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Essence of continuity in national development

Development experts and scholars have always argued that national development or progress in all ramifications is normally incremental, that is, by continually taking it a step further from where the project stops in the era of a previous set of leadership.

The development project can be at the level of an institution or at the level of a whole nation, in which case such projects can have impact on the wellbeing of millions of potential beneficiaries.

And where projects are abandoned, or left uncompleted after investing huge amounts of scarce national resources, the citizens often feel betrayed, cheated and badly treated by their leaders.

Bitter feelings are stirred in Nigerians  whenever they see some of the numerous abandoned projects in their country:  roads, bridges, primary health care centres, school buildings, airports, railways, dams, and in a way, even the peace and security of the nation itself.

The projects were abandoned for various reasons.  Bad planning and poor funding could be the reasons. Diversion of resources meant for one project into other areas of expenditure, which is called misappropriation, is another. There is fraud. Other reasons are political immaturity, which is simply manifested by abandoning an important national project only because it was started by a previous administration. In some cases projects are abandoned due to change in priorities, technical issues or simply because those abandoning the project will not be punished by the system.

With the advent of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a new vista and orientation toward national projects emerged: completing key, strategic or important national projects that have the potential to improve the well-being of Nigerians came into force.

Clear evidence of the new approach to national development, which incorporates the completion of key national projects regardless of the administration that started them, in addition to starting new ones, is visible everywhere in the country.

One of the many completed projects is the N6 billion inland port at Baro, Niger State. Its completion is a dream comes true for Nigerians that navigate on River Niger. More inland ports in several towns along the Niger from Lokoja down to the Atlantic Ocean are about to be completed.

Nigerians knew that the airport terminals in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano, plus the Abuja Metro Light Railway, the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge railway line were started by previous administrations, but sadly, abandoned. Today it is public knowledge that the airport terminals in Port Harcourt and Abuja have been completed and commissioned, while the construction of the one at the Aminu Kano International Airport is making steady progress. The Ajaokuta to Warri railway line has been completed after keeping it in limbo for more than 30 years by previous administrations. The Lagos-Ibadan segment of the Lagos-Kano line will soon start operations.

In the health sector, the Federal Ministry of Health was able to successfully complete, or revitalize and equip 4, 000 abandoned or neglected Primary Health Care Centres across the country.  The aim of the exercise was to avail Nigerians with health care services at their door steps.  At least a Primary Health Care Centre will be renovated, equipped and its services restored in each electoral ward.  Through this effort, the Primary Health Care Centres initiated as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) projects and earlier ones, would be completed.

In the critical area of the oil and gas sector, the administration has revived and promised to intensify the search for oil and gas in the frontier basins, namely the Anambra Basin, Chad Basin, Bida Basin, Gongola Basin, Sokoto Basin, Dahomey Basin and Benue Trough.  This was highlighted recently during the ceremonial spud-in of the Kolmani River-II well in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi state by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The core purpose of the exploration for crude petroleum in the frontier basins, according to the President,  is to make new discoveries and increase the country’s reserves of 30 billion barrels.  It may equally further confirm Nigeria as a gas province; generate more economic activities and contribute to our domestic energy sufficiency. The exploration will conclude the search for hydrocarbon reserves outside the Niger Delta part of the country in a logical manner.

In terms of road infrastructure development, there is no need to relate the story of the numerous roads that were rehabilitated or reconstructed throughout the country, but the Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano dual carriageway and the politically and economically sensitive Second Niger Bridge projects, deserve a mention.  A Presidential Road Development Fund has been set aside to ensure that these key projects do not fail due to lack of funding.

It is a verifiable fact that today there are at least two two-ongoing federal road projects in each state of the federation. And the latest move on road infrastructure by the Buhari administration is the signing of Executive Order 007, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, aimed at closing the road infrastructure gap in the country.

In the first phase of the scheme, 19 road projects covering 794 kilometers in 11 states will be rebuilt by six private companies in Abia, Borno, Benue, Edo, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Lagos and Rivers.

Signing the order was witnessed by six state Governors. President Buhari said at the ceremony that through the scheme, companies willing to build roads to their factories or farms would recover their construction costs by paying reduced taxes over a period of time.

Given his commitment to the development of this country, as opposed to self-aggrandisement, and his reversal of development inertia that led to hundreds of abandoned projects in the past, President Buhari has again proven his mettle so strongly.  The nation can reward itself by returning him to continue in office to do more for our country.

By Salisu Dambatta

Dambatta, a veteran journalist and former director at the Federal Ministry of Finance, writes from Abuja

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