Government cannot fund infrastructure, says Babalakin
The Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Wale Babalakin, has said the government has no money to build infrastructure.
Babalakin said the notion that Nigeria is a wealthy country is false, adding that the only solution to the country’s infrastructure deficit is for the government to create an enabling environment for private investors to provide the required infrastructure.
This, he said, would be achieved if the government begins to respect the rule of law, adhere to agreements, obey court orders and provide incentives for private investors.
The lawyer spoke in Lagos at the weekend during the 2018 Construction Summit organized by the Faculty of Environmental Sciences, UNILAG. The summit, themed: “Smart Infrastructure for Sustainable Competitiveness”, was chaired by Babalakin.
He noted that out of the Federal Government’s N9 trillion budget for 2018, N2.2t goes to debt servicing. He said of the remaining N6.8t, about N2.7t was allocated to capital expenditure.
Explaining further, Babalakin said: “If you go by last year’s performance, total capital released was N1.5t. The remaining money went into current expenditure, statutory reserves and other miscellaneous payments. So the money the Federal Government can spend on developing the whole nation is N1.5t. This means that N1.5T has to accommodate the serious spending on defence, health and education, among others.
“For Instance, UNILAG has over 40,000 students. According to the National Universities’ Commission (NUC), the cost of properly training one undergraduate in a fully accredited course is $3,000. Using a conservative exchange rate of N300 to $1, that is about N1m per student.
“This implies that UNILAG alone needs N40b to train 40,000 students per annum. If you multiply this figure by the 40 federal universities in Nigeria, we will be talking of N1.6t. This means that federal universities alone require more than the figure spent last year on capital expenditure.”
Stating that we must learn how to maximise our modest resources, Babalakin said the greatest asset of a nation is its cerebral capacity, adding that we must promote those with enormous intellect.
He said it was regrettable that the government’s failure to abide by the rule of law has slowed down development and scared away many private investors. Sharing his personal experience on the concessioning of Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2), which was built and is being managed by one of his companies, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), the lawyer said 11 years after the concession agreement was signed, a government agency has continued to violate the terms of the agreement by running a parallel domestic aviation terminal in competition with MMA2.
Babalakin said it was sad that the government failed to adhere to the rule of law despite various court judgments and the award of N132b as damages against it in 2009.
Explaining his travails further, he said: “Instead of putting pressure on the government to honour the contract agreement, the banks started harassing us to pay their money. In the first 6 quarters, we were repaying N1.8b per quarter to the banks and we were generating N300m.
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