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Foreign firms take Nigeria for granted, says Babalakin

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Dr. Wale Babalakin

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Chairman of the Resort Group and Pro-Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has said that foreign firms lack the ‘emotional capital’ required to develop Nigeria’s infrastructure.

He stated this yesterday at the 60th Anniversary/8th Fellowship Conferment Lecture and Ceremony of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Abuja.

Delivering a lecture titled: Constraints of Implementing Infrastructure Projects Through Public Private Partnership (PPP), Babalakin urged Nigerian engineers to sit up and insist on certain parameters and minimum quality of work, adding that foreign firms do not do most of the things they do in Nigeria in their home countries.

Citing the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a case study, he pointed out that Julius Berger PLC, was just resurfacing the road, describing the work done so far as “completely inappropriate and outdated.”

His words: “The road cannot accommodate the geographical growth that has taken place on that axis since 1977. This includes the emergence of towns like Ibafo, Isheri, Mowe and the Redeemed Church Camp. The road with the heaviest traffic in Nigeria is being built without the necessary accompanying facilities. Julius Berger is constructing a road that it can never contemplate building in Germany.

“Our Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited (BHSL) design provided for entry and exit to these towns without obstructing the flow of traffic on the expressway. We realised that simply resurfacing the road, as being done by the Ministry of Works is a disservice to Nigeria.

“The reason for the terminating BASL’s concession, which is the need to complete it expeditiously, has not been realised six years after and Nigerians continue to suffer on that road till date.”

He explained that no government has enough money to provide for all the needs of its people, noting that private investors should be encouraged to build sustainable projects so that limited government resources could be deployed to other areas.

“The average Nigerian mindset is that when a Nigerian invests in infrastructure, he is taking government money away and that mindset must be corrected. We built the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2) and we have been running at a loss for the past 12 years, but to the undiscerning person, who does not know the cost of putting that infrastructure in place, we are making a lot of money,” Babalakin added.

He urged government to be consistent and respect agreements with investors, saying anytime government violates contract terms, investors bankers panic, cost of borrowing increases, marketability reduces and they will have to pass the cost on to the project.


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