Research experts have estimated that Nigeria has an infrastructure gap of $3 trillion, which according to them is about six times the size of the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Senior lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Muhammed Usman, in a virtual presentation yesterday, said between 2009 and 2013, Nigeria invested a paltry $664 annually in infrastructure, which represents three per cent of its GDP, compared with an average investment of $3.060 or five per cent of the GDP in developed countries.
Usman noted that this had widened the country’s infrastructure gap posing a major impediment to economic growth.
He noted that this “poses a major funding challenge in the face of the current fiscal imbalances. Besides, the country is currently grappling with the hydra headed problems of inflation (17.33%), unemployment (33.3%) and rising debt.
“Infrastructural development plays a pivotal role in enhancing economic growth, improving living standards, reducing poverty, and contributing to environmental sustainability.”
He said with rapid growth of the country’s population, the demand for infrastructure was outpacing its supply, adding that the country’s weak infrastructures were exposed in the wake of the global pandemic in 2020.
Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, (NESG), Mr. Laoye Jaiyeola, who chaired the meeting, noted that infrastructure was a major hindrance to the country’s competitive development.
Jaiyeola said one of the challenges facing the private sector was infrastructure, adding that the country needs funds annually to finance infrastructure if it must get out of the rocks.
He stated, “I have been involved in a lot of surveys that look at the competitiveness of nations, and each time we look at our ranking around where we are in the world competitiveness index of doing business, one thing that stands out is the poor level of our infrastructure, and the extent to which it has hindered us from significant development locally.
“So this thematic group comes in at a time when all of us are looking at how to ensure that we do significant backward integration; how can we ensure that we make the environment very competitive enough that not only do we meet the needs of our people locally, but good enough for the outside market that we can export.Nigeria has been a nation where we are still at a very primary level of industrialisation; by this I mean we have abundant resource of crude oil but we spend significant amount of money importing fuel.
“And so we can’t use this crude oil to get all the assorted benefits we have yet we export our raw materials in terms of cocoa and yet bring back coffee and chocolate to the country. Or export our hides and skin, and yet bring back leather to the country.”
Speaking also, Executive Secretary of TETFund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro, said the fund was reviewing a report on the draft executive bill on the establishment of the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF), earlier received from the RDSC. Bogoro said he was in contact with the leadership of RDSC and other relevant stakeholders for the purpose of offering informed advice on the final document that will leave his desk, and proceed to the Federal Ministry of Education, for it to be considered as a document worthy of being taken to the federal executive council.
Speaking on TETFund’s interventions, he said, “We have raised our interest to the level of knowing the microscopic application of our funds that have impact on the key areas of not just the Tertiary institutions. That we are directly funding but the ancillary partners, including research institutes, the industry, the larger picture of Nigeria in the biggest of context.”
He expressed gratitude to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), for proceeding to identify the institutionalisation of NRDF as part of its negotiations with the federal government.
In his remarks, Chairman of RDSC, Professor Njidda Gadzama, stressed the importance of infrastructure, saying whatever is done in terms of development cannot be successful without infrastructure.