Government must prioritise spending on infrastructure development – President, ECOWAS Bank

President of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, George Agykum Donkor, has urged the federal government to prioritise spending on infrastructure to deepen the country’s growth trajectory, just as he posits that “no country can develop without spending on infrastructure”.

Donkor stated this at the hybrid National Stakeholders’ Forum on Infrastructure Development held on Thursday 14 July at the Civic Centre and Zoom. Organised by the Research and Advocacy Committee of the Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD) with the theme, “Infrastructure Development in Nigeria: A Necessity for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth”.

Represented by MacDonald Saye Goanue, director of research and strategic planning, ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (joined in from Togo), Donkor stated that absence of infrastructure provides a challenge for economic development.

According to him, infrastructure development can assist in developing strategies against climate change and other challenges; just as it can help improve the quality of life. The president of the ECOWAS Bank further disclosed that Nigeria’s government has recognised the importance of the private sector in improving infrastructure development in the country.

According to him, public-private partnership (PPP) will allow the government to tap into the private sector’s knowledge and development skills. “ECOWAS Bank remains committed to Nigeria infrastructure development and willing to do what it takes to help Nigeria bridge its infrastructure development gap,” Donkor said.

Ije Jidenma, president and chairman of the governing council, IoD, in her opening address said that one of the banes of Nigeria’s economic development has been poor infrastructure development. She said that the webinar was geared towards discussing the important position of infrastructure in Nigeria’s continued quest for economic and social development.

Accordingly, she said that the state of the country’s infrastructure, apart from adversely affecting economic development, has also badly affected the social environment of the country. She said further that it has also negatively affected the standard of living of Nigerians thereby affecting the overall psychological sense of the people’s wellbeing.

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“A more robust infrastructure development will no doubt improve the business environment and attract the needed indigenous and foreign investment in the economy by the private sector,” Jidenma said.

In setting the tone for the first panel session on ‘Tackling Infrastructure Gap in Nigeria’, Oscar Onyema, the group managing director, Nigeria Exchange Group (NGX), who moderated said Nigeria’s infrastructure challenge requires both foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign portfolio investment (FPI); as such Nigeria must be made attractive to investors.

Muda Yusuf, CEO, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), said that infrastructure is at the heart of industrialization and competitiveness. According to him, the private sector will only invest in bankable infrastructure projects. “The way to ensure sustainable industrialization is to have sustainable infrastructure”.

Yusuf also urged the government to restructure the national budget and build a competitive framework in its privatization drive to give confidence to the private sector. He said that investment in infrastructure is long term, hence the need to de-risk the environment through reforms.

According to the former director general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), there is a need to deepen Nigeria’s financial market to support infrastructure development financing.

Mansur Ahmed, President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said that the government recognises infrastructure as a key tool to human and infrastructure development. He however said that Nigeria needs a consistent implementation framework to ensure infrastructure spending on the back of the revised national infrastructure master plan (NIMP).

While speaking on effective funding for infrastructure, Ahmed said that budgetary allocation cannot fund infrastructure development effectively because of poor allocation and release of funds. According to him, Nigeria needs both a legal and regulatory environment that supports infrastructure development.

Ahmed also urged Nigerians to insist that the next administration remove oil subsidies to provide funding for infrastructure development; stating that the current infrastructure stock of the country is not sufficient for Nigeria’s population, hence the country must move faster in bridging infrastructure development through private sector collaboration.

Ike Chioke, group managing director, Afrinvest West Africa, said that the first point of intervention in Nigeria’s infrastructure spending is to develop human capacity around areas that require infrastructure development.

According to him, the government must promote and ensure transparency and disclosure about infrastructure development funding. “You cannot take away issues of insecurity in infrastructure development and must create a stable environment,” Chioke said.

Patience Oniha, DG, Debt Management Officer (DMO), during the second panel session disclosed that the government has a list of priority projects; however the private sector players must ensure projects are properly conceived.

The DMO DG agrees that the country needs very clear implementation plans that are backed by both the executive and legislative arm of government. According to her, there is no alternative to infrastructure development.