Sunday, December 13, 2020 8:32 pm
By Temitope Ajayi
This afternoon, I sent a message via SMS to Minister Fashola, SAN to know why there is lack of progress on Ikorodu-Sagamu and Akure-Ikere-Ado road projects. Arab Contractors has stopped work on Ikorodu-Sagamu road and Dantata Sawoe has not done any major equipment mobilisation to site on Akure-Ikere-Ado road dualisation.
Let me just say I was not expecting any response really but less than 5 minutes after my message, Minister Fashola called. I found that quite commendable. And Fashola ‘mo agbekale oro’ (very nuanced with words). He just summed up everything to lack of money. He then told me the battles he is fighting with National Assembly members on how to fund some of the existing and approved road contracts instead of just awarding new ones.
Our national budget for infrastructure year-on-year is too paltry to make any dent on the gamut of deficit. We also have citizens who loathe to pay for anything with this wrong notion that govt must provide everything free.
We have National Assembly members who will not agree to prioritising projects because everyone wants their part of the country, state, home town, village etc to come first even when on the scale of socio-economic importance, some areas carry more significance than the other. Money that should be used to fund a major project or a road to completion within 2 or 3 year maximum will be splitted on 10 roads and non of the roads will get completed in 10 years. Minister Fashola identified awarding contracts without the required funding in place as a major problem of executing projects through annual budget circle.
To get over this challenge, Minister Fashola then explained that the FG set up a special Presidential Infrastructure Fund being managed by the Sovereign Wealth Authority to execute key 4 national economic road projects that the FG is committed to completing before 2023. The govt also created special incentives for private companies like Dangote to take over some selected roads with tax rebate as part of the ways to fund road projects outside the annual budget circle. Another is the Sukuk Bond being used to fund 25 key road projects across the country.
The long and short of it all is that government does not have money to fund all projects and will never have all the money to spend on all projects at the same time. He is promoting an infrastructure fund that will involve the private sector, multilateral institutions and the Federal Government. The CBN is already leading that effort with the N15trillion Infrastructure Company.
If we really want to move the needle and get things done, citizens must brace up to pay for toll roads and other public utilities. Otherwise we will live with our decrepit and shambolic roads and other public utilities for a very long time to come.