Prominent players in the country’s infrastructure space have met in Abuja to chart the way forward for the country’s poor infrastructure base.
Some of them included the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, as well as the leadership of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).
In his goodwill message at the plenary session of the National Infrastructure Summit organised by the NSE, Fasola restated that infrastructure development, maintenance and management was at the core of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s strategy for growing the economy and lifting people out of poverty.
He said the stock of infrastructure and the commitment to grow them remains the real measure of a nation’s desire for growth and prosperity, stressing that a country cannot grow bigger than the capacity of its infrastructure.
Fashola pointed out that this was underscored by the fact that the ministry is currently managing over 800 contracts for roads and bridges, covering over 13,000 kilometres of the 35,000 plus kilometres of federal highways and bridges.
He described the projects as critical drivers for employment of professionals for design, surveys, and construction practitioners as well as a galvaniser for other sectors like mining for gravel, sand, laterite, crushed stones, while it drives the demand and supply of lubricants like diesel, and oils, as well as bitumen production and supply.
He stressed that while design, construction and governance account for only about 30 per cent of Jobs in the built industry, it is maintenance and operation that provides 70 per cent of the sustainable jobs long after construction has ended.
According to him, this is why the Buhari administration must take the credit for approving the first ever FGN Facility Management and Maintenance policy in March of 2019, which led to the rehabilitation of 24 federal secretariats under a facility management contract.
In addition, he stated that 37 bridges nationwide are now undergoing maintenance and repairs, some of which have been due for decades, stressing that many projects recommended for development in the 2013 National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan are now at different stages of completion.
Chairman of the NSE’s Infrastructure Report Card Committee, Ademola Olorunfemi, noted that the body was set up as part of the society’s contributions to driving Nigeria’s Infrastructure improvement and revolution, with the first edition of the report published in 2015 and the 2nd edition in 2017 with the third edition now in the works.
He stated that the report would provide a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, grade the state of built infrastructure in all sectors and states and provide policy makers an empirical guide in making choices and investment decisions.
In addition, he said it would enable government leaders to inspect their project portfolios critically, drive efficient allocation of resources, as well as encourage benchmarking and competition among the different levels of governance.
NSE President, Babagana Mohammed, in his remarks, said the summit was borne out of the society’s quest to continually drive Nigeria’s infrastructure revolution and sustainable development.
He said that a cursory review of Nigeria’s infrastructure development, maintenance and management spectrum reveals vivid challenges that need deliberate and pragmatic solutions.
He listed some of the sector’s challenges to include unclear and conflicting infrastructure goals and objectives at the federal, state and local government levels as well as ambiguous regulatory framework and inappropriate economic regulation with respect to pricing structures for the consumption of infrastructure.
He stated that the resultant effect was that Nigeria is currently confronted with the dilemma of a staggering infrastructure deficit and skills gap running into trillions of dollars.
Mohammed said that there was apparent dearth of data and verifiable information on Research and Development (R&D) output to guide mainstreaming of sustainable infrastructure development maintenance and management.
Also, Kyari, who was represented by the Chief Operating Officer, Ventures and Business Development of the NNPC, Adeyemi Adetunji, noted that as a company which is hugely reliant on infrastructure, the NNPC would continue to support the growth of the sector.
He noted that gas and power infrastructure will continue to top the corporation’s priority, describing the NSE initiative as a very good and worthy one.
Also speaking, Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, who was represented Abdullahi Abubakar, noted that the ministry was deploying agricultural technology as a form of infrastructure in a bid to ensure food availability in Nigeria.