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Experts decry low budget allocations for road infrastructure

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Amid the daunting task of funding the nations’ infrastructural deficit estimated at a cost of $878 billion by 2040, there are concerns on the ability of government’s budgetary allocation for road in 2020, to drive the needs of Nigerians and speed up economic prosperity.
   
The inability of government to sufficiently fund infrastructure projects and maintain them has heightened agitations with citizens struggling in the near absence of standard roads, airports, power as well as water facility. This development has continues to hinder economic activities and circumvent the nations’ transformation into a developed entity to be properly called.
   
Apparently, the presence and absence of infrastructure largely determines the fate, sustainability of businesses and the health of the nation as such facilities are the fossils that breed businesses across all sectors.
 
In the 2020 budget for instance, just over N210 billion has been earmark for the construction and rehabilitation of roads in every geo-political zones of the country.  The roads, which the allocation is expected to cover according to the executive budget proposal, include, dualisation of Sapele-Ewu road at various sections, reconstruction of Bida-Lambata road in Niger State, rehabilitation of Ikorodu-Shagamu road, rehabilitation of 9th mile-Orokam road in Enugu, and re-construction of Sokoto-Tambuwal-jega-kontagora/Makera roads. Others include, design and construction of bridge across the Cross River at Uwana to Nkomoro, construction of road Falali, Birni, Bako to Furoja town in Bauchi state, dualisation of Objana junction-Benin phase II & sections I to IV and dualisation of Sapele-Ewu road sections I & II, among others.
 
While experts have declared that it’s difficult for the federal government, the state and local government to fund infrastructure. Models like, infrastructure concession through public private partnership programmes majorly on roads and other projects have been seriously canvassed to bridge multi-billion naira gaps. 
   
Findings revealed that as of October 15, 2019, the total amount outstanding for payment to contractors for duly certified and approved road works stands at N321 billion. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola recently disclosed that about 540 ongoing projects being executed by the ministry were categorised based on special funding mechanisms.
 
In the midst of all these, the Chief Executive Officer, Proshare Nigeria Limited, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, observed that the per capital earnings of Nigerians was too weak to fund the needed infrastructures in the country. 
   
Speaking recently at an infrastructural award programme in Lagos, he advanced,“ We need to focus on key projects that Nigerians need, do we need more airports, roads, seaports or water transportation? There are options to finance infrastructure, you could toll the roads, operate with concession and currency regime that protects investor’s capital.

“Most of the social problems boil down to absence of essential infrastructure. We need the private sector and foreign investors to come in. We should think of how to solve problems and not how to throw money at projects.” He said.For the Chairman, Ikeja branch, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Olufunmilade Akigbagbohun, although the resolve to do more infrastructure by the present government is commendable but the budgetary allocation for roads construction 2020 is not going to be enough.

“The budgeted funds is not going to be enough for road infrastructure and so I would encourage government to do a lot of maintenance on some of the existing roads especially the ones that has expired with potholes. If we have good road network, people can move easily, congestions on the road would be easier, and help the ease of doing business in metropolis across the six geopolitical zones”, she said.
   
On viable option to fund road projects, she posited that government could encourage investors to come in, to do the roads and generate their money instead of government spending its own money on road construction. 
 
Contributing, the Chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Apapa Branch, Sunny Ejeje said the issue is not whether the money is going to be enough but what government intends to achieve with the allocation. According to him, if government sets its priority right, it could achieve more especially now that the budget would be starting from January 1, 2020.   

“Budget for road infrastructure over the years, has not really met the demands of Nigerians. The budget could be made and used for some other things. If the government doesn’t tell the people the performance of the budget; nobody could really tell whether it has achieved its purpose. At the end of every year, the government needs to tell the people what has been done so that people can really go and see for themselves. In our own case, it is not so and that is part of the dilemma we are in right now.”

“Budgets are not necessarily to take care of every problem in a fiscal year but depend on the priority of the government regarding what they want to do. They must have picked some few roads, as they can and there are usually some carry over from previous years or government.”Ejeje said it is not really ideal for the government to do everything; rather he explained that there should be a shift from that paradigm by letting private sector takes over.     


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