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FG, states, complete all abandoned projects

It is unfortunate that with Nigeria’s huge infrastructure deficit, the public space has become full with abandoned projects, with skeletal frames of half-built structures scattered…

It is unfortunate that with Nigeria’s huge infrastructure deficit, the public space has become full with abandoned projects, with skeletal frames of half-built structures scattered across the nation, in frozen progress, uncompleted for many years. The projects include office complexes, roads, schools, hospitals, libraries and other facilities.

They have become part of abandoned dreams, echoing tales of lost potential and narratives of unfulfilled promises. The funds expended seem to have been wasted. Indeed, these gigantic and utility projects, whose foundation-laying ceremonies were mostly organised with fanfare, now represent dashed hopes, missed opportunities and failed expectations.

In December 2021, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) said the country had a staggering 56,000 abandoned projects estimated at over N17 trillion, and still counting. As far back as November 2012, an estimated 11,886 federal government projects were abandoned for decades across the country, according to a report of the Abandoned Projects Audit Commission set up by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.

Top on the list is the multi-billion dollar Ajaokuta Steel Complex and other federal government owned firms across the country. In Abuja, the skyline is dotted by uncompleted projects, with the Millennium Tower and Cultural Centre standing out. It was designed and the contract awarded in 2005, to be the tallest tower in Abuja at 170 metres (560ft) and conceived at the same time with the National Library, the National Square, the International Auditorium and the Nigerian Cultural Centre, within the same vicinity. None has been completed.

Others include the corporate headquarters of the Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST), Federal Ministry of Agriculture headquarters and the 17-storey Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) headquarters, whose construction began in 2015.

The Chartered Institute of Project Management of Nigeria and Nigerian Society of Engineers blame “The recurring challenges of abandoned projects on poor budget performance, mismanagement, and sometimes, failure to carry along community leaders. Funds intended for a project often take detours, and mismanagement leads to an unceremonious halt. The unpredictability of the infrastructural development landscape, coupled with financial uncertainties, form the perfect storm that derails the best-laid plans.”

Recently, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Nyesom Wike, decried the rate of abandoned projects in the territory, while his Works counterpart, Engr. David Umahi, expressed concern over the duration it takes to complete projects in the country.

Alhaji Mohammed Abba Tor, the 25th President of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) postulates that most contracts fail in Nigeria due to poor cost estimation, stating that politicians and even private individuals tend to embark on projects without employing the services of experts, and even when they do, they do not strictly follow expert advice.

He also blamed corruption for most abandoned public projects, as most contracts are awarded to what he called politically exposed, overnight construction businessmen and women who collect mobilisation fees and abandon work.

In addition, Abba Tor noted that most contracts are compromised at source as the awarding and funding sources deduct parts of the project funds for themselves leaving very little for the work.

But most importantly, abandonment is also traced to a lack of continuity as new governments chase after their own so-called ‘legacy’ projects and tend to abandon contracts awarded by their predecessors, especially when there is a hostile takeover of power.

It must be stated that had the over 56,000 abandoned projects been completed, the country would have been a much better place for the citizens. Therefore, Daily Trust calls for deliberate project management schedules, which specify time frames on mobilisation to sites, availability of funds and when each intended project will be delivered.

Also, the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007, which established the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) must be strictly adhered to while efforts are made to amend the Act, which many have blamed for many of the uncompleted projects in the country. The process to review the Act in 2017 was abandoned. Because of the cost of projects, some Nigerians are canvassing for the amendment to accommodate an increase in mobilisation funds.

Section 35(1) of the Procurement Act 2007 provides; “In addition to any other regulation as may be prescribed by the Bureau, a mobilisation fee of not more than 15 per cent may be paid to a supplier.

“Once the mobilisation fee has been paid to any supplier or contractor, no further payment shall be made to the supplier or contractor without an interim performance certificate issued in accordance with the contract agreement.”

We also implore the state governments, who have most of the abandoned projects, to domesticate the Public Procurement Act 2007 to help drive the much-needed transparency, competitiveness, cost-effectiveness, and professionalism in the public sector procurement system.

Moreover, it is important for the president and governors to note that government is a continuum, therefore, successive governments must learn to complete projects started by their predecessors before starting new ones. The constitution provides the framework for the political-administrative continuum and the citizens and even civil society organisations (CSOs) should encourage continuity in the execution of projects.

It is also important that each government focuses on completing existing projects that will impact the lives of the people, whether they started them or not.

We again urge the federal and state governments to prioritise the completion of abandoned projects. Governors should not bother about who gets the credit when projects are executed. After all, the whole essence of governance is the welfare of the people. Abandoning projects is not one of the ways of enhancing the people’s welfare.

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