Olusoji Ezekiel, a driver who works in Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, leaves his Badagry home at 3.30 a.m. every day, just to get to work by 6.30 a.m. Ezekiel, 46, doesn’t think the Lagos State Government can complete the Lagos – Badagry expressway, which is undergoing expansion to ten lanes, with a light rail in the middle, before 15 years at the minimum, due to the current slow pace of work.
“There is nothing good in that expressway at all. The road is very bad, especially at ‘Under-bridge’ and Iyana-Oba,” Ezekiel said in an interview.
“Nobody knows when they will finish the road, but they have not done much work.”
Ezekiel’s three hour commute that should ordinarilly take an hour on a smooth paved road, and the lack of Federal intervention in the road project, are emblematic of the non-cooperation between the Federal Government and Nigerian states around priority infrastructure projects,which is stunting the country’s growth .
“Poor co-ordination between the FG and states prevents the efficient concentration of government resources toward priority investments and interventions that could unlock the country’s economic potential,” said the World Bank in its maiden Nigeria Economic Report released in May.
The FG’s 2013 capital expenditure budget of N1.6 trillion ($10 billion) is dwarfed by the cost of bridging Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit, which is put at close to $200 billion over ten years, by the Urban Development Bank of Nigeria.
This often leads to piecemeal execution of projects, and poor use and allocation of resources by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as the Government ends up spreading itself too thin on so many projects without prioritisation.
The Nigerian economy which the IMF forecasts to grow by 7.2 percent in 2013 may be able to expand by double digits if resources are channelled to projects with multiplier effects, such as the Lagos - Badagry expressway, Port Harcourt ring road, Ibaka deep sea port and others that can help narrow the output gap, the gap between the economy’s actual output and potential output, say analysts.
“These are projects that are beyond politics, for which intervention is necessary,” said an analyst speaking to BusinessDay off the record. “It is irresponsible of Government not to intervene in this (Lagos – Badagry) road.”
The international expressway for which construction began in 2008 was initially estimated to be completed within five years, at the cost of N220billion ($1.3 billion), but less than a third of the work has been done so far.
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola has been quoted in the past as saying that funding was the greatest challenge confronting the execution of the project.
The state had a budget of N499 billion for 2013, with 54 percent of it to be spent on capital expenditure, out of which N20 billion might be used on the expressway this year, according to Olufemi Hamzat, the state’s commissioner for works and infrastructure.
In the United States, the Federal Government often provides significant funding or grants for states to finance infrastructure projects which stimulate economic growth.
The US Government and congress approved about $25 billion of federal aid package to the State of New Jersey, to help rebuild everything from transportation to housing battered by Hurricane Sandy, in spite of the state being run by the republican opposition.
In China where an old proverb says, “to get rich, build roads first”, the central government has channelled billions of dollars to the regional governments to build infrastructure and boost growth and employment.
It is perhaps ironic that the FG is missing an opportunity to better the lives of citizens such as Ezekiel, as it seeks to lower the country’s 23.9 percent unemployment rate.