needed by a government in other to move an economy:
The constitution of a 31-member presidential board for the creation of three million jobs appears to be an urgent response to the grave unemployment situation in the country. Coming only months to an election year, the altruistic content of the move may have been tainted by expected electoral dividends.
Regardless, three million jobs within 12 months as projected by President Goodluck Jonathan, if achieved will go a long way in pulling out a substantial number of the unemployed, especially the vulnerable youth from joblessness to gainful engagement.
But beyond the cosmetics, Nigeria needs an enabling environment for job creation and government will need to provide a coordinated platform for the employment of Nigerian youths. Furthermore, the granting of tax holidays, well-tailored financial support scheme and waivers for imported machinery for production will enable the private sector meet the employment needs of Nigerians.
It is also needful for government to encourage and patronize local products through laws compelling government agencies and private sector to patronize locally produced goods to encourage local manufacturing and employment generation, this will discourage Nigerians from seeking investment opportunities outside the country but to rather invest in Nigeria.
This is a basic social amenity which has remained inadequate through the 54 years of Nigeria’s independence. Official Federal Government position today is that 33 per cent, representing 52.8 million Nigerians lack potable water. The figure could be much higher.
Presenting a three-year scorecard recently, Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe express belief that access to potable water has increased to 67 per cent from 58 per cent but in the actual view there are still work to be done.
However, in major state capitals and rural communities, the proliferation of water boreholes, the growing population of ‘Mai Ruwas’ and the huge investment of states like Rivers in water schemes indicate that much more need to be done to address the potable water issue.
There is the need for the Federal Government to ensure efficient and effective utilization of the nation’s water resources. There is the need to complete on-going dams, irrigation, water supply and other critical projects.
River Basin Development Authorities need to be strengthened for improved performance, especially for grassroots development.
The power sector is one of the most important of all that moves the economy of any state, as low capacity utilization in manufacturing industries resulting from inadequate power supply has led to closures and relocation of many industries to neighbouring countries with more reliable power supply.
With an estimated 180 million population, Nigeria generates a meagre 4,000 megawatts of electricity. As a result, small and medium scale industries, which are the bedrock of economic growth, cannot flourish while bigger industries are shrinking and “manufacturing” unemployment.
The problem of the power sector is compounded by the lack of qualified engineers. This follows the sacking of 60 per cent of workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria by private investor managers who took over the firm.
However, the Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo has assured that a meeting soon to be summoned with generating and distributing firms and other stakeholders will consider the Indian model that transformed that country’s power sector.
Furthermore, the Federal Government has resolved to commit $1 billion to improve gas infrastructure in other to stimulate power generation and supply but the question is ‘is Gas the only way of power generation?’ What about coal, solar, hydrogen and others?.
It is hoped that these initiatives will culminate in the attainment of 10,000 megawatts of electricity if keyed in to revive dead companies and attract more investors.
The population of Nigeria has grown tremendously without a corresponding growth in houses for the teeming population. Many of the political parties that have been in government had made housing a campaign promise without exerting the political will to deliver such promises.
The cumulative effect is that, if nothing is done urgently, an estimated 24.4 million Nigerians will be homeless by 2015. Nigeria today also needs a minimum of N56 trillion to be able to bridge a deficit of 17 million housing units.
The housing deficit, which is expected to be on the rise is an indication that government’s housing policy is not working as expected.
Nigeria’s home ownership rate is currently put at 25 percent which is very low compared to housing situation in some developing and developed countries.
Experts are of the view that until the relevant authorities are able to bring down interest rate to a single-digit level so as to enable low income earners access mortgage loan, housing deficit will continue to rise.
The government has recorded tremendous success in the restoration and modernization of the nation’s road network, which was achieved through the public-private partnership in road sector development designed to provide better and safer road.
The Federal Government says it has constructed a total of 2,000km of road, by 2013 and plans to increase same from about 52 per cent (17,742 km) to over 43 per cent (28,320 km).
However, a major federal link road, awarded in 2006 remains uncompleted. The East-West Road awarded at a cost of N349 billion now stands at 77 per cent completion according to the government. Niger Delta Affairs Minister has said that the road, which leads to the nation’s two major refineries in Eleme in Rivers State, is now in such a terrible state that it is causing accidents, deaths and high transportation cost to commuters along the Eleme Junction-Akpajo axis.