Mr. Babatunde Fashola, minister of the key portfolio of Works and Housing, plays the role of enhancing growth through infrastructure development – which constitutes one of the central planks of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level Agenda.
He has clearly outlined the infrastructure commitments of the government and he has set the wheel of development rolling forward. “This will be a decade of infrastructure renewal and expansion”, he declared.
A two-time minister with a specified 8 years on the saddle, he will be in charge for most of the decade of infrastructural transformation. His infrastructure development package was framed to catch up with lost years in infrastructure development.
He said infrastructure development has lagged well behind the rapid growths in population and businesses since the 1970s. Making up for the deficit is now required to bring about the enabling environment for the President’s Next Level Agenda to run.
There is therefore a lot on the hands of Fashola to be done. “We have 10,000+ km of road network; we are refurbishing 37 bridges; we’re refurbishing public infrastructure highways and we are beginning to build our maintenance economy because it is a very important economy that really has not taken off”, he said.
He is driving infrastructure development with the purpose of enhancing the ease of doing business in Nigeria. And he expects to usher in an exciting business space that would spark off economic growth through investment inflow.
“This is the best country in terms of return on investment. You have a market that has a very high youth population, you see very active demand power”, he said. He considers Nigeria’s demand capacity irresistible to serious investors anywhere in the world.
His strategy therefore is to put the necessary infrastructures in place, let the investments roll in with new jobs, empowering the President to deliver on the promises of the Next Level Agenda. Fashola has unveiled a raft of ambitious projects, some of which are in the multi-billion dollar region to make this happen.
The ability to execute king-sized projects in austere times is linked to borrowing as well as innovation. In the face of revenue challenges, Fashola combines borrowing for economic capacity building with strategic private sector interventions through tax credits. He operates Highway Development Management Initiative under which a number of highways are being concessioned to attract private investments.
Under the initiative, companies and institutional investors can make the investment by advancing their tax to government ahead of due time. Eligible companies are given the opportunity to identify the infrastructure works and agree the terms of execution with the ministry.
Infrastructure development in tertiary institutions has also progressed rapidly under the Next Level Agenda. This includes the construction of internal road networks in 43 federal tertiary institutions. Simultaneous execution of the projects across the geographical spread of the institutions has ensured the provision of uniform standards for educational developments across the nation.
The mood of execution of the campus infrastructures has innovative empowerment content designed to impact the lives of students personally. Fashola mandated the contractors to engage students of respective institutions, especially those in engineering/vocational related courses on the works.
The benefits are two fold – gain in practical knowledge along the value chain of project execution and payment for involvement on the jobs. This is in line with the job creation and poverty alleviation contents of the Next Level Agenda of the President. The development is providing the lead to making beneficial community involvement in projects the norm in the country.
Such is the quickening impact of national housing project in creating engagement opportunities for community members. Involvement of both skilled and unskilled workers is making reasonable contributions in stimulating economic activities that create even more indirect jobs within the communities.