Thursday, October 17, 2019 11:54 am
Says with the massive renewal of roads, bridges, rails, airports and seaports “in the shortest possible time Nigerians will sing a new song”
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, has said that with the Federal Government’s commitment to renewal of infrastructure across the country, Nigeria would sing a new song soon in terms of ease of movement and doing business.
Fashola, who made the declaration while playing host to a United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) delegation led by the Representative to ECOWAS and Regional Director, Nigeria Regional Hub, Mr. Jean Bakole, who paid a courtesy visit to him, said the massive renewal of the nation’s roads, bridges, rails, airports and seaports meant that “in the shortest possible Nigerians will sing a new song”.
The Minister, who noted that work has already started in those areas across the country, pointed out that most of the infrastructure have already been upgraded while some roads have been either completed or nearing completion in most areas adding that in those sections where work has been completed, movement of goods and services have become easier as being testified to by commuters.
According to the Minister, although some of the road projects are yet to start those already completed have brought with them better travel experience in terms of the ease of doing business adding that better experience in movement of goods and services would translate to industrial growth and development.
He said the Government was also focusing on Science, Education as critical purveyors of development adding that already the seeds were being sown under the nation’s broad Educational policy and its Social Investment programme that empowers the youth to go and teach in those areas.
Fashola said Government’s commitment to Agriculture was also yielding results in terms of increase in food production such as rice, cereal and others adding that although the price of food was still high, it was expected to come down significantly as supply increased.
The Minister said, with the increase in food production, Nigeria was now supplying not only to local markets but to international markets such as the North and Central African sub-regions, adding that as supply increased the Government would want to see more value added.
“We want to see more projects in manufacturing and all of that. Those are at the heart of helping the economy grow in Small and Medium businesses”, the Minister said adding that because of the understanding of their capacities and their contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) the Small and Medium businesses were being supported by clear government policies through institutions like the Bank of Industries and Ministry of Trade and Investments.
Also, according to the Minister, the Ministry of Finance is also developing Fiscal policies to give relief to them in terms of the way they pay their taxes adding that such relief could be seen in the way the current increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) was structured by the President in favour of the small businesses whom, he said, “are clearly under the protective custody of Mr. President”.
Assuring that all the projects would soon come to fruition to give Nigerians a better future, Fashola said in terms of building an industrial base in this country, President Muhammadu Buhari was very clear where his priorities lay adding that those were the priorities that formed the basis of his Campaign promises to the electorates.
He listed the priorities to include tackling corruption which, he noted, “is inimical to prosperity, improving the economy to deliver prosperity and to improve security, the lack of which, he also noted, “is inimical to industrial development”. Also embedded in the promises, he said, is to develop and renew the country’s infrastructure “which is very important for business efficiency, growth and productivity”.
“The truth is that the rate at which our household has grown has not been matched by the rate at which our infrastructure is growing and this administration understands that. The Nigerian household has grown and we need to build a new infrastructure not only to accommodate those who are currently in the house but those who are on their way”, the Minister said.
Fashola, who expressed the hope that with the ongoing massive infrastructure renewal the nation would emerge from its present economic situation to a better and prosperous nation, however, added that there is always a distance between policy articulation, policy implementation and the results. “But policy has been articulated, implementation is being undertaken and results lie at the horizon and the end”, he said.
Thanking the UNIDO delegation for the courtesy of the visit, Fashola said Nigeria has clearly embraced partnerships with the United Nations Organization and its affiliates adding that recent proof of such collaboration was demonstrated by the President’s personal attendance at the just concluded United Nations General Assembly as well as embracing other collaborative programmes of the world body.
The Minister, however, advocated a reform in the United Nations rules and regulations pointing out that the existing rules and regulations have become obsolete and could no longer meet the present challenges.
“Everybody knows that the UN has come a long way and many of its foundational rules and regulations and development programmes clearly need an upgrade”, the Minister said noting that the world is moving faster and changing much more rapidly. “The UN Charter for example needs reforms to bring them in conformity with today’s global challenges if it must continue to fulfill the obligations for which it was created”, he said.
Responding to the introductory remarks of the leader of the delegation, Fashola expressed delight at the amount ($60million USD) which the UNIDO has mapped out for investment in about nine sectors in the country. He, however, advised that instead of spreading the amount on so many areas it would be more beneficial to invest it in two or three critical areas that would be more impactful to the needs of the people.
“Sixty million USD is a huge amount of money. But it is not the money that is the issue but how it is being used. My thoughts are that instead of spreading this money thin over a large area, as you said, why not use it on one or two projects that could be impactful to the people”, he said suggesting that the money could be invested in a massive industrial complex “that becomes an example in Africa”.
Earlier in his remarks, the leaders of the delegation and Representative to ECOWAS and Regional Director, Nigeria Regional Hub, Mr. Jean Bakole, had informed the Minister that UNIDO planned to invest about $60 Million in Nigeria in nine critical areas including Agriculture and Agro-based businesses, Trade and Capacity Building, Housing and Construction, Infrastructure Development, Energy and the Environment, among others.
Also present at the occasion were the Minister of State, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Mohammed Bukar, Directors, Special Advisers and other top Ministry Official while the ECOWAS Representative was accompanied by top officials of UNIDO.