Economy

Securing the Nation’s Infrastructure: The InfraCo Solution

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Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (InfraCo) is the latest effort of the government to deepen infrastructure development in Nigeria by financing public asset development, rehabilitating old assets, and constructing new ones.

The initiative has the aim of raising $36.7bn with a seed capital of N1trn (about $2.6bn) coming from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Agency (NSIA) and Africa Finance Corporation, a Nigeria-based multilateral financial institution.

According to a statement from President Muhammadu Buhari’s office: “InfraCo will finance public asset development, rehabilitation and reconstruction as well as invest in cutting edge infrastructure projects for roads, rail, power and other key sectors.”

Partly for this reason, Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in a recent interview, disclosed: “This will be a decade of infrastructure expansion for Nigeria.”

In a related development, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, gave the indication that the government has embarked on the rehabilitation of decayed infrastructure in the last five years. He stated this at the 34th Convocation Lecture of the University of Calabar where he was the guest lecturer.

“The Buhari administration has embarked on massive rehabilitation of our decayed national infrastructure in the last five years. Throughout the federation, major highways are being rehabilitated and new ones built. Critical bridges are being built to link major ethnic-economic nerve centres.”

No doubt, the current efforts by the government underscore the fact that the economy runs on the backbone of Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI). In other words, the health of the economy derives from how well the infrastructure is maintained by the government that provides it and to what effective use it is put in the economy.

Regrettably, much of the infrastructure that has been put in place in many cities in Nigeria are always vandalised by unscrupulous people in the society such as scavengers and some businessmen who steal components of the facilities and sell them. Such acts of vandalism are increasing by the day.

One wonders if it is lack of maintenance that predisposes people to destroy these facilities, or moral poverty and economic pressure in the society which hoodlums give as an excuse. Furthermore, it is believed, to a large extent, that due to prevalence of unemployment, people tend to involve themselves in such crime. For this reason, a market is created where vandalized parts are on open display.

As a matter of fact, when critical infrastructure is vandalized in this country, a joke is made out of it. It is called “harvesting pipelines” because it is believed that the nation’s development is in the pipelines, so to speak, and so vandals want to get their own share of the development fast. Regrettably, such poor modelling, narration and communication are also promoted by some elements of the political elite and stakeholders.

From all indications, it seems Nigeria is at the mercy of vandals who are described in different ways: economic saboteurs who want Nigeria to go back to the Stone Age; militants who blow up pipelines and oil wells; insurgents who bomb bridges, knock down telecoms infrastructure, and destroy public institutions. Other actors are those who dismantle high tension lines and steal the cables so that they can be heated up and converted into pots and spoons. In addition, there are foreign subversives or hostile agents who are also sabotaging our infrastructure in aid of their home governments. Because our capability for detecting these acts is very low, we are not able to deconstruct and figure most of them out.

Activities of vandals are a major constraint to sustainable development in the country. Because of the frequency of occurrence, there is no proper analysis of the assets that are being attacked and destroyed in this country on a regular basis. Critical infrastructure is left unattended, and this is representative of the absence of capable guardianship. In other words, those that are supposed to be guarding national assets are failing or not living up to the expectation of the people. For instance, about eight years ago, Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras were installed in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. But many of them were vandalised because we lacked the technology component that would have served as a protection mechanism for such gadgets.

Similarly, at the creation of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Abuja, there was no department of maintenance. It was after many years of vandalism in the city that a maintenance department was established. By this time, a lot of things had gone wrong including the massive removal of manholes by scavengers.

Vandalising national infrastructure has become a problem in Nigeria. Many see national infrastructure as government property, meaning that government does not appear to have capable guardianship connected to the culture of protection and maintenance.

Building new infrastructure without maintaining the existing ones is tantamount to development retrogression. Nigerians must do whatever it takes to protect and secure national assets. What needs to be done is to put in place a Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) programme.

In 2011 when Boko Haram started extending the frontiers of their attacks to the FCT, the then National Security Adviser (NSA), the late Gen. Owoye Azazi, indicated the need to come up with a CIP mechanism. That, to a large extent, is why major buildings in Abuja started having crash barriers to prevent booby trap vehicles from driving into those structures.

The act of vandalising state infrastructure is criminal behaviour and cannot be allowed in any civilised society. CCTV system is a global preventive mechanism that could be adopted by the federal government as a component of CIP. This can be domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) that is believed to have the required skill-set to run the programme.

But as it stands today, existing CIP techniques in Nigeria are weak, unassertive, and owners of critical infrastructure are slow in mitigating the effects of attacks on their facilities. Robust policies and hi-tech equipment should be utilised. There is a need for the establishment of community anti-crime groups, the introduction of toll-free lines for emergency purposes and penalties for damaging facilities should be stiffer.

Our society seems to be sentimental when justice is applied against people that are caught vandalizing critical infrastructure. That is why some say that tampering with public infrastructure is a result of the anger of vandals against the state. In view of the excuses given for vandalising national assets, we must shape such rationalisations to formulate appropriate citizen education and deterrence in the event of running against the law. For instance, in the 70s, there was a piece of legislation that prescribed the death penalty for criminal elements who tampered with pipelines of crude oil or refined petroleum products.

Read Also- $2.3trn Infrastructure Requirements: Public Private Partnership to Fill the Gap

Citizen education will be useful as a component of the protocol to ensure better protection. There is a need to communicate to citizens the importance of seeing the nation’s infrastructure as their heritage. We need to take a preventive or proactive posture in defending and protecting national infrastructure. One way to achieve this is by building a risk management model that can identify the various assets, and do risk analysis and assessments to understand which assets are more prone to attacks and protect them.

Plans to check this ugly trend should be backed by adequate financial resources by the government. Funding is required to buy security equipment for effective monitoring and protection of assets. Without taking these measures into consideration, we will continue to grapple with the problem at hand while recording huge economic losses.

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Categories: Economy, Features, Politics

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