Policy Briefs

Infrastructural Development: A Panacea for Economic and Social Wellbeing

Address By Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, MD/CEO Selonnes Consult Ltd.  And Immediate-Past SSG of Anambra StateAt the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) Anambra State Chapter, 2016 Conference,  Emmaus House, Awka,  Friday, 21 October, 2016



I feel extremely honoured to have been invited by the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Anambra State Chapter, to contribute to your ongoing deliberations, which will serve public interest. Thank you so much for the gracious invitation. My gratitude also goes to your partner in this effort, the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority, (ACTDA). My relationship with the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Anambra State Chapter has been sustainable, and I take pride in calling some of your members, my friends. I have been privileged to interact with you collectively and as individuals.  

Indeed, the only award plaque on my office wall is the one I received from this august body on 11 July, 2015, one month after I left office as the Secretary to the Anambra State Government. That meritorious services award was for my “contributions in shaping the course of governance, and in maintaining the integrity of leadership in the state and beyond”. So, I mean it sincerely, when I say that I value my relationship with this professional and creative body.

I salute Arc. I.G. Chendo, the Pro-Chancellor of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University and the esteemed Chair of this conference. I salute also, Arc. Tonye Braide our distinguished Guest of Honour and the National President Nigerian Institute of Architects. I thank my dear friend, Arc. Peter Okpala, the Chair of the State Chapter, for his steadfastness and abiding friendship.

I’ve been asked today to speak on the “Infrastructural Development: A panacea for economic and social wellbeing”. I am a public policy and governance expert, but that does not make me an infrastructural expert. Yet, because I have been in the realm of governance and have travelled widely, I may have a thing or two to say, or some ideas to share. But what qualifies me the most to speak here today, is my standing as a private citizen and a member of the Nigerian attentive public, with high expectations of our national development and infrastructural trajectory.  

Appreciating Infrastructure – A Layman’s Perspective

Since I am not an architect, builder or engineer, I will approach my topic as a layman, from a philosophical perspective, being a social scientist. In the Second Treatise of Government, John Locke defines political power as: “a right of making laws and penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in execution of such laws, and in the defense of the commonwealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good.” From that definition I will excerpt four key phrases, which I will use methodically to underpin my views. These are: right of making laws; regulating and preserving of property; employing the force of the community; and public good. But before harping on these points, I must delve into two critical variables – vision and commitment.

Perhaps, it is necessary to set the tone of my remarks by highlighting my personal background and experiences. I was a child of two public servants; a Senior Service Administrative Officer and a Teacher. What this meant was that from birth in the mid-50s until the civil war ended in 1970, I lived in publicly-owned government quarters, and had firsthand knowledge about their upkeep and maintenance, and indeed, about how government went about developing, maintaining and regulating public infrastructure. Without any apologies, those good old days were far better in terms of general awareness and our common commitment to infrastructural development.

Today, aside from the prevailing culture of poor maintenance, the biggest challenge we have in our infrastructure is threefold: open sewers, a stinking environment resulting from open defecation due to a dearth of public conveniences and negligence of the rights of the handicapped. Nigeria stinks, literally. As we know, “Eliminating open defecation is the main aim of improving access to sanitation worldwide and is a proposed indicator for sustainable development goals (SDGs).” Today, Nigeria ranks fourth in the highest number of people defecating in the open, trailing India (190 million); Indonesia (54 million), Pakistan (41 million), and Nigeria (39 million). Indeed, figures emanating from Nigeria are indicative that we might be ranked as high as second. “According to a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist, Mr. Saaondo Anom, over 113 million Nigerians relieve themselves in the open because they lack sanitation facilities” and related infrastructure, especially water.

Nigeria has the dubious distinction of being one of the smelliest nations, simply because our people continue to defecate and urinate openly. Apart from Abuja, sewer infrastructure across the nation is designed to be open rather than closed. None of this is an attribute of development. But the greatest challenge is our mindset and exposure. If not, why would any public official dismiss the “absence of public toilets as a factor responsible for the menace?” Yes that was reportedly the views expressed in 2014 by the then Acting Director of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Lawan Shehu. Such utterances boggle the mind.

It is hardly incidental that our sewer and drainage system today serve the prime purpose of being waste disposal receptacles. We build gutters to nowhere. We allow the existence of drainage causeways that pose great danger to human security. A case in point is the infamous Sacamori Drainage in the Okpoko area of Ogbaru Local Government Area, where people are routinely swept away and drown during the rainy season.

Commonsense as well as expert opinion informs us that “Public buildings should be accessible and barrier free to able and disabled people.” Yet as a nation we rank very low in providing access to public and private buildings for the handicapped persons, who comprise some 18% of our national population. In a 2006 study of 164 public building only 40 had access ramps, and at the entrances, “only 45 buildings (18%) are with ramps and steps for access to able and disabled people. The remaining 82% are with only steps to cater for able and disabled people.” Recent studies continue to reflect the same pattern. Indeed, the contention is that “challenges include the horrors of architectural buildings, which have discouraged many challenged persons from having education.”

Nonetheless, discussing “Infrastructural Development: A panacea for economic and social wellbeing” in the Nigerian context, requires a grasp of expert opinion. Experts tell us that “Infrastructure is basic essential services that should be put in place to enable development to occur. Economic development of Nigeria can be facilitated and accelerated by the presence of infrastructure. If these facilities and services are not in place, development will be very difficult and in fact can be likened to a very scarce commodity that can only be secured at a very high price and cost.”

As we are also told, “In Nigeria under investment in infrastructural development could be a bane to her vision of becoming a top 20 economy by the year 2020” and “Despite her economic growth over the years, this has not translated to economic development due to lack of infrastructure, high poverty rate, unemployment.” The core premise is that development of infrastructure or lack thereof, will continue to impact on Nigeria economically and socially. In fact, speaking recently on the overarching importance infrastructure, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said, “It is the key to growth and [on] the fact that the money was released to major projects; roads, rail, airports, etc. Infrastructure will unlock the needed growth in the economy.” Surely, we know that Nigeria has experienced arrested development. 

Additionally, experts tell us that “Infrastructure contribute to raising the quality of life by creating amenities, providing consumption goods (transport, energy and communication services and contributing to macroeconomic stability.” Yet, today the reality is the opposite. We know for a fact, that our existing national infrastructures are decrepit and crumbling. Think of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway or the Old Road, which we are familiar with; think of our airport and national railways: think of national electric power grid; “the national grid recorded eight system collapses in one month” in 2015, resulting in national power outages. And think of our ill-maintained public housing and schools across the federation.

It is perhaps worth recalling here, that the unprecedented flood of 2012, wreaked great havoc on businesses in the Onitsha Industrial Harbour Layout. Anambra State incurred damages estimated at N26 billion, “with the industrialists being the worst hit.” The Anambra State Government under Gov. Peter Obi supported the industrialists with remedial embankments and cleanup costs to the tune of N100 million. Four years later, no discernible embankment infrastructure has been put in place with a view to stopping such flooding reoccurrence. It may seem flimsy, but yet worth mentioning here; the flood embankment at the Onitsha Main market build by the colonial masters in the 1950s sufficiently prevented the 2012 rising flood from surging into the market.

Here, in Anambra, we had a spate of building collapses in 2014, with human casualty tolls. The government worked well with the panel headed by Arc. Peter Okpala, which also included some of your members. The panel submitted its report in time and a white paper was issued consequently. Yet, those found guilty of breaches of the law and professional ethics, including, I dare say, some of your professional colleagues were never sanctioned and no one was ever prosecuted. These are some of the moral and ethical challenges we face.

But we also face systemic challenges. The reality, as has been observed, is that “Nigeria has never managed to turn revenues from high oil prices into long-term growth, and previous declines in the prices of oil decimated the economy and spun the country into chaos.” Absence of long-term growth invariably translates to poor infrastructural development and pervasive unmet needs. With the present recession, the situation is even direr.

Regardless of what we do as a nation, no matter how we covet the inspiration and visions that transformed Singapore and Dubai, if we have leaders who lack vision and commitment, we remain at risk of underperforming and underdevelopment. We cannot, therefore, speak of infrastructural development without first grasping the sectoral priorities, and sectoral niches, affordability and areas where we must strive for comparative advantage.  

We must of necessity determine what our focus sectors are, those being areas where we can exact “high impact value”. We must also seek the requisite synergy and complementarity between the government and the organized private sector, and indeed, with private entrepreneurs aimed at collaborating purposefully, while sharing the responsibility for building our national infrastructure.  

It remains a fallacy to think or expect government alone to build the national infrastructure. Government’s role remains that of regulator and partner in operating the Nigerian economy, and creating the enabling framework and enabling environment. Yes, government retains the core responsibility and must tackle the chunk of the infrastructure required for national development, down to the municipality or local government level. However, consortiums and private investors also do have a vital role to play. This is to say that there exist and will always be crosscutting niche sectors where government, consortiums and individuals can partner, under the rubric of Public Private Partnership (PPP).

A casual review of core infrastructural sectors as delineated by the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund reveals that we are conscious of core sectors required to leapfrog our national development. 

Of the fifteen core infrastructural areas, only one — the creating of free trade zones and industrial parks — could be said to be the exclusive preserve of government, because they entail legislation. The nine other outer core infrastructure sectors, namely — communication, rail, gas pipelines, sewage and waste management, gas storage and processing, mining and basic material, ports, waters resources and oil refining — where government still dominate in Nigeria, are generally considered cross-cutting or multidisciplinary areas where governments, consortiums and individual entrepreneurs are equally active.

The same could be said of the inner core service sectors namely – real estate, motorways, healthcare, agriculture, and power generation and distribution. Our Power Generating Companies (GENCOS) and the Distribution Companies (DISCOS) are still struggling, but I dare say that power supply is improving. While our communication system has vastly improved, the Internet resource and infrastructure especially Broadband optic fiber leaves a lot to be desired. As such, we are yet to fully catalyze the “use of ICTs for different aspects of national development”. Nonetheless, because Nigeria is a Third World country, and our governance institutions are structured differently, government is still involved in areas where it has no business other than a regulatory role. These are areas now dominated by consortiums in well-developed economies.

The best railway and train system in the world, the Japan Railway Group (JR Group) which is a prime example, is not run by government. Since 1 April, 1987, the JR Group, which consists of seven for-profit companies, has run what was formerly the Japanese National Railways. Their collective services and infrastructure caters for inter-city, commuter and the inter-regional Shinkansen high-speed trains. It’s noteworthy that a majority of the companies that form the JR Group are privatized.  

One may wonder why this point is deemed relevant. We cannot develop our infrastructure fully, if we continue to run them as social welfare entities. We cannot advance our national infrastructure mosaic, if the motive behind the privatization of our niche sectors is to enrich individuals, who masquerade as investors, but have neither the capacity nor interest to grow and sustain the infrastructure. It is on record that in Nigeria, “only 10 out of the 400 companies privatized so far were assessed to be on relative sound footing.”

There are several other challenges. Our “infrastructure stocktake” continues to yield dismal results. Government’s never-failing presence can be assumed in all sectors, including infrastructure development. But as we know, this is not always positive. Government institutions with the best of intentions create unending bottlenecks that stymie infrastructure, which is an accepted key driver in economic growth. Accordingly, inadequate infrastructure becomes a major impediment to entrepreneurial activities. Anyone who has tried to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), understand fully, how jarring the experience can be. Same applies to those who have tried to obtain pre-paid meters recently from our electricity distributing companies. Indeed, we experience here in Nigeria, certain constraints already identified worldwide by enterprises as impeding the development of infrastructure and hence, economic growth. These include:

➢ Availability/cost/timeliness of transport

➢ Accessibility/cost of skill/labour

➢ Demand for output or sales

➢ Compliance costs/regulations/RMA,

➢ Exchange rate volatility

➢ Energy (cost & supply).

In Nigeria, we have not only encountered these bottlenecks, we certainly contend daily with the last two; exchange rate volatility and energy cost and irregularity of electricity supply.

Grasping the Infrastructure and Wellbeing Nexus

MY FIRST POINT is about right of making laws. There is an inextricable nexus between infrastructural development and economic and social wellbeing of a people or nation, yet, nothing can be achieved, if the right laws are not in place and if laws in place are not respected and rigidly enforced. So the sanctity of the laws regulating the development and maintenance of infrastructure as well as the pertinent ethics that guide your profession must be rigidly upheld. Failure to do so will always result in varying scopes of disaster. Yes government is supposed to make laws regulating sectors in which we must build critical infrastructures; but professional bodies – engineers, architects, surveyors, town planners and lawyers — all have a role to play in upholding extant laws.  

We have been told that entrepreneurship is the surest way for nation to grow and that includes attaining the desirable infrastructural targets. That ought to be a common goal. That said I am of the view that one of the challenges least discussed and tackled is our overreliance on government. Indeed, government has become omnipotent. Yielding the public space that the entrepreneurs ought to control to bureaucrats and rogue policymakers is killing innovation and enterprise Africa and in Nigeria. As President Paul Kagame of Rwanda puts it, “government activities should focus on supporting entrepreneurship not just to meet these new goals, but because it unlocks people’s minds, fosters innovation and enables people exercise their talents.”

MY SECOND POINT is on regulating and preserving of property. Why do we need to build new infrastructure to showcase our growth and development, when we visibly cannot maintain, regulate and preserve the ones we already have. Don’t get me wrong, government has a role to play in regulating and preserving of property; but so do we as individuals or professionals. A case in point: in delivering the 8th Dignity of Man Lecture at the University of Nigeria Nsukka three weeks ago, Hon. Justice Peter Umeadi had this to say and I quote:

“As I think of the famous mid-rise buildings in the South-East, especially at Onitsha, the issue of piping potable water to all the floors, many up to 4 floors become urgent. Truly these are responsibilities of the government at all tiers especially State and Local Governments who apart from receiving allocation form the Federation subject the citizens to all manners of taxes and rates. I would expect that we should factor the provision of potable water into the designs of those mid-rise buildings such that it would not be approved unless such is shown in clear details. The law ought to cater for the wellbeing of people. After building the inspectors should return to certify that water flows. Where it is agreeable sanctions could be fixed and enforced.”

Surely, we can all relate to Hon. Justice Umeadi’s observations and recommendations. Indeed, he has not recommended anything new, or anything that does not exist in our statute books. What the Chief Judge has done is to indict our society at large – those in an out of government—and more so, building design professionals and those who have oversight for certifying buildings as habitable. Collapsed buildings, bridges or roadways are indicative of structural failure; as well as the collective failure of our mindset as a society. The same goes for our pothole-riddled roads and streets across the nation. Barring a ground tremor or earthquake, a newly constructed road collapsing within the first five years of its completion, only underlines structural failure and inherent defects. What this means is that we cannot reasonably preserve our infrastructure, if from the outset, they are defective.

MY THIRD POINT is on employing the force of the community not just to support the building of infrastructure for common good, but in ensuring that such infrastructure contributes to the socio-economic wellbeing of the population. In our fifty-six years as a nation we have had various development plans that had infrastructural development as its most critical pivot. This year alone in the 2016 budget, we devoted N1.8 trillion (30% of the total budget) to capital expenditure. This allocation followed the pattern of past years. For 2017, it is envisaged that some N1.7 trillion will also go to capital development and infrastructure to “intensify economic diversification, enhance infrastructure for increased productivity and development, improve governance as well as pursue social development programme.” Think of this, fifty years after the Niger Bridge at Onitsha was built, at a time our national population was just 55 million, the Second Niger Bridge, a dire necessity remains on the drawing board. What this says is that we have stopped thinking strategically, when we think of development. As I postulated in my recent book on good governance, Here To Serve, “the non completion of the bridge many years after its conception had become for many, a fitting metaphor for the federal government’s dysfunctionality in implementing strategic national projects.”

In the same vein, some fifty-six years after independence our railway system which commenced in 1896, is still operated on the standard gauge, which is incapable of handling our ever-increasing heavy haulage needs. Major cities like Ibadan, Benin-City, Onitsha, Ilorin, Owerri and Calabar are still unconnected to the national railways, and there are no rail links with our contiguous neighbours. What this means is that but for the Abuja-Kaduna segment of the rail lines, which opened on 26 July 2016, we have not improved that component of our mass transit infrastructure progressively.  

 As of today, only three light rail systems are under construction nationally – the Abuja Light Rail, the Rivers State Monorail and the Lagos Rail Mass transit. This leaves big cities like Onitsha without any form of rail transport infrastructure, despite its heavy commercial value. If I were to put my leadership “thinking hat” on briefly, I already foresee a prospective inter-state joint venture in a light rail project, that would triangulate three states, Rivers-Anambra-Delta (RAD) and four cities namely; Port-Harcourt-Onitsha-Asaba-Warri. The long-term value and benefits of this so-called RAD-Rail Transit concept would be humongous. What point am I trying to make? Simply, it is that we must think outside the box if we must engender progressive infrastructural development.

MY FOURTH POINT is about building for public good. A well-built, road, bridge, building or park, is of benefit to all users. Its aesthetic functions and beauty will generally be appreciated. Today, anyone traversing the city of Awka will notice our three landmark flyovers. Their purpose, I believe, is partly aesthetics and partly, the facilitation of unimpeded vehicular movement.  

Our shared commonality of interest and appreciation compels us all to demand the highest quality in our public infrastructures. Just like mid-rise buildings that do not have potable water, most public buildings in Nigeria lack access ramps for the handicap and invalids. What this means is that we are not taking into account societal needs; we are unconscious of those around us who are less fortunate. Not building for the handicapped means that we are disinclined in our thinking about progressive development. Look around, we no longer have open spaces and recreational areas in our communities. Every plot of land so designated has been parceled and sold off. Consequently, recreational activities are diminishing as an integral component of our civility, development and healthcare and social wellbeing. In its place our morbidity rate is rising.

It is commonly true that most Nigerian cities and towns are bereft of needed urban furniture like road and street signs and house numbering. These are necessities that improve the quality of life, and hardly luxury in any sense. Therefore, society at large, the people, government, churches, NGOs, CSO, Town Unions and Traditional rulers all have a role to play. There is and will always be a nexus, between conceptualization and design, construction, and management and maintenance of infrastructure.  

The Broken Maintenance Systems and Challenges

We unfortunately confront a situation where nearly all our existing national infrastructure is in utter disrepair. Simply, this is a result of poor maintenance culture and broken maintenance system. We have unwittingly become a disposable society. We commission projects, outsource their construction but never have long-term plans and service agreements for maintaining them. Those who secure turn-key projects only aim to deliver the project, perhaps at the minimal acceptable standards. Thereafter they walk away. If they were bound by a long-term maintenance agreement or some sort of guarantee or warranty, then the infrastructure will benefit from their professional expertise.  

Secondly, we no longer invest in in-house training and refresher courses for our infrastructure maintenance personnel. For obvious reason, every maintenance requirement is now contracted out, at outrageous costs. This attitude must change, if we intend to build for sustainable development. We need to return to the days of PWD –Public Works Department- which worked very well during the colonial days.

Designing for the Future and Economic and Social Wellbeing

Do we need to build national infrastructure for the future and economic and social wellbeing of Nigerians? I consider that a rhetorical question. But the desire to build will not materialize, if we do not have the correct vision, the political will, the necessary parameters and if we do not follow the extant regulations and enforce the rules where they apply. Developmentally, Nigeria lags far behind where it should be in terms of its infrastructure. This does not mean that we have not made plans or provided for them. It does not mean we have not thought of our needs. Development is certainly not cheap, but infrastructural development requires clear policies, focus and the political will. Indeed, we do not lack the capacity to grow and develop our infrastructure. Look at Abuja, it was built from the scratch and it has been fairly well-maintained. But Abuja has experienced deviations and subversion of the Master Plan. It took great courage to effect the necessary corrections; which should be a lesson for our friends at Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA).

Incontestably, we have as a nation waffled in our infrastructural planning and funding. Infrastructural development used to be part of the National Development Plan until we abandoned that process in 1975. Ever since, we have had various Vision Programmes; but these have fallen hostage to the four-year political cycle. Thus, vision enunciated by an incumbent president or governor tend to die once the proponent is no longer in office

As regards funding, our infrastructural planning has fallen prey to our budgeting cycle and methods. Proper and sustained funding for public and commercial infrastructure serves a common purpose; they “assist both public institutions and private sector companies involved in the delivery of infrastructure services by providing specifically designed development loans, which are price competitive and have medium and long-term tenors.” Still, it is common knowledge that at all levels we continue to experience situations where recurrent expenditure outstrips capital expenditure.

Government had also devised other methods, including private partnership programmes (PPP), which still do not yield the desired results. Beyond our regular national budget, we had established Urban Development Bank of Nigeria Plc, under decree Number 51 of 1992, which subsequently, became Infrastructure Bank Plc. The purpose of the bank was inter-alia, providing “financial solutions to support key long-term infrastructure projects.” Of late, we have been informed that government will set up the Infrastructural Development Fund valued at US25 billion. The provisions for the scheme and funding are reportedly “contained in the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), recently forwarded to the National Assembly. This is all salutary, but the devil as they say is in the details.  

Aside from the federal government, various states are devising methods for funding infrastructural development, beyond the funding they get from Federal Allocations. Akwa Ibom, for instance, recently introduced a bill to “facilitate and regulate partnership between the public and private sector in planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure, goods and service” with a view to “strengthening of the industrialization programme of the state government.” Such templates should be applauded.

In moving forward, I consider certain parameters imperative as we build our long-term development infrastructure. 

We must have clear vision of needs and projects. We need not build any infrastructure just for the heck of it, or to score cheap political points. The Onitsha Inland Port is a sad case in point. Since it was built in 1982, it has never been operational. Should it really count as infrastructure?

We must seek and trust expert opinion. Our experts, architects, structural engineers, builders, surveyors material testing inspectors and project managers must also be faithful to their respective professional calling. Accordingly, we must have “a value system that accords prestige and public esteem to scientific accomplishments” and our developmental needs. We must sustain and expand our Material Testing Laboratories. 

We must think of demographics when conceptualizing our infrastructure. Infrastructure serves its purpose best, if it meets the need for which it is built. We must at all time grasp those infrastructures that should be mainstreamed and those that are need-based and therefore, must be tailored to specific consumer or community. Consider this example and comparison. The distance between the City of London and Gatwick Airport is exactly 27.4 miles and the driving or travel time 1hour and 44 minutes. As attractive as it is to site an airport in Anambra, the question is at what cost and value? The distance between Onitsha and the Owerri and Benin-City airports is under 1hour and 44 minutes respectively. The driving distance between Onitsha and Enugu Airport is under 2 hours. In contemplating a cost-efficient infrastructure that offers the needed services as well as alternatives, the choice becomes whether to build an airport at enormous costs, or to improve on existing road networks to the existing airports within the proximity. Whereas political consideration will favour building an airport, fiscal realities, frugality and pragmatism will advise otherwise. I earnestly believe and have advocated that we will be better served, if in forging ahead, our states begin to think of joint-ventures within the various geo-political regions. This will help us avoid duplication, and focus on areas where we have comparative advantage.

In that same vein, we must project in our planning, so that provision of potable water to any community, for instance, “would start with counting the number of people in that community and calculating the yearly growth rate, finding out the average quantity of water each consumer take” as the basis for determining the capacity of water reservoir for that community. This practice is the direct opposite of what we have now in the siting and building of boreholes for our communities. Certainly, one size cannot fit every community, small or big. Any newly built infrastructure — road, bridge, and building – which is overwhelmed by usage or high traffic soon after it is completed has not really met public-interest needs. Same goes for infrastructure that has been outgrown in capacity, soon after completion.

We must have adequate funding for building and maintenance. Besides poor maintenance, the bane of Nigeria infrastructure is dismal funding at all levels, federal, state, and local government. This is a result of poor planning and budgeting, which translates to poor funding. I do not rule out the impact of corruption and embezzlement of allotted funds for infrastructural projects. Our envelope style budgeting format, which contrasts with result-based budgeting, creates obvious dissonance and loopholes.

Today, Nigeria is the graveyard for abandoned and uncompleted infrastructure. It is best to commence one project, complete it satisfactorily before starting another. Regrettably, political consideration and grandstanding often result in our leaders biting off more than they can chew. It is noteworthy, that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for example, today has a slew of abandoned projects; owes some 8,000 contractors, has a contingent liability of N1.3 trillion and is owed N500billion by its funding partners. These are hardly the parameters for purposeful development, considering that NDDC mandate includes infrastructural development in the Niger Delta region.


I started these remarks with a disclaimer of not being an architect or an engineer. Yet as a social scientist involved in policy formulation and governance, I appreciate fully that we must sustain our efforts to develop our infrastructure. It is good for our leaders to experience and enjoy intimidating infrastructures in Dubai, and indeed, mouth off platitudes about replicating such facilities here. Such dreams will not materialize absent the necessary foresight and commitment. Nonetheless, build we must, if we intend to compete, develop and attract foreign investors. Gladly, this week we regained our status as Africa’s largest economy with a GDP base of US$415 billion dollars, ahead of South Africa’s US$280 billion and Algeria’s US$160 billion. We need a broad-based infrastructure to support and sustain our economic leadership position.  

In closing, I cannot pretend that some of the views I have expressed have not been advanced by others. Simply, they reflect facts and realities we all appreciate. However policymakers and the leadership at all levels can make a great difference. Similarly, professional bodies like yours can continue to add value to our development strides, the prevailing challenges notwithstanding. Conferences like this are therefore essential components in our collective quest for a seamless development of our dear country. I ask you not to relent in your efforts to promote holistic development through infrastructural development.

Thank you and God bless.  




Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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