Research experts have estimated Nigeria’s infrastructure gap at $3 trillion, about six times the size of its annual Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

Speaking during a virtual meeting on institutionalisation of R&D in Infrastructure Development thematic group of the TETFund Research and Development Standing Committee, RDSC, they stressed the importance of infrastructural development to economic growth.

A lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof Muhammed Usman, in a presentation, said between 2009 and 2013, Nigeria invested a paltry $664 per capita per annum in infrastructure, representing 3 per cent of its GDP, compared with an average investment of $3.060, or 5 per cent of GDP in developed countries.

Usman noted that this has widened the country’s infrastructure gap and has been a major impediment to
economic growth.

He noted that this “poses a major funding challenge in the face of the current fiscal imbalances. Besides, the country is currently grappling with the hydra headed problems of
inflation (17.33%), unemployment (33.3%) and rising debt.”

“Infrastructural development plays a pivotal role in enhancing economic growth, improving
living standards, reducing poverty, and contributing to environmental sustainability.”

He said with the rapid growth of the country’s population, the demand for infrastructure is outpacing its supply, adding that the country’s weak infrastructures were exposed in the wake of the global pandemic in 2020.

Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Mr Laoye Jaiyeola, who chaired the meeting, noted that infrastructure is a major hindrance to the country’s competitive development.

Jaiyeola said one of the challenges facing the private sector was infrastructure, adding that the country needs funds annually to finance infrastructure if it must get out of the rocks.

“I have been involved in a lot of surveys that look at the competitiveness of nations, and each time we look at our ranking around where we are in the world competitiveness index of doing business, one thing that stands out is the poor level of our infrastructure, and the extent to which it has hindered us from significant development locally.

“So this thematic group comes in at a time when all of us are looking at how can we ensure that we do significant backward integration; how can we ensure that we make the environment very competitive enough that not only do we meet the needs of our people locally, but good enough for the outside market that we can export.

“Nigeria has been a nation where we are still at a very primary level of industrialisation; by this I mean we have abundant resource of crude oil but we spend significant amount of money importing fuel.

“And so we can’t use this crude oil to get all the assorted benefits we have yet we export our raw materials in terms of cocoa and yet bring back coffee and chocolate to the country. Or export our hides and skin, and yet bring back leather to the country,” he said.

Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of TETFund Prof Suleiman Bogoro, said the fund was reviewing a report of the draft executive bill on the establishment of the National Research and Development Foundation, NRDF, earlier received from the RDSC.

Bogoro said he is in contact with the leadership of RDSC and other relevant stakeholders for the purpose of offering informed advice on the final document that will leave his desk, and proceed to the ministry of education, for it to be considered as a document worthy of being taken to the federal executive council.

“I am excited, particularly listening to the cross cutting issues. If there is any area that has cross cutting imperatives, across the other sectors is infrastructure.

“I wonder if there is any aspect of the routine life around economy, technology and in all human activities or livelihood in its entirety that does not require infrastructure.
That underlines the importance of this subcommittee,” he said.

The TETFund boss commended the committee for traveling around the country to come up with “the information that reminds us of the gaps to, indeed, tell us what we need to do to close the gap between Nigeria and the more advanced nations.”

Speaking on TETFund’s interventions, he said “We have raised our interest to the level of knowing the microscopic application of our funds that have impact on the key areas of not just the Tertiary institutions. That we are directly funding but the ancillary partners, including research institutes, the industry, the larger picture of Nigeria in the biggest of context.”

Bogoro said for too long tertiary Institutions in the country operated as if they can survive alone, adding that the walls have to be collapsed to ensure that the institutions synergize and get assistance from those in the industry.

He expressed gratitude to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, for proceeding to identify the institutionalisation of NRDF as part of its negotiations with the Federal Government.

Speaking on the quality of TETFund projects, he said exactly five years ago, the Nigeria Society of Engineers picked TETFund as exemplary in terms of the quality of its projects.

He disclosed that the Board of Trustees has decided that 90 per cent of TETFund scholars will be in the sciences, adding however that TETFund will not suggest topics for the doctorial thesis of scholars abroad.

In his remarks, the Chairman of RDSC, Prof Njidda Gadzama, who stressed the importance of infrastructure, said whatever is done in terms of development cannot be successful without infrastructure.

Gadzama said if the country had sustained the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, intervention initiated during the military era, the country would have gone far in terms of its infrastructure.