The Minister of Power Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has highlighted the specific steps being taken in the infrastructure sectors to reenergize the economy, saying the measures were meant to correct the mistakes of yesterday and move the country from economic stagnation.
Fashola, who spoke at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, USA, while presenting a paper on “Leadership and Politics of Reform In Africa: Lessons from Nigeria,” said the immediate and long term solution to the problem of economic recession lay in massive investment in infrastructure which, according to him, has already commenced.
The Minister, however, explained that it did not mean that Nigeria lacked infrastructure but that what was available was insufficient for the population and that although the past administrations failed to utilize resources of the oil boom period to make the needed investment, the present administration was determined to turn the situation around even with the lean resources available to it.
Speaking specifically on the sectors under his Ministry, Fashola, who reiterated that most of the problems, especially in the power sector, were not technical but man-made, added that his Ministry had evolved clear roadmaps that were already being implemented to achieve sustainable solutions to the problems in the three critical sectors.
In the Works Sector, especially roads and bridges, Fashola, who said the Ministry inherited 206 roads that were not budgeted for or poorly funded, added, that the roadmap consisted of identifying and prioritizing on heavy traffic bearing roads that convey essential goods and services across the country.
The Minister declared, “We have to build roads that evacuate our sea and airports, roads that drive our energy for now, roads that go to the tank farms to evacuate fuel from South to North and roads that sustain us, that is roads that bring in our feed stock, cattle and vegetables and livestock from the North down to the South.
“And that is why you see us building from Lagos-Ibadan road to Ilorin, to Jebba to link all the way to Kaduna and Kano and go on up North. And we are doing the same thing trying to connect River Benue through the Loko- Oweto Bridge and the Second Niger Bridge; Kano-Kaduna, Kano-Maiduguri. Those are the choices we have made , because this is a period of hard choices trying to do more with less”, he said.
According to the Minister, “Those are the choices that we have made, they are not esoteric choices; they are simple and rational choices. All the roads we are working on have been awarded before I got into office by the previous administration, over 206 roads. You don’t have resources to build 206 roads so where you put your limited resources is in those areas”.
Reiterating that the problem in the sector was also man-made, Fashola said the problem lay in under-budgeting which, according to him, resulted in contractors not being paid for three years, lack of project supervision and discipline to manage 206 road contracts that were not budgeted for or if budgeted for, were poorly funded.
“The total outstanding contractual liabilities are in the region of N1.5 trillion and this administration is taking them in batches starting from the critical heavy traffic highways that evacuate goods from ports, fuel from tank farms and move foodstuffs and agro-produce across the country”, he said.
In the Housing Sector, Fashola said the roadmap comprised the designing of houses that would respond to the diverse cultures and climatic conditions of the citizens living in the six geopolitical zones of the country adding, however, that this has been resolved by developing two broad categories of designs comprising blocks of flats for the Southern states and bungalows with courtyards for the Northern states.
Saying that the process of standardization of the house fittings has been concluded, Fashola reiterated the government’s decision to source all the fittings, including windows, doors, hinges, tiles, plumbing and electrical appliances locally in order to stimulate production by medium and small enterprises.
In the Power Sector, the Minister, who said the problem was that of insufficient power to distribute, listed some of the projects currently being implemented to increase power to include the 450MW Azura Power Plant in Edo State, the 700MW Zungeru Hydro Power Plant in Niger State, the Gurara Hydro Power Plant in Kaduna, the Kashimbilla Plant and the 115MW Kaduna Plant.
The Minister also listed areas where transmission expansion projects are currently ongoing to strengthen transmission to include the Eastern Axis where the Ikot-Ekpene – Alaoji Transmission project takes off up to Enugu from where it would boost power all the way to Makurdi adding that the local issues that earlier hindered work had been resolved.