In the last three weeks, I have been crisscrossing Nigeria and the dilapidated state of our country’s infrastructure confronts me in every state I visited. A lot can be inferred about the health of a nation going by the condition of its infrastructure. What does Nigerian infrastructure say about Nigeria? The unvarnished truth is that Nigeria has no infrastructure, the sparse ones we have are in advanced stages of decay. At this point, Nigeria’s infrastructure is held together by rusted iron, crumbling concrete and of course our national pastime – prayers.
Our roads are a disgrace and the few bridges and overpasses look like they could collapse at any moment. Our power grid is ancient, the Kainji dam and its outdated turbines look like relics from an old civilization while thermal stations like Egbin are in a precarious state. We have no sewage treatment system; gallons of untreated sewage overflows into the streets from open sewers and canals making Nigeria one of the dirtiest nations on earth.
We have no modern way of disposing garbage other than throwing them into rivers and dumping them anywhere 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.
The Murtala Muhammed International, Aminu Kano International, Nnamdi Azikiwe International are national monuments of shame and symbols of decay. The Tincan and Apapa seaports are clogged with far more traffic than they were ever designed to carry. Yankari Game Reserve and other national parks and recreation areas have been terribly neglected and our railroads are a running bad joke. Drinking water systems all over the country are dated with rusty pipes carrying contaminated water into homes where it exists. Most of the country, including the overrated ghettoes of Maitama in Abuja, Lekki in Lagos, subsists on boreholes, unregulated.
We can sit down in grand delusion as the lame African giant but the world has since left us behind. At a time when we should be playing catch-up and invest significantly on new infrastructure, our spending on infrastructure is actually tending towards zero. Of course, we can’t have any extra money to spend on infrastructure when 70% of our earnings go to support a bloated civil service and greedy politicians. The politicians are busy paying themselves obscene salaries, allowances and entitlement packages while our national infrastructure is literally falling apart all around us. In the course of my travel, I observed the following about Nigeria’s decaying infrastructure:
1.There are not enough roads in Nigeria of today relative to our population and size.
- Urban dwellers spend a huge chunk of their productive time in traffic jams costing the economy billions in lost time and millions in gasoline.
- Over 90% of all roads in Nigeria are in bad shape or are mere bush paths.
- 80% of all road fatalities are due to bad roads, bad road designs like meandering bends or roadside hazards.
5.Every bridge in Nigeria including rural ones carries more traffic than originally intended, has guard rails that has been stolen,broken expansion joints and in urgent need of replacement or repair.
- The rolling blackouts and inefficiencies of power generation and distribution is the chief reason behind the collapse of our token industrial base.
- The Tincan and Apapa port handles 100 times the volume it was originally designed to handle.
- Across Nigeria, conditions at many of our game reserves, state parks, recreation areas and historic sites are deplorable at best.
- Nigeria ranks 135th in infrastructure in the world according to the World Economic Forum.
- The World Economic Forum also ranked Nigeria 146th in primary education.
Where did we go wrong?
What is wrong is that we have become a very materialistic society that is obsessed with primitive acquisition and extra short-term thinking. Investing in infrastructure involves long-term planning for everyone – an exercise in majority good. Unfortunately, Nigerians are only concerned and focused on what is happening right now and on instant gratification.
We have become a “now-now” and “sharp-sharp” society whose only concern is the present with sufficient disregard for the future. The politicians are even better skilled than those who elected them. They are only focused on the next election cycle and the stealing or conversion of public funds. They will rather pilfer our commonwealth to buy private jets and build golf courses in the Belize or the Cayman Islands than pave the road to their villages. When contracts are ever awarded, it is at enormously inflated costs with so much corruption and waste.
The government certainly spends a lot of money, but very little of that money is spent wisely. A lot of the money that could be going toward building our infrastructure is stolen or spent on outrageous salaries and political jamborees. With all the stealing going on, we do not have the money we need for maintaining and expanding the nation’s infrastructural base. We have to take up more debt if we have to build infrastructure at a time when the federal, state and local governments are all struggling to stay afloat in an ocean of red ink.
While traveling, the question that comes often to my mind is – – Who cares? There is unprecedented lead poisoning in Northern Nigeria threatening the neurological wellbeing of children especially in the state of Zamfara due to unregulated mining activities and lack of mining infrastructure. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are scrambling to help while our leaders fiddle. Scores of children are going deaf, blind with promise of future reproductive and cognitive problems without our government showing any care. Who cares?
Who cares about the effect of Bisphenol A (BPA) leaking into our so-called pure water (the choice of millions) from the plastic? An alternative people have taken to because the government has failed to guarantee safe drinking water to its citizens.
Who cares about the environmental impact of indiscriminate borehole drilling and tapping of our finite aquifers?
Who cares about the threat of arsenic seeping into drinking water from aquifers due to hydraulic fracturing?
Who cares about the dumping of toxic waste from medical supplies, computers and electronics with known carcinogens in residential areas without any form of expert handling because the country has no modern waste handling and disposal infrastructure?
Who cares about toxic and radioactive effluents discharged daily by transnationals into the lagoon and its effect on the food chain and the ecosystem?
Who cares about the intense desertification of our northern fringes?
Who cares that factories have relocated to Ghana in search of stable electricity?
Our problems in Nigeria are legion. Where do we begin? Decaying infrastructure is symptomatic of Nigeria’s decay as a country because we are decaying in just about every other way that it is possible for a society to decay. We are decaying physically, morally, politically, mentally, economically, emotionally and spiritually. This country is a complete and total mess. What is happening to our infrastructure on the outside is a reflection of what is happening to Nigeria on the inside. We are livin’ la vida loca. For how long? Who cares? Get used to rotting, crumbling and decaying infrastructure. What is out there right now is only just the beginning.
Join Nigeria’s Soul Index on Facebook and invite your friends. Our group is non-violent and nonpartisan. The group is open to Nigerians home an abroad without bias to gender, ethnicity, religion or any of those things that seeks to divide us. Remember, – “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Let us take Nigeria back an inch at a time. Change!
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