AT independence in 1960, Nigeria was classified as a developing new nation. But 61 years later, we are among the most underdeveloped and backward countries in the world.
All our economic, social, political and human development indices are among the worst while the deficits are among the highest.
The recent revelation that there are 56,000 abandoned projects in Nigeria validates the claim of Nigeria’s backwardness.
In August 2021, the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, NIQS, disclosed the existence of this large quantum of uncompleted projects, estimating the cost at N12 trillion.
The Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, recently confirmed this fact in a lecture at the University of Ibadan. But what is the reason for this shameful anomaly?
Abba Tor, the President of NIQS, postulates that most contracts fail in Nigeria due to poor cost estimation. Politicians and even private individuals tend to embark on projects without employing the services of experts, and even when they do, they do not strictly follow expert advice.
By the time market realities dawn on the facilitator, the effort is suspended. Some still go ahead to cut corners, which leads to failures of such building, bridge and road projects.
Corruption is central to most abandoned public projects. Most contracts are awarded to politically-exposed, overnight construction businessmen and women who collect mobilisation fees and abandon work.
Most contracts are compromised at source because the awarding and funding sources deduct parts of the project funds for themselves leaving very little for the work. Abandonment is also traced to lack of continuity.
New regimes tend to abandon contracts awarded by their predecessors, especially when there is a hostile takeover of power. Everyone wants to pursue his “legacy” projects which eventually ends in “legacy corruption”.
If the right things were done and these 56,000 projects were completed as part of our development efforts, Nigeria would have definitely been a much better place for all citizens.
Life would have been better and easier for all.
What we have, instead, is that the tiny few who stole public funds tied to these projects are living large at the expense of the ordinary Nigerian.
These capital projects would have contributed in boosting wealth and employment creation, and the violent crimes wreaking havoc on Nigeria would be minimal and easily controllable.
As a nation, we must turn a new leaf. The 2023 elections must not be business as usual. We must elect leaders who will rally the country to install checks against corrupt project abandonment.
The Legislature, judiciary, media, civil society and the populace must rise against corrupt leadership. Government is a continuum; a relay race. The baton exchange must continue until government projects are fully actualised.
We need a new era of accountability among public officeholders.