INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES BEFORE THE ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT BOLA AHMED TINUBU
As President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, settles into the business of overseeing the affairs of Nigeria, there are numerous challenges ahead for him to address. These challenges range from the huge debt inherited from past administrations to poor infrastructure begging for attention, as well as, insecurity.
Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and is the continent’s most populous country. With Nigeria’s infrastructure stock currently estimated at thirty-five percent of GDP, the country has significant infrastructure gaps. It is estimated that it will require an investment of about 3 trillion dollars to meet the infrastructure demands of its growing population.
The infrastructure gaps in the country vary from sector to sector. These include inadequate road and rail networks, epileptic power supply which includes generation, transmission and distribution issues, as well as, housing and health challenges, among others.
There is therefore a need to do a review of the state of the country’s infrastructure, with a view to facilitating necessary upgrades for it to compete favorably with other developed and developing nations.
Nigeria needs about 84 billion dollars annually to close its infrastructure gap, but has an annual total government appropriation of about 40 billion dollars and spends over ninety percent of its revenue on debt servicing. This is largely responsible for the inability of government to meet its infrastructure needs. It therefore needs a private sector driven partnership to fund its infrastructure development.
It is on record that past administrations had tried to bridge the infrastructure gap in collaboration with the private sector, but the deficit is yet to be overcome due to years of neglect under the military government.
In a bid to tackle the challenge head on, the immediate past administration of President Buhari adopted the National Infrastructure Master Plan and the National Development Plan, as long and medium-term strategies to bridge the infrastructure gap. It also established the Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria, a 15 trillion-naira fund, aimed at driving Public-Private Partnership investments in infrastructure in Nigeria.
The government equally showed commitment to rebuilding infrastructure as it allocated 5.96 trillion naira to capital expenditure in the 2022 budget. It also embarked on 11,800 new projects, as well as continued old ones.
These projects involved the construction of new schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, houses, energy, and telecommunication infrastructure, despite the Covid-19 pandemic which came with its attendant challenges.
Fuel subsidy has become a parasite to the Nigerian economy, which the new administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has promised to remove if growth in the economy was to occur. Many believe that its removal may see Nigerians paying more for premium spirit known as petrol, from the present 195-naira pump price. Economists have however posited that removal of the petrol subsidy will help save the country 250- billion naira monthly and three trillion naira annually. This could be ploughed into the provision of more infrastructure for the benefit all.
The construction of new and rehabilitation of decaying roads, rails, bridges, airports and ports will facilitate trade and commerce, creating job opportunities and stimulating economic growth.
Perhaps the most important of all infrastructure is power. No wonder the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina once said, “To stay in power, African leaders need to give power. Africa is tired of being in the dark!” Access to electricity is critical for Nigeria’s economic growth and development.
Improved healthcare leads to better national productivity. Nigeria needs more attention to be paid to this area. The then Obasanjo administration launched the National Health Insurance Scheme to subsidize healthcare for all. The scheme involved the construction of several facilities nationwide, which helped improve access to healthcare services. Nevertheless, the challenges Nigerians face today in the health sector have continued to evolve.
Major among them is the massive exodus of qualified doctors and nurses from Nigeria to other countries. Nigeria now trains medical practitioners only to lose them to climes that appear to take workers’ welfare more seriously. In this case, building state-of-the-art health facilities will be useless without the brains to operate them.
Therefore, the new administration must focus on the welfare of health workers as a motivated workforce will do “wonders” for Nigeria’s health sector.
In October 2022, Nigerian Universities resumed after an eight-month strike over poor lecturers’ welfare. Industrial actions are not new. Neither are the catastrophic consequences such standstills inflict on the economy. University workers’ strikes have been a perennial challenge for almost every administration since 1988. The Tinubu administration will therefore need to find a lasting solution to such occurrences. The recurring issues that lead to strikes, which are not new, need to be urgently addressed by the new administration.
Nigeria is a reservoir of successes and challenges. The new government therefore needs to hit the ground running by appointing credible technocrats to handle all the socio economic sectors of the country. Nigerians look forward to seeing changes for the better under the new administration.