Uche Usim and Adeluyi Abimbola, Abuja
The Federal Government has said it would deepen its cooperation with South Africa in its efforts to address infrastructural challenges in the country.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, made the disclosure in Abuja on Monday at the maiden Nigeria-South Africa Road Transport Infrastructure and Public Public Partnership (PPP) Collaboration Initiative organized by Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
He said the government would throw its weight behind collaboration as it was a sure way of improving the nation’s economy.
He said: “We will show our support to this important forum. ICRC as we all know has made significant contributions to the delivery of PPPs in Nigeria. The federal government is committed to developing infrastructure through Public-Private Partnership”.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who was represented by Dr. Philip Ogbodaga advised that the initiative should serve a valuable lesson to Nigeria and Africa at large.
According to him, the event represents one of the strategies the Muhammedu Buhari administration would leverage on to achieve sustainable development.
The Minister of State for Works and Housing, Abubakar Aliyu, in his opening remarks expressed excitement towards the initiative, stating that it signals better days ahead for Nigeria and South Africa.
According to him, “I am personally excited about this collaboration as I understand its the first of its kind. When we encourage investment from foreigners, we encourage indigenous participation”.
The Senate President, who was represented by the Chairman Senate Committee on Works, Mohammed Adamu lamented that Africans want good roads but reluctant want to pay for them.
The Senator further narrated his ordeal as Minister of FCT while trying to build better roads.
He said; “when I was Minister of Abuja, I wanted to expand the airport road to five or ten lanes. I submitted a memo to the Federal Executive Council. So many Ministers objected to it saying where will we get the money to execute such project.
“We have to change the narrative, especially the perception of the western world that we have bad infrastructure. We can only change the narrative ourselves, by working towards it.
“The government is working towards reviving the railways in Nigeria to ensure efficient and safe movement of goods and services. The government cannot achieve this without the private sector.
“The National Assembly is prepared to look at the ICRC Act and make amendments to encourage private sector involvement”.
Giving his keynote address, Engr. Chidi Izuwah, Director-General, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission said the was a nexus between economic prosperity and sound infrastructure. “When we connect the continent, we bend the arc of history towards shared prosperity. This is just to give you a sense of the phenomenon you are part of just being present here.
“One of my popular mantras at most development events is the quote by J.F Kennedy “America has good roads, not because America is rich, but America is rich because it has good roads”. There is no other event more apt than this one.
Road not only connects/integrates, it facilitates supply chains and enhances a nation’s competitiveness index. Road has a transformational effect primary to technology or any other contemporary development programme”, he explained.
Bobby Moore, South African Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria hailed the initiative, adding that the swiftness with which the event took place signifies positive energy.
“The need to build a good road network in Africa requires our collective efforts. This is an initiative that should propel both countries into greater heights. Working together, we can be sure of brighter days ahead. Road infrastructure improves the standard of living of the poor, it integrates people, creates job opportunities, access to goods and services.
“In summary, it is more than growing the economy, its like air that we rely on to live. It’s about time we got down to work and strengthen bilateral trade between South Africa and Nigeria”, he noted.