The Scourge And Terror Of Abandoned Projects —Shakir Babatunde Noah-Akinowo

May 30, 2012 – “The crimes which are annually committed seem to be a necessary results of our social organization, …… society prepares crimes, and the guilty are only the instruments by which it was executed” —Lambert Quetelet.

In Nigeria water flows uphill and fowls grow teeth. A country of contradictions and inexplicables. A land so rich yet so poor, so big yet so small, so near yet so far. Nigeria, our dear fatherland (or is it motherland?), is the country where the worst never happens and yet the best never takes place. Injustice, Immunity and Impunity stalk the land like a hungry tiger on the prowl devouring the devourables on sight with wreckless abandon.

Within such prevailing circumstances, the vices of bribery and corruption, nepotism and favouratism, praetorianism and prebendalism at the expense of truth and honesty, merit and competence, all leading to crass ineptitude and inertia become the order of the day. Given such a scenario, abandoned government (public) and individual (private) projects scattered all over the country have sadly become an integral feature of our culture, a recurring decimal of a problem that has defied various solutions since the end of the first Republic in January, 1966.

Such projects arising from government policies and programmes include Better Life for Rural Women, Family Support Programme, FSP, Child Care Trust, Women & Youth Empowerment Foundation; National Directorate of Employment; DFFRRI; Operation Feed the Nation; Green Revolution; MAMSER; Structural Adjustment Programme; Austerity Measures; OYES; YES O; Spelling Bees; LEARN; Amnesty for Niger Delta Militants and Fuel Subsidy Palliatives. How about the mass housing, mass education, mass agriculture, mass health and mass transportation projects being handled by Local, State and Federal governments which require infrastructure/structures that are in various stages of construction? Many of these projects, tangible and intangible, are still functional and productive due to their relevance while others are dysfunctional or comatose due to irrelevance and utter neglect. Projects which have gulped trillions of naira and require more trillions to resuscitate and complete in physical and fiscal terms!

However, thanks to the natural law that says everything in life has an expiry date. When things go radically wrong in a society a new force emerges in time to address and redress the imbalance or the anomaly in the system thereby reviving and restoring the peoples faith and hope in the polity. The age long socio-economic and political revolution in Europe, America and Asia plus the recent Arab Spring in North Africa are pointers to this. Nigerians appear to be on the path to a new lease of life as the House of Representatives recently debated a motion and passed a resolution on abandoned projects in Nigeria into a bill seeking to tackle headlong and with finality this paralyzing scourge and terror that has constituted a great hindrance to sustainable growth and development of our people and the nation. Titled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Public Procurement Act No 14 of 2007 in order to ensure projects continuity and other matters appertaining to”, the bill, sponsored by Abiodun Abudu Balogun from Ijebu North/Ijebu East/Ogun Waterside, when it becomes law will ensure all “dead” projects will not only be revived and continued but also henceforth, all projects embarked upon by the Federal Government are executed from inception to conclusion. According to the erudite lawmaker who has sponsored over five popular motions within the one year of this legislature (including the one on kerosine scarcity which later on contributed to its price reduction), “over 11,800 projects have been abandoned….. while N7.28 trillion will be needed to finance the abandoned projects”. Ostensibly, the Bill when it becomes valid law, will arrest the phenomena of policy inconsistency, poor planning, graft, bad programmes execution, and by extension programmes/projects stultification by predecessive and successive governments in Nigeria at the Local, State and Federal levels.

Given the aims/objectives of the coming law there can be no better option for all Nigerians, other than to emulate their representatives who have overwhelmingly supported the Bill expected to transmute into law and which if properly implemented is bound to impact the lives of the people positively as there will be provision of amenities.

Sadly, one of the specialized penchants of Nigerian governments especially the Federal is to waste public funds on both necessary and unnecessary projects while the dilemma is in the cowardice cum docility of the average Nigerian to ask questions about why there is so much bad governance in the land. In the face of poverty and penury, Nigerians, suffering and smiling, treat the putrid mannerism of our conscienceless rulers with equamnity, returning many of them to office at every opportunity thereby justifying Adolf Hitler’s claims of “Lucky for rulers, people don’t think”. Believing that every age needs its own revolution, methinks is high time Nigerians from all walks of life came out to support well thought-out and good intentioned policies and laws that will arrest those factors that stymie development and perpetuate poverty.

Most of the abandoned projects have become havens/hideouts for undesirable elements, apart from constituting negative environmental aesthetics and physical pollution alongside serving as conduit pipes for serving the personal interests of contractors in the public and private sectors of our society. The non availability of facilities leading to infrastructural insecurity due to abandonement has made it very difficult if not impossible for the majority of Nigerians to access quantity and quality education, health, transportation and food products and services among others. These issues require a holistic solution. Every Nigerian deserves to grow and develop to his or her full potentials in an enabling environment where necessary facilities/utilities are in place.

“The greatest incitement to crime,” says Marcus Cicero, “is the hope of escaping punishment”. Where there is law there is no crime and vice versa. For concrete effect the proposed law must also contain punishment/penalties for erring individuals, multinationals and government officials to serve as deterrent for the criminals and their collaborators in and outside governments. The Federal Government must also learn to decentralise or devolve certain projects execution to the state governments which should also do same to Local Governments so as to reduce the pressure of monitoring and supervising on-going works. Also all abandoned white elephant projects with little or no value must be allowed to die naturally. In addition, no new similar or same project must be awarded until the old one is completed. Ultimately, all these measures will curtail drastically if not totally eliminate corruption, poor planning, inefficiency, lack of accountability and transparency in the award of contracts and execution as correctly identified by Abudu-Balogun, Leo Ogor and others. Scarce resources will in the process be conserved, freed and then utilized for other very important projects that affect the welfare/wellbeing the governed.

Making governments work through constructive engagements is a function of collective responsibility by all and sundry. Like the Freedom of Information (FoI) law, the Petrol Industry bill must be made to pass the second reading and then become valid law for the benefit of Nigerians. Let organized Labour, organized private sector, the civil society cum community-based organizations, professional bodies, academia/litterati, student unions and well-meaning but courageous personalities come together to form a Rainbow coalition of concerned stakeholders in the Nigerian project and work in tandem with the progressive forces in the state and National Assemblies and profer ways forward in order for our great country to meet the Millennium Development Goals as well as attain Vision 20:20:20 and thereby become a strong, proud and reliable member in the comity of nations that subscribe to good governance.

•Prince Shakir (System) is Senior Legislative Aide (SLA) at the National Assembly, Abuja. 08027246595.