Transport infrastructure facelift: Accolades, knocks for Buhari’s alternative funding

By Grace Alegba

President Muhammadu  Buhari’s alternative sources of funding returned contractors to federal highway projects that were either stalled or abandoned due to inadequate funding by previous administrations.

The additional funding options, in addition to budgetary allocation, saw the return of construction giants to various project sites in Lagos and across the federation to record meaningful progress.

Highway and transportation experts scored Buhari’s administration high in infrastructure delivery but had reservations on some project designs that excluded economy of people living with disabilities as well as pedestrians who form a larger population nationwide.

Mrs Olukorede Keisha, the Lagos Chapter Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Highway and Transportation Engineers (NIHTE) said Buhari’s administration made indelible marks in infrastructure delivery across the nation.

Keisha told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that NIHTE is a body of highway, marine and railway engineers.

“On a scale of one to 10, I am going to rate him eight. The outgoing administration has done quite a lot,” she said.

She said executive order number seven allowed partnership of private individuals or firms with the federal government for road infrastructure development under the Road Infrastructure Development and Refubishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme.

She said the scheme gave beneficiaries opportunity where they could send their taxes ahead”to provide specific infrastructure after which their taxes will be cancelled”.

“So, they use the money ahead for the provision of road infrastructure and that is attracting a lot of development to Lagos State,” she said.

She said Dangote took advantage of the scheme which was first of its kind in executing some projects.

Keisha said rail interconnectivity had also received a boost and recorded tremendous progress under President Muhammadu Buhari led administration.

“Even water transportion is attracting attention, they are paying attention to safety,” she said.

She listed Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway as some projects that had benefited from the alternative sources of funding.

Speaking in her capacity as the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Keisha congratulated Nigerians for having Buhari who had transformed the construction sector.

She said his administration did this by “going into the thinking room and came up with solution to seek funding from other sources outside the budgetary provisions”.

She said Sukuk loans came to the rescue to give respite to projects that would have been abandoned and when the funding option was drying up, NNPC was unbundled to fund projects.

She added that Executive Order Seven made individuals, corporate bodies and government to collaborate in funding highway projects under the tax credit scheme.

“So, with all these, you see that almost all the federal roads in Lagos are receiving attention at the same time with no one left behind,” she said.

She said most highways in Lagos State were in deplorable conditions before Buhari came on board but when he took over, he decided to complete projects instead of flagging off new ones, which was a good decision.

The controller said Buhari awarded the Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki Expressway to Dangote Group under the tax credit scheme from start and completed it before expiration of his tenure.

She added that from Eleko Junction to the Lagos Deep Sea Port, Dangote Group was also constructing a 27 km project under the same scheme, adding that, the project started in July 2022.

She listed roads that benefited from both Sukuk and budgetary provisions to include Lagos-Otta-Abeokuta Expressway.

Keisha added that in addition to sukuk funding, NNPC Ltd also took over the Lagos-Badagry Expressway project.

She said Lagos-Ibadan Expressway inherited by the Buahri administration received speedy attention because of additional funding.

However, Mr Patrick Adenusi, Director, Safety Beyond Borders, a traffic and safety NGO, commended the huge investments across Lagos that made lives better but insisted no project was completed  because  furniture and finishings had not been included.

He listed highways that had recieved facelift due to opportunity of additional funding but called for walkways from Apapa to Oshodi and other built up areas to capture pedestrians who formed a higher percentage of the population.

Adenusi also called for additional foot bridges to be included in Lagos highway designs.

“A road is not complete when there are no road signs and markings.

“The designs that they have done so far in 2022/2023, did not take into consideration pedestrians. Pedestrian safety is a missing component in all of the roads that we have made reference to.

“There are no paths where pedestrians can walk and we have inadequate pedestrian crossing bridges. So, yes, they have done Apapa-Oshodi-Ojota-Oworonshoki project, good, but it is a death trap for pedestrians. 

“The design should have included pedestrian safety where they would have built walkways, pedestrian bridges at designated points for pedestrians to safely cross the road,’’ he said.

He said the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project when completed would bring relief but queried the design, saying it did not include adequate drains.

He said that the concept of alternative sources of funding for projects was laudable but the implementation should be reviewed to capture inclusive designs that accommodate all social classes.

According to him, alternative sources of funding is a good concept for easier way to have more roads built and maintained than government budgeting money and the jobs are not properly done and some are not even executed.

He said when most of the Lagos highways were constructed over 40 years ago when there were no settlements but  thick bushes ,which have now become built up.

Mr Kehinde Oshilaja, President of former Centre for Disability Issues, now know as Kehinde Oshilaja Foundation for People Living With Disability (PLWD), praised Buhari for the numerous projects.

Oshilaja listed projects that improved welfare, wellbeing and commerce in Lagos to include the rehabilitation of the Third Mainland Bridge.

“In terms of infrastructure, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola and Buhari have tried a lot, in the East they did the Second Niger Bridge. Talk of the North, talk of the rail, in fact, I commend Buhari,” he said.

He said although Buhari did well with provision of general infrastructure, his policies excluded the PLWD.

He said the construction industry created millions of jobs and business opportunities which also excluded PLWDs.

He said there were different kinds of disabilities and if the government made deliberate efforts, the infrastructure economy and drive would have captured their peculiarities.

“I can score him 100 all over 100 for building world class infrastructure across Nigeria but for the PLWDs, only 20 per cent.

“Even if we cannot work in construction sites, some People Living With Disability are lawyers, bankers and work in other fields, they should look in the area we can work and include us.

“His government performed wonders in terms of construction. He touched every where in Nigeria,” Oshilaja said. (NAN)