Floods And Nigeria’s Infrastructure Decay

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BY Hannatu Musawa

Due to the heavy rains over the weekend, Lagos state which prides itself as the “centre of excellence” was literally submerged by flooding, affecting pedestrian and vehicular movement. We were afforded a glimpse of the deluging via pictures and videos of flooded areas in the state on social media. In one comical video, a man was seen paddling a canoe. He was obviously making a statement that the canoe had become the only means of transportation.
For those who know Lagos very well, many of the affected areas are within the metropolis. From the Toll Gate before Lekki Phase 1 to the Lekki Free Trade Zone, was inundated by the floods. As well, many parts of Ajah, and the famous Ikoyi and Victoria Island, weren’t left out which caused residents to be stranded and vehicles break down. Unsurprisingly, the about six drainage systems that exist in the coastal city had apparently given in to the pressures put on it.
In many of these flooded areas, water levels had risen so high that higher ground became a most sought after sanctuary. On the streets, the water level had literally risen above the waist for someone who was about 4.5ft tall. In compounds, the level was up to knee length for a 5ft tall person while in homes it had risen to about 20 inches. From the pictures circulating on social media, Lagos now looked like a flowing river of refuse with all manner of floating junk.
It was also reported that the flood caused gridlocks on major roads, rendered many Lagosians homeless and those trapped at bus stops had to pay touts as much as N1, 000 to carry them across the flood to their destinations. While residents including the state governments have given different reasons for the floods such as blocking of drainage channels and irresponsible behaviour of sand excavators along the coastal lines, the underlying factor remains that infrastructure nationwide suffers from lack of maintenance and expansion hence left to deteriorate.
In many of my travels across the length and breadth of our clime, the dilapidated state of our country’s infrastructure always stares back at me solemnly in every state I’ve visited. The roads have become death traps, riddled with potholes. A two-hour journey by road usually ends up becoming 5-hours due to state of the roads. The few bridges and overpasses that dominate the landscape in many states look like they could collapse at any moment.
Sewage treatment systems are practically non-existent as tons of untreated sewage overflows into the streets from open sewers and canals giving the area an unpleasant odour. In many places within the country, there is no modern way of disposing garbage other than throwing them into rivers and dumping them anywhere and anyhow on the streets. Our drains are overflowing with plastics, the lagoon and our rivers are polluted with human waste and effluents discharged by manufacturing concerns causing serious ecological problems to aquatic life.
Our health care system has been crippled with lack of equipment’s making places like India, UK, US and Turkey a mecca for Nigerians seeking medical care. The power sector itself has been plagued by the infamous “witches and wizards” hence it’s abysmal and dilapidated state today. The Water Board saddled with the responsibility of providing drinking water systems all over the country have left their pipes to rust and carrying contaminated water into homes where it exists. Where it doesn’t exist, people have resorted to self-help by digging unregulated boreholes.
The national oil refineries that were once our pride and joy are all in an incredibly bad shape. We are the 5th largest producer of oil, yet we have become a net importer of petroleum products due to the dilapidated state of our gas and oil pipeline infrastructure. A country that produces oil but has to import its refined products says much about the infrastructure of the country. The educational sector is literally in a state of emergency crippled by the manacles of poor maintenance and underdevelopment.
A number of studies in the recent past have highlighted the extent of decay and decline in the Nigerian infrastructure. In the 2014 World Economic forum report, it ranked Nigeria 140th out of 160 countries surveyed. A 2013 AFDB publication reports that Nigeria infrastructure accounts for 20-25 per cent of the GDP compared to 70 per cent of the GDP in most other middle-income economies with comparable size to that of the Nigerian economy.
Without mincing words, the gospel truth is that we have no infrastructure. The sparse ones we have are in advanced stages of decay and deterioration. Sadly, any iota of infrastructure we presently have is held together by adhesive, rusted iron or crumbling concrete. Years of mismanagement, waste, corruption and “I don’t care” attitude has sadly led us to the current downward-spiral path we find ourselves in as a nation.
Investing in infrastructure is perhaps the only succour we have in terms of remedying the situation of the state of our infrastructures. Investing in infrastructure involves long-term planning and an exercise that would do a lot of good to majority of Nigerians. Unfortunately, perusing the budget for a couple of years now, we hardly budget any extra money to spend on infrastructural development when a huge chunk of our earnings go to support a bloated civil service and politicians.
While politicians are busy paying themselves and enjoying fat salaries, allowances and entitlement packages, our national infrastructure is literally falling apart all around us. Sadly, a lot of money that could be going toward building our infrastructure is stolen or spent on outrageous salaries and political jamborees. With all the stealing and corruption going on, we do not have the money we need for maintaining and expanding the nation’s infrastructural base. The government has to take up more debt if we have to build our infrastructure at a time when the economy is struggling to stay afloat in a recession.
In addition to government hugely investing in infrastructure, if infrastructural development is to be achieved, there needs to be a re-sensitization and re-education of our maintenance culture as well as adequate investment from both the public and private sector. This involves funding and eliminating the administrative and bureaucratic impediments to private sector participation in infrastructure development. Dismantling the unnecessary administrative red tapes and multiple agencies intervention in administrative process is one of the simple but crucial steps we must immediately take in order to receive the desired private sector investment in our ailing infrastructures.