By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi
In the North, President Buhari is often chided as as a President of the South West, citing that most or quite a number of the infrastructural projects of his first tenure in office are situated in the South West; mostly roads and railways. Out of 190 political appointments of the PMB administration, 109 are also from the south, with 33.3% of the total figure coming from the South West alone. Out of concern for the northern road works, On the 11th of March, 2020, the senate had cause to summon the honorable minister for works, Babatunde Fashola, over the abandoned major highway projects in the North East. Specific mention was made of the Mararaba-Mubi-Michika-Bama road, despite the payment made to the contractor. In an article titled, ‘Fashola and The Fashied North East, which I wrote on the 26th of January, 2020, I also drew the attention of the minister, to the poor progress of work on the major highway projects in the North East; a region that had from time immemorial, given PMB block votes like no other region, in all of his elections since 2003. Some of the roads I highlighted include the Abuja-Akwanga-Plateau-Bauchi road, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road, and the Kano-Maiduguri highway. Others are the Gombe-Yola and the Yola-Jalingo roads. Just recently, courtesy of the Communications Minister; additional funding had to be sought for the Jalingo-Numan road on which work had come to a complete stop for months. The rainy season had bored ‘ponds’ in the middle of the road that was under construction and repair.
Now in the midst of all the ‘cuckoo’ over the low percentage of infrastructural projects in the North, or the very poor pace in which the projects are being executed comes the $2.8 Billion Dollar-AKK Gas Pipeline Project. On the 30th of June, 2020, President Buhari flagged off the construction of the multi-billion dollar, 614km gas pipeline project that extends from Ajaokuta, Kogi state through to Kaduna and Kano state. PMB noted that,” it was an event that marked a new chapter in the history of our great nation. Our domestic gas pipeline networks from Obiafu in Rivers state, Escravos in Delta state, and Lekki in Lagos state, are being connected through Kaduna and Kano states; thereby enhancing national energy security, creating balanced development and further integrating our nation.” He said that when completed, the AKK gas pipeline project will provide gas for generation of power and for gas based industries which would facilitate the development of new industries and the revival of moribund industries, along transit towns in Kogi state, FCT, Niger, Kaduna and Kano states. The project is a PPP project financed by the Nigerian Government and the Bank of China and CINOSURE, with Brentex/China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau-CPP Consortia, and Oilserve/China First Highway Engineeeing Company-CFHEC Consortia, as contractors. The project is stipulated for delivery in 2 years time.
The counterpart funding for the project has been fully secured and paid for by the Federal Government which assures that the project will be commissioned as stipulated, without the hitches and slow pace of work that most Nigerian PPP projects suffer. When completed, the project will unlock approximately 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas to the domestic market, support the addition of 3,600 megawatts of power to the national grid, and help in the revitalization of textile industries in those states that bestride the pipeline corridor. The textile industry boasts of about 3 million jobs in parts of the country. Furthermore it is expected to support the development of petrochemicals, fertiliser, methanol and other gas based industries. The gas masterplan was conceptualised a long time ago, and was approved by the Federal Exceutive Council in 2008, about 12 years ago.
The economies of the Northern states are agro driven economies which means that food processing industries as well as fertilizer production plants should be in the tens and hundreds. The Federal Governemnt is making available 600 billion Naira to farmers for the improvement of agricultural yield to boost food export and raise GDP. Kaduna is one of those states that has led the pack as industries for the processing of tomatoes and milk have already sprung up in the state, raking in billions of IGR in a month. So are Rice Mills in Kebbi and Kano states. The AKK pipeline project is a ventilator for the much needed industialisation of our agricultural processes. The attendant power supply it will provide for the survival of these industries and in keeping the cost of running these production and processing plants is unprecedented. State governments must invest as well as provide the most conducive business environments for investors to build these plants and industries that can utilise the resources brought to their doorstep by this very visionary gas pipeline project.
It would be foolhardy to believe that PMB would deliberately sideline the North, or favor the South more than the north in terms of development and other deliverables from his administration. He has been fair and balanced in his dealings even with PDP governors; as with the recent release of 78 billion Naira as refund to Rivers state. Most people I know are pretty sure that if it were some other Ex-presidents we know, those funds would never be released to an APC governor. Of course not all government projects are driven from the office of the President after they have been approved or funded. The government officials that handle these projects are sometimes questioned as to either the slow pace of work, or the lop-sidedness in situating projects across the country in the first place. In the North’s case this time, the road works are moving rather slowly and funding seems to be the snag. Some of them like the Kano-Maiduguri road is partly funded by SUKUK funds and it seems the funds have been expended and the works have come to an abrupt halt.
With the AKK gas pipeline project, Mr. President has handed to the North the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs. 3,600 megawatts of electricity to tap into, combined with about 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas for utilisation is a lot. Northern governments cannot be spoon fed eternally. These facilities and resources have come to their door-step, to be harnessed for the socio-economic development of their people. They have two years from now to start building those plants or better still, start bringing in partners that can build those industries that can tap into this huge resource.