Efforts are under way to ensure that the Federal Government leaves no part of the country out of the planned expenditure of N6.5 trillion on infrastructural development in the country. The government wants equity in the distribution of the funds to all zones and states of the federation.
The government has a five-year plan to develop critical infrastructure across the country, while mulling a special infrastructure bond, driven by the private sector to achieve its lofty dream.
But first, it is concentrating on rail and road infrastructure in the face of dwindling finances, sources said. The Budget and Planning Minister, Udo Udoma, alluded to the focus on rail and road last Friday at a meeting in his office.The issue of which zone benefits the most from the federal expenditure has been a subject of quiet tussle among government operatives, spreading out often to fan sentiments in the larger society.
When the presidency released the first budget figures, there was the allegation that the South-West was the highly favoured zone, but when the figures were later tinkered with after the initial rejection by ministers who said the figures did not represent what they wanted, it was disclosed that the North-Central topped the benefitting zones. But at press time, no empirical evidence has shown which state or zone is a major beneficiary.
At the weekend, the government said it had commenced the collation of data towards addressing infrastructural imbalance in all the zones of the country, with a view to stemming the tide of restiveness, corruption and poverty.
The Federal Character Commission (FCC), through its acting chairman, Dr. Shettima Abubakar Abba, said the FCC was looking into data banks and soliciting information from appropriate quarters in a bid to properly establish the spread of basic infrastructural facilities as well as identify and confirm areas of real and perceived lopsidedness.
Abba, who was visiting Udoma, according to the minister’s spokesman, Akpandem James, explained that the exercise was intended to draw the attention of government to areas where there are genuine lapses as well as suggest measures to address them. This, he said, was to give every segment of the country a genuine sense of belonging.
Abba told the minister that his team would require the assistance of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in the course of its assignment. He advised Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to deliberately ensure an equitable distribution of amenities across the states and zones of the country, while considering projects for execution.
The Budget and Planning Ministry had restated weeks ago that it was not contemplating the dumping of the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP) as speculated in the media, noting that the 2016 budget accorded priority attention to infrastructural development and allocated a substantial proportion of the first full-year budget of the administration to the sector.
“It was the largest of such allocation since the country returned to democratic governance in 1999; and clearly showed a determination by government to improve basic infrastructural facilities across the country,” the ministry said then.The first five years of the NIIMP document provides that energy, transport, social infrastructure and housing should be given priority due to their current relative level of under-investment; and the 2016 budget gives priority attention to these sectors, with further room for enhancement in the planned 2017 budget.
Abba pointed out, however, that the move over the distribution of projects and amenities was not necessarily to look out for equality but equity.Udoma confirmed government’s resolve to ensure fairness to all the zones in the provision of infrastructural facilities, adding that the Federal Government already has in place an infrastructure master plan backed up with a strategic implementation plan to ensure that every state and zone is adequately catered for.
According to Udoma, there is the need for an equitable distribution because in not too distant future, Nigerians should be able to make a choice of moving from one major city to another across the country by road, rail or air.
The minister said it was an integrated plan that would also provide backbone infrastructure for agriculture and solid mineral development since the government had decided on a diversification process to salvage the economy from sole dependence on crude oil which had a very turbulent regime recently.
The NIIMP, according to the minister’s office in an earlier statement weeks ago, takes stock of existing infrastructure and identifies the required investments to bring them in line with the country’s aspirations. It also establishes sector targets, priority programmes and critical enablers for effective implementation.
Some of the major provisions of the NIIMP document include that priority attention be given to:
Investments directed at the roads sub-sector in order to refurbish cross-national highways as well as expand the regional road network and linkages to other modes of transportation;
Electricity generation capacity and expansion of transmission infrastructure;
Construction of supporting gas infrastructure;
Expansion of mobile network capacity and the broadband fiber optic network;
Increasing the number of housing units in order to close the current and projected housing deficit;
Construction of facilities for education, hospitals, women and youth development, and sports; and
Investments in national vital registration system and construction and rehabilitation of facilities for all security institutions.
The ministry stressed that the Federal Government is fully committed to addressing the infrastructure gap in the country in the spirit of the NIIMP, within the limits of available resources.