By Olusegun Olusola
Poor quality infrastructure is among the greatest restraints on Nigeria reaching its true potential. The problem affects all sectors, all regions, and all Nigerians. If we do not elect a leader in 2023 who can deliver a real solution to this problem. Dr Bukola Saraki is the only potential candidate for 2023 who has the record of effective change.
Nigeria has among the greatest minds, ambitions, and resources of any country. Yet we are restrained from enabling these factors to improve our lives because of poor infrastructure. From broken roads, to inefficient port systems, the problem is familiar to all Nigerians.
It is estimated that Nigeria will need to spend US$3 trillion over the next 30 years to close its infrastructure gap. It is no surprise that Nigeria ranks consistently low on the Global Competitiveness Index, due largely to substandard infrastructure.
Successive presidents have underinvested in effective solutions and displayed a lack of drive to meet the rest of the country’s goals. On a human level, a journey to visit our family in another state can take twice as long due to broken roads. On an economic level, inefficiency costs. In 2020, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) said delays in Nigeria’s port cost the economy US$55 million every day.
As Nigeria confronts in its worst economic crisis in 40 years, we need to elect a leader in 2023 who can lead the country to a new, modern era.
We are lucky that we have the opportunity in 2023 to elect fresh leadership to alter our county’s current trajectory.
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki is the only presidential aspirant for 2023 who demonstrates the will and practical skill to improve Nigeria’s infrastructure. While governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011, Dr Saraki initiated landmark reforms on infrastructure that drastically improved the lives of Kwarans.
Dr Saraki drove the Kwara administration’s construction of over 1,000 state-wide roads that were designed to fast-track a connected Kwara State. He also led efforts to rehabilitate roads across Kwara, illuminating communities with street lights that assisted security agencies in their patrols and surveillance.
Dr Saraki also saw that Kwara became the first state to complete its Nigerian Independent Power Project, in collaboration with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. His administration revitalised the Ganmo power station at Ilorin and connected 3,750 rural communities in the state to the power grid. He continued to blaze a trail of infrastructure reform as President of the Eighth Senate, from 2015 to 2019.
Under his leadership, the Senate passed a long list of transformative bills on infrastructure. Let us examine some of the bills which made lasting improvements to Nigerians’ lives, as well as Nigeria’s economy.
The 2015 Nigerian Railway Authority Bill, passed by the Senate under Dr Saraki’s presidency, provided for the fundamental restructuring of the railway sector by establishing the Nigerian Railway Authority. This new authority was tasked with developing railway infrastructure, owning and managing the railway infrastructure of the Federal Government, granting and managing concessions, and procuring funding for investments in the sector. The bill also ensured safety in railway services by providing for an independent railway regulator to be responsible for the economic and safety regulation of the sector.
The Senate under Dr Saraki’s leadership also passed the Nigeria Ports and Harbours Authority Bill in 2016. The bill unbundled the ports into management, operation and regulation, and established the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority (NPHA). This vital bill empowered the NPHA to own and control ports, issue regulations and policies, facilitate private sector participation, enter into contracts or arrangements and grant concessions on terminal operations.
The Federal Road Authority Bill of 2016, also passed by the Senate under Dr Saraki, was another key achievement. The bill established the Federal Roads Authority for the safe and efficient management of the Federal Roads Network to meet the socio-economic demands of the country. In addition, the authority is to promote the sustainable development and operation of the road sector, facilitate the development of competitive markets, enable environment for private investment, grant road concessions, and collect monies from concessionaires. The authority is also to create a more systemic, long-term plan for the maintenance of all Federal Road Networks in Nigeria and open up road building and maintenance to public private partnership.
The 2023 election is an opportunity to elect a leader that can provide real solutions to Nigeria’s infrastructure problems. Dr Saraki’s history of achievements speaks for itself. There is no other potential candidate for 2023 who has demonstrated such ability to improve Nigeria’s infrastructure.
Olusola writes from Abuja