Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works, and housing, says Nigerian banks are not willing to fund infrastructure development in the country.
Speaking at the just-concluded 24 Nigerian Economic Summit (NES24), Fashola said only NLNG and Dangote Group have stepped forward within the private sector to fund infrastructure in Nigeria.
“In terms of our overall infrastructure, there is nothing wrong with our country. Nothing. Everything perhaps is wrong with how we have made choices,” Fashola said.
“If you look back to the 70s — and it is important because we have walked this path before — look back to the 70s, that was the time we built most of the infrastructure we are running on today.
“Tincan Island was a port expansion, Murtala Mohammed Airport was an airport expansion from the old ground without a tarmac building, and so on and so forth. And then we stopped.
“And then we started again early in the 80s, we built Egbin — and now I am talking power — Shiroro, and Jebba. And then again, we stopped. But all through that period, we never stopped producing babies, the population was growing.”
He said the Murtala Mohammed Airport was built when he was a teenager, and the airport has near similar capacity it had in the 1970s today.
“At the time Murtala Mohammed Airport was built, it was the best in this part, if not the whole of Africa. It was supposed to be expanded in modules, it didn’t happen.
“At that time, I was a teenager, I’m now 55. Can I wear my teenage clothes now? If I manage to get into them, I will be very uncomfortable, and that is the infrastructure story.
“We are living on old infrastructure. What should we do? Build more. How do we fund them? That is what we are talking about.”
The minister said Nigeria has “made many poor choices,” which have adversely affected the country’s infrastructure growth.
“There is this argument or this belief that the kind of infrastructure we want to build will be funded by the private sector,” Fashola added.
“I think what we need to do is just put the numbers of the infrastructure funding we need on one side and also look at how much the private sector is able to put in and the terms and conditions upon which they would do so.
“I think if we do that we would make some very quick and smart choices. We have two projects that this administration has essentially concluded.
“The construction of the Apapa-Mile 2-Oworonshoki expressway to be undertaken by Dangote Construction. It will cost N72 billion. We also have Bodo-Bonny bridge, which is to be partly funded by government and NLNG.
“Each of those parties are providing N60 billion each. Who in the Nigerian private sector has N60 billion that they can put in infrastructure? Because these are the big tickets items we are talking about.
“Let us be honest with ourselves. Of course, you know I supervised the first toll concession project in the history of this country — if I can say that.
“What happened? Immediately they wanted to index inflation, and cost and exchange rate into it, the people say they won’t pay, the opposition said just vote for us, we would cancel it. This is the climate in which we have to operate.
“The smartest thing for me is for the government to lead that way. Are the banks ready to fund infrastructure? Let us speak up, so we stop deceiving ourselves.
“Let’s be honest? We were here last year, how much has come to infrastructure? Only Dangote and NLNG. Who are the real entrepreneurs? How many of them can stand without government support?”
The minister gave credit to Fidelity Bank for its role in the infrastructure space.