The most prominent indicator of national development is the standard of infrastructure that it can boast. A country’s economic prospects are decipherable from its ability to leverage the gains of technological advancement, innovative infrastructural arrangements, and a commitment to improving on collective manpower and expertise, necessary for driving a thriving 21st-century economy in the light of growing globalization, market competition, soaring economic dominance, and ravaging poverty rates around the world.
No doubt, the need to tap into this avalanche of possibilities that infrastructure can provide has inspired the Federal Government of Nigeria to embark on a journey of infrastructural revival.
Over the past decades, the level of decadence and rot in our national infrastructure from housing, electricity, energy sector, entertainment, education, and the rest, seem to have degenerated into a crippling factor and continues to limit the prospect of Nigeria as a giant of Africa from reaching its desired height.
This study is intended to look at all sides of the argument on:
1. What is INFRACO all about?
2. Why has it become very necessary in our national life and its potential?
3. The legal framework of INFRACO and partner agencies.
4. The need for government and private-sector involvement in the project.
5. The challenges that it may face with respect to implementation.
6. The Nigerian factors that impede projects with the potential of changing Nigeria’s economic trajectory
7. My recommendations and conclusion.
1. What is INFRACO all about?
According to a report by THISDAY LIVE, the Infrastructural Corporation of Nigeria Limited (INFRACO) is an infrastructure company established by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration that is set to take off with an initial seed capital of 1 trillion Naira.
The company is said to be dedicated purposely to infrastructural advancement to help facilitate the development of critical infrastructural projects in Nigeria.
It is expected that this initial seed capital of 1 trillion Naira will rise in value to over 15 trillion Naira over time and the company will be able to finance public assets development, facilitate the reconstruction, and rehabilitation of a national infrastructure, with a focus on power, road and other meaningful investments that will drive economic growth.
The INFRACO is expected to run as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). This will engender collaborative effort from both government and the private sector to contribute to the common projects of developing Nigeria’s dilapidated infrastructure in the coming years.
The Corporation began its full operation in the third quarter of this year and it is hoped that Nigerians will soon begin to feel the impact of this innovation.
2. Why it has become very necessary in our national lives and its potential.
Over the years, Nigeria has seen a massive decline in foreign investment owing to a lack of infrastructural competence worthy enough to shoulder the transnational and multibillion-dollar funded projects like manufacturing, processing, and the likes.
The constant collapse of the national power grid, poor transport system, and other veritable social amenities is a huge turn-of, these foreign companies are skeptical to invest their fortune in places where they are not sure that there will be a commensurate return on their investment.
What most businesses wish to do is to look for somewhere else with enough fertility where money can grow.
Ghana and some African countries around Nigeria have tapped into infrastructural advancement at least to some reasonable extent and it is no surprise that they have equally attracted huge foreign investment to their borders including car manufacturing companies, social media, and tech companies who now see the country as the choicest place for investment in sub-Sahara Africa.
Before now, Nigeria enjoys the place of pride as the number one economy suitable for foreign investment in Africa but with the trepidation collapse of its infrastructural baseline, there has been a decline in foreign investment which of course is one of the veritable indicators of national prosperity and economic growth.
Consequently, the move to set up INFRACO is a timely one and there should be a collective effort from all and sundry to rebuild our infrastructure and bridge the deficit it has incurred over the years.
Of course, when this is done it has the potential of making Nigerians prosperous again. We will move from the property capital of the world to becoming an economically thriving society where the deepening gap between the haves and the haves not will be bridged.
3. The legal framework of INFRACO and partner agency
As has been stated earlier, the Corporation is expected to be a public-private partnership and shall be administered under the leadership of the vice president professor Yemi Osibanjo.
Its collaborative agencies include the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, and the African Finance Corporation.
These financial institutions are expected to provide initial seed capital -that is the start-up funding for the Corporation.
The regulations guiding the establishment of INFRACO also provide that the Chairman of the Corporation shall be the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, while the managing director of Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, representatives of the Nigerian Governors Forum(NGF), President of the African Finance Corporation, the Ministry of Finance and three independent directors from private sectors will form the board of INFRACO.
The Regulation is intended to ensure that the administration of the corporation will promote accountability, and transparency and deliver the expected result of rebounding Nigeria’s dilapidated infrastructure and bringing it in consonance with 21st-century economic realities.
4. The need for government and private sector involvement in the project.
No doubt, the primary role of the Government is the welfare and security of its citizens. the bulk of creating a favorable economic landscape upon which citizens can leverage rests on the tables of government.
A single wrong policy can have spiralling effects on the diverse sector of national economy so also a very good and conscionable one.
Since the government is of the people by the people for the people, every economic policy issued by the Government or people in power must resonate with public consciousness and reflect their everyday reality. That is why Government cannot do the project of nation-building alone. It must constantly seek to partner and collaborate with the people for whom it is elected to serve.
The private sector has a lot to do with respect to driving a prosperous economy. There is no nook and cranny of Nigeria where one private business or the other does not exist.
Independent Traders, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and captains of industries make up a huge percentage of major players in the national economy and no meaningful economic growth can be recorded without bringing them on at the policy-making tables by government officials because truth be told, they are the hands and feet of every economy. That is why INFRACO’s attempt to facilitate private-public partnership must be commended.
5. The challenges it may face with respect to the implementation of its policies.
The principle of economics emphasizes that there is a recurrent scarcity of resources and this in terms affects a fair distribution of wealth across different pressing needs of a person or in this case a country. Due to very many national engagements and financial commitments, INFRACO will likely be faced with a paucity of funds.
To understand the future, one must effectively study the past. The dispassionate forecast will likely reveal that shortage of funds may be the bane of The Corporation.
Economists and financial analysts in different sectors have clearly stated that the 15 trillion economic valuations for The Corporation over time with no trajectory for accomplishing the same is a facade and unrealistic.
Added to the above is the problem of non-continuity in the public project by successive Governments who are more likely inclined to unbundle every arrangement of the previous government in an attempt to renegotiate the terms and exert full control of its operation.
This may as well be one of the biggest challenges INFRACO will face. With less than two years before the Buhari-led administration comes to a halt, one cannot tell from here what the disposition of the next regime will be towards INFRACO and because of that, its successful execution lies in creating a mechanism that will see that it survives political skirmishes and of course be immune from the destruction that has now become the character of public projects.
6. The Nigerian factors that impede projects with the potential of changing Nigeria’s economic trajectory.
–The lack of political will: Due to conflicting political interests usual with our political landscape, this present Government and indeed other Governments have developed cold feet toward projects of this economic magnitude due to the enormous responsibility that it imposes on them.
Because the next election is more important to a politician than meaningful national development a lack of Commitment, dedication, and willingness to deliver on this nature of Project have led to its failure over the years.
–Corruption and financial misappropriation: No matter how laudable the project is, the endemic problem of corruption will always rear its ugly head If there is no mechanism in place to check the excesses of its handlers.
Of course, from the pension fund to the Niger Delta Development Commission to Sports Ministry, Nigeria Port Authority to NNPC and a whole lot of government parastatals, individuals tasked with the responsibility of driving national projects have shown that unrestrained tendency to deep hands into the cookie jar and redirect national treasury into private pockets and INFRACO will not reach its full potential if the handlers do not steer clear of corruption and other sharp practices.
–Ethnicism and Nepotism: Nigeria is a federal entity with six Geopolitical zones and the core tenets of federalism preach equal distribution of scarce resources amongst federating units. Over the years, nepotism has characterized national project implementation.
If INFRACO must live up to its full potential, infrastructural development should be evenly shared; roads, rail, Power, gas pipeline, seaport, and airport must be equally addressed for all regions and there should be no undue concentration in One region to the detriment of other regions.
This is exactly why Nigeria has failed to grow over the years because we keep putting round pegs in square holes.
–Lack of maintenance culture: The rot and dilapidation of our national infrastructure that is -the few existing ones is a sad reality. From Oil refineries, Ajaokuta steel company, the National Theatre in Lagos, and other critical national infrastructure that should have fetched Nigeria’s fortunes leaves nothing to be desired and no matter how much we invest in infrastructure, if we do not develop a maintenance culture and this time by Government and people,Infraco these investments will be a wasted effort.
The more reason why a committee that should concentrate on maintenance be set up within the administrative architecture of INFRACO and be tasked with the responsibility of maintaining these projects from time to time. Our roads and rails fall into this category more often so something should be done about it.
As I have pointed out in the work, both the public and private sectors have some good measure of work to be done.
-There should be reasonable sensitization on the existence of INFRACO and what it is set out to do as very many people are still not aware of it.
-Government must be willing to sponsor the corporation and provide all the needed funding to ensure that the corporation is not starved of funds to execute its mandate.
-The private sector must be willing to work in partnership with the government and provide the technical support, supply of Manpower, and logistic inputs to ensure successful implementation.
-Nigerians should handle national infrastructure with the dignity it deserves and not destroy or desecrate it for any reason whatsoever.
-More surveillance should be placed on gas pipelines, and rail tracks to ensure that there is no theft of equipment critical for a smooth operation.
-The economic powerhouse of Nigeria which includes the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministry of finance should leverage this venture and reposition Nigeria’s Economic outlook, implement policies that will balance the economic equilibrium of Nigeria, and put more money into the pockets of the common man.
-INFRACO board must maintain a high level of accountability, transparency, dedication, and commitment to duty and not allow corrupt practices from their end to rob Nigerians of the gains of this laudable Project.
The INFRACO initiative should not be treated with levity. It should not be business as usual as there is a lot at stake and the future of Nigeria may as well rest on how successful this project is. We have witnessed in the past how projects of this magnitude were mismanaged and the ripple effects it has had on Nigeria, how a single wrong move can send shocks around the country and throw millions into abject poverty. The vice president, professor Yemi Osibanjo and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele have the bulk of the duty to make sure that the committee with collective endeavour from its board members delivers on this all-important national project.
Thank you for listening
David Chibueze Njoku is a legal Practitioner and president of the Legal Ideas Forum Int’l.