By Bennett Oghifo

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the interconnection of the African continent with major highways was designed to build and develop the economies of the different countries.

The president stated this during the week in Abuja at the African Road Builders’ inaugural conference and Africa Road Builders’ Award, known as the Trophee Babacar Ndiaye Award.

President Buhari won the 2021 Trophee Babacar Ndiaye award but the presentation was not done because of COVD-19. The president’s award was thus presented at the Abuja conference.

The president, represented by the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the Trans African Highway programme, launched in 1971 sought to connect the whole of Africa through a major system of nine highways, the TAH1 to the TAH9, covering an aggregate distance of 56,683 kilometres.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), he said is a financial institution set up to support the African countries in their developmental objectives.

The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement was set up to create a unified, borderless market of over one billion people to facilitate intra-African Trade.

“I am delighted to report that Nigeria is playing her membership and leadership role in all of these institutions and in the pursuit of achieving their objectives.

“Only a few days ago in the city of Lagos, our private sector opened a 3,000 metric tonne granular Fertilizer Company to support Farmers and Agriculturalists on the African continent and beyond. Our collaboration with the African Development Bank has been productive and results are now manifest in projects like the Mfum-Bamenda Bridge that connects Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon. I also acknowledge the support of the Bank in financing Feasibilities, consultancies and pre-construction work on the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor, comprising Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire which is part of Trans African Highway No. 7 from Dakar in Senegal to Lagos in Nigeria.

“I am happy to report that the Nigerian section of this highway is now under construction on the Lagos-Badagry corridor through our local financing institution such as the Tax Credit Scheme introduced by Executive Order No. 7; and in collaboration with the Lagos State Government.

I am able to report that apart from Trans African Highway No. 7, Nigeria is also connected by Trans African Highways No. 2, Algiers to Lagos and Trans African Highway No. 8, Lagos – Mombasa.”

He said the East to West crossing of Nigeria across the Second River Niger Bridge, which will be finished this year is a major investment by Nigeria on the Lagos-Mombasa Trans African Highway, as is the Enugu – Abakaliki to Mfum Highway.

According to him, the 375Km Abuja to Kano that is now under construction is Nigeria’s major part of the Trans African Highway No. 2; Algiers to Lagos.

“Apart from these Trans African connections, we are rebuilding, expanding or replacing strategic Highways and Bridges across our country.

“The Apapa-Oworonshoki Highway in Lagos is strategic for trade and business facilitation to support our busiest and largest Sea Port in Apapa and Tin Can Island.

“The Suleja-Minna Highway is critical to our petroleum distribution network and access to strategic petroleum products Depot in Niger State; and it is receiving attention, while the Calabar-Itu-Odukpani unlocks access to agricultural produce and supports mining and extractive activities for construction, in the South South and South East of Nigeria.”

He said these are only examples of over 13,000Km of Road and Bridge construction, expansion and rehabilitation nationwide. They have been a major boost for the growth of our economy, keeping people at work; driving a supply value chain, stimulating productivity at Quarries, Cement Factories, Steel Factories, and the Petroleum sectors for lubricants, fuel and bitumen.

“Our most recent GDP results of 3.40%, the biggest in the last 7 years clearly show that the construction sub-sectors and related sub-sectors of the economy were among the big performers of the growth surge. Very evidently, infrastructure investment is good for the economy.”

Accepting his award, Buhari said, “The founding vision of African Leaders is coming to fruition, Evidence of the African Renaissance is being shown today in Nigeria. The Trophee Babacar Ndiaye 2022 at the 7th Edition of Africa Road Builders symbolises this Renaissance.

“On behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I accept the Africa Road Builders Award for the Hope, Prosperity and Progress that it symbolises,” said President Buhari.

In a presentation ‘Building Roads, Building Economies’ at the 7th Edition of the African Road Builders – Trophee Babacar Ndiaye 2022 in Abuja, the Head, Special Projects & Ag. Coordinator, NII3P (A PPP Training Institute of ICRC), Dr. Amanze Okere said in 2005, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act was passed to bring about renewed hope in the quest for critical infrastructural development in Nigeria through the use of alternative sources of financing, by attracting private investment capital into infrastructure development. This enables the Private Sector to effectively partner with the Public sector in the provision of critical infrastructure, which the government was unable to provide due to pressure on scarce revenue, through a clear framework which provides regulatory guidance.

Okere said the Act is being amended by the National Assembly to implement improvements observed over the years, adding that it establishes the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Sec. 14.1 and that MDAs may enter into a contract with or grant concession to any duly pre-qualified private sector proponent for the financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of any infrastructure that is financially viable or any development facility of the federal government.

The Act empowers the ICRC to; Provide general policy guidelines, rules and regulations; Take custody of every concession agreement entered by the Federal Government; Ensure efficient execution of any concession agreement or contract entered by the federal government.

The ICRC coordinates the activities of the Nigeria Public Private Partnership Network (NPPPN), a platform for all States Heads of PPP Units nationwide, as well as the Public Private Partnership Units Consultative Forum (3PUCF), a forum for Heads of PPP Units in Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies; for knowledge and experience sharing ensuring symmetry of effort towards institutionalising the federal government’s PPP programme, provision of training and educational intervention among others.

He said for 2022, ICRC intends to gazette a pipeline of 52 eligible and bankable PPP projects, worth about USD 22 Billion by the beginning of Q2, 2022.

The Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) presented the Bonny-Bodo road project, among others, stating that “For over three decades, there have been aspirations, from various stakeholders, to have a major highway access into Bonny Island, which is a major oil and gas export hub for Nigeria.

“Access into Bonny Island has predominantly been by water transportation and the lack of an access road is said to have impacted the socio-economic development on the island. This lack of access is also a major driver for the prevalent high cost of living in the community and likewise the high cost of doing business, estimated between 20 – 40% when compared to other Nigerian cities i.e. Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja.

“NLNG, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Development Framework, supports the development of infrastructure by various levels of government, particularly within the Niger Delta. Bonny Island and Nigeria LNG stand to benefit tremendously not only in cost reduction in doing business but also enhance the rapid development on the island. Social Economic Impact: Culture: Deepen Diversity Improved and alternative access for indigenes and visitors, boosting economic development and understanding of Bonny Culture Employment and Human Capital Development: Bonny Community Health Insurance Program (BCHIP), Bonny Malaria Elimination Programme (BNYMEP); Economic Diversification & Expansion: Opening of Business corridor along the Right of Way; Better access to Utilities – Power, IT etc., underpins the Bonny-Dubai Vision: Bonny Tourism Initiative, with easier access to Eco-Tourism sites, Finima Nature Park and Bonny Consulate Building Trigger for boosting alternative economy Strategic fit with NLNG’s aspirations: Significant reduction in cost of NLNG Operations: aligned with our strategy and key focus areas Cost Competitiveness Shareholder Value; Business Growth: Deepening LNG & LPG Domestication – through LNG & LPG Road Trucking – boosting supply in other untapped markets and areas in the country.”

In a presentation, the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (“PIDF”), Uche Orji stated that the “PIDF was established in 2018 to accelerate the execution of critical infrastructure projects, which include (i) Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (“LIE”), (ii) Second Niger Bridge (“2NB”), and (iii) Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road (“AKR”).”

It also included (iv) East-West Road Project (“EWR”) and (v) Mambilla Hydro-Power Project (“Mambilla”).

Orji said, “The EWR project was removed from the PIDF Portfolio based on the request of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (“MNDA”) for its excision to enable MNDA undertake the EWR project as a public works contract. This was approved by Mr. President’s in a directive communicated on June 8, 2020. The development of Mambilla is yet to commence. NSIA has undertaken a value engineering exercise to determine design efficiency, cost optimisation and enhance overall project viability.

“The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (“NSIA”) is responsible for administering the financing required to develop the Ongoing Projects, which based on the original scope of work, were expected to be completed by 2022. In June 2020, Mr. President expanded the scope of AKR from rehabilitation of 92.5km across three sections to full reconstruction of 375 km. “Also in November 2020, Mr. President included the construction of the two approach roads to 2NB, 2A and 2B to the PIDF, as these are vital to usage of the bridge. These changes significantly increased the cost of the Ongoing Projects from ₦673.3bn to ₦1.52tn.

“In August 2021, Mr. President approved the phasing of the additional works on the AKR project and the 2B Approach Road, resulting in a reduction in the immediate cost of the Projects by ₦254.1bn from ₦1.52tn to ₦1.26tn. Upon completion, the Ongoing Projects will be commercialised through toll collections, development of trailer parks, marketing, and other revenue generating strategies.”

The Group Managing Director/CEO NNPC Ltd., Mallam Mele K. Kyari said the conference was aptly themed “Building roads, building economies” in line with the reality of the African economy.

Kyari said NNPC’s participation in the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme was to address the plight faced by petroleum product marketers in transportation which affects nationwide distribution and to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Works to address the issue, NNPC keyed into the Federal Government Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme.

“Under the scheme, NNPC is providing funding to the tune of Six Hundred and Twenty-One Billion Naira (N621Billion) for the rehabilitation of 1,804.6 Km of identified Federal roads. The roads which are also critical to NNPC’s operations are spread across fifteen States in the country.

“In line with the provision, the Federal Inland Revenue Service will issue Tax credits to NNPC which will be equivalent to the amount spent by NNPC on the road projects.”

He said the benefits of NNPC’s participation in the scheme include sustaining energy security through efficient distribution of petroleum products across the country and also improving other economic activities that are dependent on road transportation and social benefits

According to him, NNPC is also collaborating with other stakeholders such as the Unions to ensure that their concerns are addressed. “Road infrastructure remains one of the most critical aspects of national development which unlocks many socio-economic benefits for the Nigerian citizens and NNPC will continue to play its role as an enabler. In view of the importance of road infrastructure for economic growth and development, other organisations can also prioritize road construction and rehabilitation as part of their CSR projects.

Kyari said the initiative, led by African journalists and sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB) demonstrates the collective commitment of African countries to growth and prosperity through cooperation between our countries. “You will agree with me that as Africans, we are in the best position to help our countries and the continent.”

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