Road construction

Industrialization: Why infrastructure matters

By F E Ogbimi

In truth there is no good infrastructure in Nigeria. That is, there are no good roads in Nigerian villages, towns and cities and no good roads linking towns/cities. Also there is no adequate potable water supply in Nigerian villages, towns and cities. Similarly, there is no regular and adequate electricity in villages, towns and cities. There are no good and reliable transportation systems in Nigeria. Why is it so? This is in view of the fact that federal and state governments have been emphasizing the erection of infrastructure and borrowing to establish critical and legacy infrastructure. Governments have been claiming that their emphasis on building important infrastructure is accountable for the high indebtedness of governments and their inability to pay salaries to workers in recent years. The federal government is indeed planning to issue bonds as source of funds for infrastructural development.

Governments’ effort and emphasis notwithstanding, Nigeria has no good and reliable infrastructural systems. Nigeria’s experience with regard to establishing infrastructural system   has been a futile one. Only the politicians can see the need to continue with it. But we must tell them to stop wasting our time and other resources. It has been, ‘the more the money spent, the worse the status of Nigeria’s infrastructure becomes.’

Our research results suggest that reliable infrastructural network cannot be erected and sustained in agricultural/artisan/craftsman economies like Nigeria’s in which the knowledge, skills and capabilities (KSCs) to make the necessary materials, build, maintain and repair the structures do not exist? Why? All structures are depreciating assets (DAs); they immediately begin to depreciate in intrinsic value and performance once they are acquired or erected. Our quantitative analysis of this feature of structures showed that an agricultural economy investing heavily on structures may be likened to one investing on a decreasing investment function. In other words, erecting complex infrastructure in a KSCs-starved nation may be likened to attempting to fill a profusely leaking water-tank with water. This also means that Nigeria – a KSCs-starved society cannot establish a reliable infrastructural network by awarding contracts to foreign and local contractors to erect complex structures that Nigerians lack the competences to build and maintain. History supports our research findings that wise nations do not award contracts for erecting structures they lack the KSCs to build and maintaining.

The region occupied by the modern Western Europe was harnessed into the Roman empire in 55 B. C. The western portion of the empire broke-up in 406 A. D. England and other modern nations of Western Europe were clearly defined in the period between the 10th and 13th centuries. England, the most progressive nation in Western Europe achieved the first modern Industrial Revolution (IR) in the period 1770-1850(Gregg, 1971). When England achieved the first modern IR, the roads in the nation were still those left by the Roman Empire, showing that England did not build roads and telecommunications networks and other structures as a prerequisite to promoting sustainable growth and IR. But immediately after England achieved the modern IR, good roads, railways, canals and other infrastructure were developed rapidly as aftermath of industrialization (Gregg, 1971). The original 13 colonies in the New World declared independence in 1776 and fought the War of Independence 1775-1783 with Britain. At the end of the war, the colonies formed the United States of America (USA). The USA did not award contracts to its colonial master, Britain, to erect complex infrastructure as a prerequisite to achieving rapid economic growth and industrialization. Americans reasoned that it would require a lot of resources to build roads; also roads would continuously demand resources for their maintenance. They then resorted to building canals to connect the rivers in the United States of America and used water courses as transportation infrastructure for a long time as alternative to roads (Morrison, 1974). Similarly, when Mao Zedung became the leader of Communist China in 1949, the nation did not begin to award contracts to a technologically advanced nation, Russia, for example, to erect complex infrastructure in China as a prerequisite to promoting sustainable growth. Mao Zedung focused on developing the people that would enable China to address its problems, including building the relevant infrastructure (Stoke and Stoke, 1975).

Dear compatriots, the reason your road is perpetually in terrible state, you have epileptic electricity or no electricity at all, no clean and potable water to drink, no good  transportation system, etc., is that Nigerian governments have been doing the wrong thing since independence. The unwise person thinks that there is a short route to progress; he is wrong.

The hibiscus flowering plant like other flowering plants, has the root and shoot systems. Whereas the root system is buried in the soil, the shoot which bears the beautiful flowers is usually above the ground. The root system is always established before the shoot system. The beautiful bright-red five-petal flowers are borne by the shoot system. The shoot system expresses and announces the healthy status of the root system. Once the root system is cut off from the shoot system, the beautiful flowers wither. So, no root system, no shoot system and the beautiful flowers the shoot bears.

What is Nigeria’s experience with respect to erecting electricity generating and distributing systems? The Kainji 760-megawatt hydro-power plant was commissioned by Gen. Yakubu Gowon in 1969, then Head of State of Nigeria. It is probably not functioning anymore. Nigeria has been requesting Sweden who built it in 1969 to come to give the plant a full overhaul. The contract for erecting the Egbin 1300-megawatt power plant was awarded in 1981. The construction was completed by Japanese companies in 1987. The plant broke down a short time after.  Nigeria also had to request the Japanese companies that built it to come to repair it. Our experience demonstrates clearly that Nigerians lack the competence to build and sustain electric power generating and distributing systems. Nigerians also lack the competence to build other infrastructural systems.