“If the private sector is encouraged to participate, the Government would be able to direct its much needed funds to very critical areas of the economy most deserving of attention. I successfully adopted BOT at the University of Lagos; I do not see why it cannot be adopted on a larger scale at the Local, State and Federal levels of Governance. The fact that Babatunde Raji Fashola who successfully adopted BOT in Lagos is the current minister for Power, Works and Housing should count for something in this regard”.
By Afe Babalola
THIS week in continuation of my discussion of how BOT can be adopted in the transportation sector, I will state my own personal experience of the benefits of the system and how its successful implementation by one of the states of the Federation has shown why the Federal and State governments should adopt it as a means of improving the rail and road network in Nigeria.
In 2002 I was appointed the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos. At the time, I was very much aware of the many problems facing Nigeria Universities of which under-funding posed the greatest challenge. However, upon assumption of office, I discovered that the financial difficulties of the University of Lagos were more serious than I could ever have imagined. This much was evident from the bad state of the roads which led to the University. The buildings including administrative blocks, Lecture Halls and Halls of Residence were derelict and in need of urgent renovation. Hostels were grossly in adequate and were in urgent need for repair. The laboratories and other scientific facilities existed in name alone.
As a result of these problems, it was imperative for us to fashion out a way of increasing the revenue base of the institution. We realized that we could not rely on government alone to fund all the needs of the institution. We also realized that increase in tuition and hostel fee would be met with stiff resistance by some parents and students. We live in a country where people are mostly content with just bearing children while expecting the Government to educate the said Children through the primary, secondary and tertiary stages of learning. Some who could even afford to send their children to private secondary schools where they paid as much as N1 Million per annum stoutly refused to accept the slightest increment in hostel fees from N10,000 to N50,000. It was against this background that the decision was taken for the adoption of a system called “Build Operate and Transfer”, known generally by its acronym, “BOT”.
THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE WITH BOT
Consequent upon the introduction of the Scheme in the University of Lagos, the Private Sector was brought in to undertake some projects which otherwise would have been difficult for the University to embark upon without special funding from the Federal Government. Through this the much needed infrastructure was provided with the overall objective of improving upon the ability of the Institution to meet its primary and perhaps only goal of knowledge impartation in its students.
RELUCTANCE OF GOVERNMENTS IN NIGERIA TO ADOPT BOT
However despite the success of the BOT scheme at the University of Lagos, Governments at all levels in Nigeria seem to be slow in exploring the advantages the system portends for infrastructural development in Nigeria.
THE LAGOS EXAMPLE
Happily, the then Governor of Lagos State Babatunde Raji Fashola was quick to see the benefit of BOT and swiftly adopted it to the benefit of the State. On December 19, 2011, some newspapers printed on their front pages, a picture of an obviously elated Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State paying the toll at the newly opened toll gate, operated by the Lekki Concession Company Limited on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. The payment signaled the full commencement of the concession agreement entered into between the Government of Lagos State and the company.
Under the terms of the agreement, the company will be responsible for the upgrade, expansion and maintenance of approximately 50km of the Lekki-Epe Expressway (Phase I), and construction of approximately 20km of the Coastal Road (Phase II) on the Lekki Peninsular. The company would operate the road for 30 years in the course of which it would recoup its investment by collecting tolls on the road from motorists.
The road in question was constructed by Julius Berger during the administration of Alhaji Lateef Jakande as the Governor of Lagos State. However, with the advent of Lekki and its environs as a choice residential area and the attendant increase in the population density of that area, it was only a matter of time before the road would require some form of major upgrade and constant maintenance. This perhaps informed the decision of the Government to enter into the agreement with the Lekki Concession Company Limited.
Conclusion: I am a firm believer in the BOT system. I had occasions to suggest it to the Federal Government. I still believe that if properly exploited it will provide the answer to Nigeria’s problem of infrastructural development. Few people know that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was originally conceived as an Eight lane highway under a proposed BOT arrangement.
The plan was however jettisoned. Interestingly the government has now returned to the original plan of an eight way highway. We are all living witnesses to the problems now associated with that road. At the moment, the Lokoja-Abuja highway is another road that would have benefitted from a BOT arrangement only if Government had been farsighted enough.
Whilst arrangements were being made for the relocation of the nation’s capital from Lagos to Abuja, no thought was given to the need to build a road that would conveniently accommodate the huge vehicular traffic which the new capital was always bound to attract.
Similarly in several state capitals the same roads which motorists used in the sixties are the same roads plied by motorists today. Little efforts have been made to expand the roads despite the huge increase in the car ownership in Nigeria. Whilst this may be due to paucity of funds for capital projects, BOT is a viable alternative.
If the private sector is encouraged to participate, the Government would be able to direct its much needed funds to very critical areas of the economy most deserving of attention. I successfully adopted BOT at the University of Lagos; I do not see why it cannot be adopted on a larger scale at the Local, State and Federal levels of Governance. The fact that Babatunde Raji Fashola who successfully adopted BOT in Lagos is the current minister for Power, Works and Housing should count for something in this regard.