Infrastructure report: Still in deficit

2017.06.03

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

Despite handing over the infrastructure portfolio to its one time poster boy governor, the All Progressives Congress, APC’s alluring and perhaps well thought out promises on infrastructure remain a mirage midway into the party’s stewardship of the affairs of the Federal Government.

IF a government makes a  public  commitment, the government must fulfil that promise. Electricity was not discovered yesterday, it is over 100 years old and no excuses will be acceptable from the federal government for not providing electricity,” the then governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said while commissioning an Independent Power Plant in Lagos in 2014.

electricity

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The governor’s assertion of the failures of the Goodluck Jonathan administration was further canvassed on March 8, 2015, days before the presidential elections when he pledged that he could provide 24-hour power supply to every nook and cranny of Lagos if regulatory encumbrances were removed.

“Let the Eko Disco sign a contract with me, giving part of their concessioning to the state government. In about six to eight months, there will be power in all homes in Lagos State,” he had said. Whether it was his articulation, his performance in office or his political sagacity that picked him out, the lot of addressing power and indeed, the infrastructure problems of the country were put on the shoulders of the former governor.

As minister of power, works and housing, Mr. Fashola who earned the love of Lagosians as governor of the state between 2007 and 2015 had his job well cut out, if not by the very perceptible infrastructure decay, then by the manifesto of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. Ahead of the 2015 general elections, the APC pushed forward five key promises in its party manifesto on what it would do on infrastructure:

The five major pledges were:

  • Undertake an urgent review of the Public Private Partnership(PPP) enabling environment with a view to addressing the legal, regulatory and operational challenges including introducing enabling legislation where necessary. In addition, we shall create a National Infrastructural Development Bank to provide loans at nominal interest rates exclusively for this sector to help rebuild our infrastructure and provide gainful employment;
  • Generate, transmit and distribute from current 5,000 – 6,000 MW to at least 20,000 MW of electricity within four years and increasing to 50,000 MW with a view to achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within ten years, whilst simultaneously ensuring development of sustainable/renewable energy;
  • Embark on a National Infrastructural Development Programme as a PPP that will ensure the (a) construction of 3,000km of superhighway including service trunks and (b) building of up to 4,800km of modern railway lines – one-third to be completed by 2019;
  • Enact new legal and regulatory frameworks to establish independent regulation and incentives to accelerate public and private sector investment in seaports, railways and inland waterways;
  • Embark on PPP schemes with a view to ensuring that at least one functioning airport is available in each of the 36 states.

Two years after, the inauguration of the new administration, none of the key promises of the APC has been put in place. Tellingly, electricity which is a key index of infrastructure development remains as epileptic as ever despite the increase of electricity charges effected by the APC administration. The party’s promise to boost electricity generation from 5,000 MW to 20,000 MW within four years is in great doubt as electricity generation has even fallen below the 5,000 MW at the time the manifesto was articulated.

As at May 29, 2015, when the Buhari administration took over, peak electricity generation was 3,205.1 MW and two years later, as at May 21, 2017, peak electricity generation appreciated by 23 per cent to 3,949.7 MW. That is well below the ambitious 20,000 MW the party promised in its manifesto within four years. Though the administration is just midway into the four years within which the APC promised to achieve that goal, the prospects are indeed dire. Not only in electricity. Even in other areas of infrastructure, the prospects are indeed dire.

The party’s promise to build 3,600 kilometers of a superhighway has yet to take off the ground. The party is now the butt of critics who claim that the administration is yet to complete one kilometre of road anywhere in the country. The promise to build one-third of 4,800 kilometres of the railway by 2019 is presently only evidenced by contractual agreements that the government has entered into with the Chinese authorities. The administration may, however, share credit or maybe share the glory with the Jonathan administration which completed the Abuja – Kaduna railway but did not get to commission it before it left office.

However, the administration’s challenges are, partly circumstantial. Electricity generation has mainly suffered on account of lack of gas supplies arising from the crisis that arose in the Niger Delta following the administration’s ill-defined actions towards the programmes it inherited from its predecessors.

As Fashola said after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council last January, sabotage of critical oil and gas platforms in some sections of the Niger Delta, meant that “the Escravos-Lagos pipeline is not operational, the Forcados export terminal too has been out of operation, so if you can’t produce oil you can’t take the gas.”

The administration’s plans on infrastructure have also been challenged by the slump in the value of naira as compared to the dollar, the currency of denomination of critical foreign components needed for infrastructure. The administration also promised that one airport in each of the 36 states of the federation, but at midterm, that promise seems to be in the distant past, a point echoed by former governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife who assessing the Buhari administration told Vanguard in an interview:

“The APC, the government in power, has performed abysmally, poorly in Nigeria. There is nothing to attract anybody to APC. Some people say APC is ‘All Promises Cancelled.’