Economic Recovery For Nigeria: Prospects And Challenges

Economic Recovery For Nigeria: Prospects And Challenges

Saturday, June 8, 2024 2:21 pm

Convocation Lecturer, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, delivering his address during the Lagos State University (LASU) 27th Convocation lecture with the theme,"Embracing the Future: Navigating the Intersection of Technology and Humanity” on Tuesday, 4th June 2024.

Convocation Lecturer, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, delivering his address during the Lagos State University (LASU) 27th Convocation lecture with the theme,”Embracing the Future: Navigating the Intersection of Technology and Humanity” on Tuesday, 4th June 2024.


Babatunde Raji Fashola

Let me start by taking a pre-emptive strike at the topic of the keynote address as formulated by the Egbé, which was stated to be ‘Economic Recovery for Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges’.

In doing so, I mean no disrespect to my very esteemed hosts. On the contrary, it is my wish to set the records straight and hopefully offer some enrichment to our conversation, in the belief that somebody is listening.

In March 2014 several news media copiously reported the Honourable Minister of Finance as saying that Nigeria was heading towards a recession.

In 2016, Nigeria entered a recession as predicted.

In response, the administration developed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) for 2017 to 2020 to help the economy recover and grow.

This plan aimed to restore growth, invest in people, and build a globally competitive economy. Key strategies included stabilizing the macroeconomic environment, achieving agriculture and food security, ensuring energy sufficiency, improving transportation infrastructure, and driving industrialization through small and medium enterprises.

Except for the Black Swan event of the Covid 19 pandemic that ensued in 2019, during which virtually all economies of the world including Nigeria fell into recession and from which she recovered, the annual GDP results indicate that the economy of Nigeria has been growing at an average between 2-3% yearly.

In my view, it seems most respectfully inapposite to be having a conversation about recovery given the context I have set.

I will therefore crave your understanding and concurrence to permit a conversation about Economic Growth for Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges.

As far as prospects for economic growth are concerned, the horizon is extremely promising. The tools to achieve expansive and inclusive growth, especially the manpower in quality and quantity already exist.

Apart from the human capital, growth will also be impacted by hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure and all of these already are a work in progress and we as citizens just need to understand better how they work, how they impact us and what our roles are in the process.

Let me deal with the hard infrastructure first, which includes but is not limited to ports (air and sea), roads and bridges, rail and lately broadband infrastructure. These are the first things that determine how much an economy can grow.

The countries that build, buy or produce more of them are usually able to create more opportunities for growth, productivity and employment. If we look at a few case studies of what we have done before, the less talked about and sometimes not largely known opportunities beyond the delivery of the infrastructure asset itself will become obvious to us.

A.Lagos-Ibadan Expressway:

(This is more than a Road. It was a job centre and forum for economic exchange).

During the reconstruction of Section One of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, covering 44 kilometres from Lagos to Sagamu, significant job opportunities were created. This section of the project employed:

– 29 subcontractors

– 161 suppliers

– 75 permanent jobs at the quarry, which facilitated about 30 truck trips per day.


The contractor paid:

– N39.8 billion to suppliers

– N10.6 billion to its own employees


This indicates the project’s substantial economic impact through the engagement of various stakeholders and employment generation across different levels of expertise.

B.Second Niger Bridge:

The construction of the Second Niger Bridge created approximately 20,000 jobs at the construction site. The employment involved different roles including engineering, skilled and unskilled labour, and support services. The project involved the procurement, supply and utilization of:

– 26,900,000 litres of diesel

– 80,000 tonnes of cement

– 660,000 tonnes of aggregates

The total economic activities associated with these materials amounted to:

– N30.935 billion for diesel

– N4.080 billion for cement

– N2.376 billion for aggregates

These figures demonstrate the significant scale of the project and its contribution to local employment and economic activities, especially for micro, small, and medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that constitute the bulk of businesses in the country.

At the time of my service as Minister, our records show that we had 1262 building contractors employed in Housing construction.

Road construction was employing 383,431 people directly who constructed roads, installed 2,270,319 linear meters of road marking and 254,690 road signs.

We kept records of 1,704,300 truck trips over eight years with each trip costing averagely N200,000 amounting to N340.8 Billion over eight years or N42.6 Billion per annum.

In addition to the delivery of this type of hard infrastructure we must now consciously develop and deliver hard infrastructure that supports talent and tourism.

By these, I refer to our urgent need for stadia, concert arena for entertainment and hotels and other assets in support of tourism.

As we can see soft power is gradually but consistently gaining prominence over hard power. Artistes, sports personalities, entertainers now have a booming voice in global affairs, and there has been no time in human history like now when talent is receiving so much reward, recognition and remuneration.

This is an area we must direct resources to provide enabling hard infrastructure. But that alone will not be enough to deliver the kind of growth that is possible and required. It requires the soft infrastructure and clear policy to unleash the power of sports and entertainment as a major employer of young people and contributor to national economic growth.

Sports and entertainment are no longer hobbies; they are professions which must now form robust pillars of our prospects for economic growth.

They are opportunities for youth development and growth seemingly hiding in plain sight. But they are not opportunities without challenges and I intend to invite our attention to a few and perhaps drop a gauntlet for the Egbé to contribute to charting a pathway.

In this regard I invite us to look at how contemporary our sports and entertainment laws are in relation to other jurisdictions. How many faculties of Law are teaching contemporary sports and talent development laws and what can we as lawyers do to reform the existing laws to better protect talent of performers? Have we incorporated these aspects of entertainment and sports laws into our Business Law curriculum?

When the laws are reformed, how do members of the Egbé, and their colleagues who are not members, but who all belong to the Nigerian Bar Association, implement the laws? Will we continue with regular long winded and winding court trials or more fully and wholesomely embrace arbitration as a business-friendly dispute resolution mechanism?

Whether we believe it or not, dispute resolution mechanisms and processes are the soft infrastructure that impact the ease or difficulty of doing business and how much economic growth can be achieved in each jurisdiction. After we have undertaken the reforms, then I think we should look at the mirror and ask ourselves whether we like what we see; in how we apply some of the tools we have created.

Afterall, the efficacy of the justice system is not only a measure of the quality of Governance, it has consequences for overall well being of the economy and our quality of life.

I know that we are not all culpable, but I contend that the untenable conduct of one member of the Egbé, portends grave danger to our national economy and confers guilt on us by association unless we have a remedy that promptly enables us to remove, sanction or disqualify such a member.

For example, the Geometric Power Project in Aba, was held up in court for years before my assumption of office in 2015 as Minister of Power during which my Ministry worked with the office of the Vice President to successfully broker an out-of-court settlement.

Similarly, the recently completed 700 MW Zungeru hydro-power plant in Niger State, was held up by a court injunction obtained by a legal practitioner suing for his commission with local partners, but the injunction was against the lender, China Exim Bank and lasted for 3 years before I took office and led the negotiation of an out-of-court settlement to unfreeze the deployment of millions of dollars meant for the project.

The Nigerian judicial system is replete with enough of these types of anti-growth, anti-economic, anti-development cases and the deployment of injunctive tools in a most economically injurious way.

What can and what will the Egbé do to the colleagues and judicial officers involved?

But beyond individual and official roles by members and non-members of the Egbé who are Lawyers, there are institutional and policy issues.

Separation of Powers does not mean separation of interests.

The Executive is only one arm, and members of the Egbé are practitioners in the different arms.

What understanding does the judiciary have of the economic and development policy of the executive, and how does the judicial policy help to achieve this for growth?

There is the commendable example of Onnoghen CJN issuing a practice direction preventing courts from assuming jurisdiction in electric power disputes arising from contracts with Arbitration clauses.

Another real-life example will help to explain the point. For many years, Lagos had only one major mall of repute at the Lekki mall developed in Oniru Estate.

In the course of my public service tenure, the Lagos State Government was looking to the same investor to build and open the Ikeja Mall. The land which hitherto was used as bailiff’s warehouse has been acquired and an alternative provided.

Reluctantly, the Investor agreed to build the Ikeja Mall and nobody challenged them until opening day when some persons sought an exparte injunction to stop the mall from opening, claiming to be the owners of the land on which it was built.

Please note that for many years, these people never challenged the judiciary for using the land as a bailiff’s warehouse, when the development and construction of the mall took place over 2 years they made no challenge. They waited until the opening day when goods had been supplied, people employed, and when customers were due to arrive before coming to assert their nebulous “right”.

To the immense and eternal credit of the Lagos judiciary under the leadership of Hon. Justice Ayo Phillips, Chief Judge, which had a clear understanding of the investment drive of the executive, no injunction was granted; in lieu thereof accelerated hearing of the claim was ordered and the mall has continued to thrive perhaps because there was never any right to land in the surreptitious injunction seekers.

But for that judicial outlook it may well be that the opening and operation of the mall and the livelihoods it supports today will be a mirage trapped in unending litigation.

I know of an investor who for eleven (11) years has been waiting for a court dispute to end so he can build a multi-storey office complex.

Related to this is the rate of enforcement of arbitral awards and the number of challenges to them. These are very serious soft infrastructure drivers or inhibitors of growth and development.

In cases where injunctions have been granted ex-parte or on notice and the party who got them turned out not to be entitled, what has been the consequence?

How many lawyers/judges have been involved in trial to enforce the indemnity given for a wrongly granted injunction and what was the outcome?

Ladies and gentlemen, the prospects for economic growth depend on our collective professionalism to help overcome challenges that stand in the way.

As an Egbé of legal practitioners, a lot exists that we can do including but not limited to: enabling law reform, reforming training curriculum of how to incorporate new areas of economic output such as sports, entertainment and tourism, promoting an efficient dispute resolution process that aids ease of doing business and the removal of legal hurdles to ease of construction and delivering hard infrastructure.

These are my thoughts on the prospects and challenges for economic growth. The possibilities are enormous, but we must act deliberately and in collaboration to realize them.

*Being The Subject Of Keynote Address Delivered By H.E Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN,  at the Annual General Conference of Egbe Amofin O’odua 2024 on Thursday 6th June, 2024 at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja



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