From the quantitative perspective, the pace at which infrastructures are being developed in Nigeria is breath-taking. Providing dragnets for millions of rural dwellers who find little or no alternatives to the drudgery of farming, there is no state capital that is not bursting at the seams in terms of physical expansion.
Houses are springing up everywhere. With the implementation of the Land Use Act bastardised, land speculators are having a field day selling and reselling a piece of land to unsuspecting multiple land buyers.
Nigeria’s road network remains the envy of most African countries, with Julius Berger, hitherto an obscure construction company back home in Germany, emerging as a recurrent decimal in ambitious, sophisticated and stupendously expensive road contracts.
However, it is on the quality front that Nigerians are confronted with nightmarish realities. Unlike you will find in the forms of rest points on highways in more civilised countries, no provisions are made for conveniences for motorists on stretches of Nigeria’s expressways. People then resort to “doing it” in bushes, with all the attendant risks of being bitten by snakes and other hazards.
In Kenya, as you go from Nairobi to Lakes Nivaisha and Victoria, where present, there are viewpoints from which visitors take in scenic spectacles presented by combinations of fauna and flora. It shows the extent to which the sectors of road development and tourism are integrated.
While there seems to be a boom in the housing sector in Nigeria, this doesn’t go anywhere near alleviating a massive housing deficit. The popular belief is that the majority of houses in high-brow sections (GRAs) in Nigerian cities are either unoccupied or scantily populated. Thus, in places like Asokoro, Maitama and Wuse 2 in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, for example, you have houses belonging to persons who are not domiciled in Abuja who only come occasionally to inhabit them. For much of a given year, it is the security personnel who inhabit the houses.
Of course, being the status symbol that they are, the houses come big, with as many as 10 rooms.
Despite the glitter that they exude, modern infrastructures in urban centres in Nigeria are a constant reminder of missed opportunities.
The other dimension of inadequacies in Nigeria’s housing is provided by gated estate development. The developers hardly provided for education and recreation, preferring, instead, to stuff the whole place with houses. The result is that children who should be receiving pre-primary, primary and secondary education in the large estates in which they reside – in which they are entitled to recreational outdoor facilities – are compelled to shuttle to other locations for education and recreation.
With every house providing its own water (boreholes) and alternative energy (electricity and liquefied cooking gas), the estates lack the sense of communalism that gated estates are supposed to provided. Every family is a form of government! What is often ignored is the danger posed by an influx of artisanal service providers that makes security management cumbersome.
Every household sinking its own borehole and using its own generator cannot be without environmental hazards. For this reason, why can’t water development authorities outlaw sinking of individual boreholes and compel estate developers to subscribe to centralised services? Why can’t the national electricity regulatory body outlaw individual generators and compel estate residents to subscribe to centralised stand-by generators as inevitable alternatives to the services of PHCN?
Who, indeed, are monitoring physical development in Nigeria to ensure that the environment is not impaired to the detriment of future generations?