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Nigeria and abandoned projects – Part 2

By Patrick Dele Cole
19 October 2022   |   2:43 am
The Steel plants in Ajaokuta, and the oil refineries in Warri, PH and Kaduna are all mothballed. (By the way, it was the Ukrainians who built the Ajaokuta Steel Plants.)

Oil refinery

Continued from yesterday

The Steel plants in Ajaokuta, and the oil refineries in Warri, PH and Kaduna are all mothballed. (By the way it was the Ukrainians who built the Ajaokuta Steel Plants).

The Ajaokuta steel plant occasioned the building of the railways to Warri, now it is a useless moribund white elephant project. Apart from the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, Nigeria built 6 Steel rolling mills which have all been abandoned.

In 1975, the government built twelve brick-making factories, one in each State. They have all been abandoned.

Nigeria had a Peugeot assembly plant and Volkswagen in Badagry and in Enugu, Mercedes Benz had the Anamco Truck Assembly plant. All the ancillary industries that were supposed to support the industries across these value chains were built but are now abandoned yet the civil service had no diminution in their pay despite the death of these industries. The loss of working opportunities in Nigeria was obviously fantastic.

The employment rate in Nigeria of 15% can never sustain the nation. The aluminium smelting plant in the south East and the newsprint plant in the South East have equally been abandoned, so also are the numerous cement plants.

Each of these major investments has ended up not being able to produce and achieve its purpose. There is no realization that the failure to make these enterprises work, is the major reason why our recurrent expenditure is skewered. Nigeria at one time had about 22 textile plants, at the moment, we have none.

The abandonment is particularly galling for the industry had encouraged the growing of cotton which made Nigeria self-sufficient in cotton production. It is true that our cotton had to blend with the long-stem cotton which we imported from Egypt.

With the great research done on cotton and the backward integration made in Cotton, Nigeria should have been a major player in the production of textiles. It is not so today.

Nigeria could have been like Uzbekistan which today is the 6th largest cotton producer in the world, employing two million people. No industry in Nigeria employs two million people.

We had sugar and that is also now a failure. We had timber which was cut and sold but no timber trees had been replanted over the years.

Cocoa and groundnut have gone moribund. Ghana is still producing cocoa and is a second-world producer. Nigeria used to produce more than Ghana. A major world producer.

Malaysia came to borrow palm fruit from Nigeria and today we are the major importers of Malaysian palm produce of which Malaysia is the largest world producer. Nigeria used to be the largest Palm producer in the world.

Nigeria had fed Europe with a lot of cashew products which we no longer have. Anambra and Imo were the greatest cashew producers, we were the second cashew producers second only to India. Nigeria had no competitor in the production of groundnuts. We do not produce enough for home consumption.

Some ingenious agricultural scientists were able to produce a formula for cassava flour to be used for baking, especially of bread. No one is baking with cassava flour today. There is a scarcity of wheat now due to the war in Ukraine.

We were in bed with North Korea to give us technical advice from 1976 for rice production. This present administration’s agenda for rice growing will probably just die like everything else. There are other countless projects that have been abandoned. As of today, there is evident lethargy. Nothing we are doing now will make much of a difference.

It is ironic that we should have problems with cattle. We had a vibrant leather- Hides and Skin Industry 25 years ago and now, I don’t think one pelt of leather is being made now nor are we exporting any leather. The saddest thing is that the expertise all of these endeavours had produced, is perhaps now lost forever.

The Banker’s Verification number issue has merely increased an unnecessary cost in the Banking Sector. The CBN wakes up one morning and orders the issue of new chequebooks and phases out all the old ones with no explanation. When you see the new chequebook, you see that the signatory section of the cheque was moved to the left and the amount moved to the right. These adjustments are a waste of money. It is clear that some contracts had been awarded to some favoured souls.

We were told that NIN was to help stop corruption. We have evidence that it is easier now to hack into people’s accounts. The NIN, BVN, and POS are all making it easier to hack our systems leaving people vulnerable.

There are stories that in about 11 minutes a person’s account was cleaned out after numerous withdrawals. It doesn’t give any defence but makes it easier for one to make a POS transaction and by the time he sleeps and wakes up, his entire account is cleared. All because she used a POS to pay for excess baggage on a flight from Lagos to Abuja. Over 1 million disappeared from the account.

The Bank account I had in New Zealand in 1962 is still the same account I have which hasn’t changed to date, but the accounts I’ve had in Nigeria have had to change severally. We are always verifying and updating data, yet the banking system remains very inefficient in fishing out those who commit financial fraud against its customers and their accounts.

You go to London and New York and other parts of the world and buy a sim card and it begins to work but in Nigeria, you must do all manner of registrations to get a sim card activated. They say it is for security reasons. Now all this documentation leaves people more vulnerable than ever, yet they will say they can’t fish out the criminals that are terrorizing the Nation.

The Universal Basic Education
If the Universal Basic Education (UBE) embarked on in 1974 had been followed, Nigeria would by now be the most educated nation in Africa and would compare favourably with Europe.

The such an educational level would lead to general efficiency. It would lead to the employment of more people and all the abandoned jobs will be filled, reduce corruption; encourage accountability and other regulatory reforms that would lead to efficiency and affluence.

This was meant to be an education scheme for everyone in Nigeria. It failed not because it wasn’t good nor well-intentioned. It failed for political reasons. The Federal Government had established a matching fund for states for universal basic education. Many states forged the numbers of students in school to benefit from the granny.

Others claimed federal funds for establishing almajiri schools; others claimed money for establishing iterant schools which they claimed followed cattle traders as they moved from place to place in the itinerant Muslim schools. The upshot of all these activities is that Nigeria has the largest number of uneducated young people in the world. Again education was an abandoned project.

We had Unity Schools that were supposed to enable people from different ethnic groups to mix and live together. It was meant to reduce tribalism and entrench Nigerians. It worked for a few decades and died.

Even in the Universities, the Vice Chancellors were mandated not to work in their state of origin. They were posted all over and none worked in his state of origin but now we have in Ibadan people who are demonstrating that the next Vice-Chancellor must come from Ibadan.

The same agitation is going on in Ife. Now tribalism has reared its ugly head in academia. The Military was able to implement these Nigerianness measures but now it is a huge loss that ethnicity has taken even stronger root, especially for these appointments in that the Federal Government has the sole responsibility.

Federal Government set up a tree-planting scheme, but it failed. It was abandoned. The Federal Universities are looking so dilapidated today and in a worse situation than the State-owned universities.

Concluded
Dr. Cole, OFR, is Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Brazil.