30 January 2017

Nigeria: World Bank Loan for Rebuilding the North-East


The North-East of Nigeria, following its destruction by the Boko Haram insurgents, needs all the resources that can be mustered for its rebuilding, reconstruction and renovation (RRR). Having endured the carnage brought upon the area by the terrorists, the internally displaced people of the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe deserve a much better habitable environment and a new life worth living.

Hence the report, the other day, that the Federal Government was seeking a $400 million World Bank (WB) loan to finance the reconstruction of the North-East should be understood within the context of sparing no cost to give hope to an a much traumatised people and rebuilding a region left in ruins.

The government's present lean financial resources, of course, cannot avail its capacity to execute this necessary and important initiative without support. And since it is ideal and simply human that those Nigerians must be given a new life after years of torture, the idea of raising money from the World Bank is a well considered one.

The World Bank is, no doubt, acquainted with Nigeria's Boko Haram-inflicted challenges. Thus, properly packaged, it should not find it difficult to accede to the Nigerian government's loan request. The benefits of securing this $400 million facility from the World Bank are numerous, not the least being the generous terms such as single digit interest rate, years of moratorium and long-tenure repayment arrangements. Thus, with such funds properly deployed, the government can really impact positively on the lives of the people of that region.

However, the government needs to be reminded that the project must be taken seriously. It is not something the implementation of which should drag on for too long. Right from the on-set, a Master Plan that envisages the needs, prioritizes and schedules such, must be put in place. For instance, among all the things to be re-built such as road infrastructure and utilities as well as residential houses, efforts must be made painstakingly to determine which one must take precedence and why.

With the determination of these, government must properly cost the entire project and be able to weigh that cost against its revenue. It is the shortfall between government's own budgeted revenue (if any) for the project and ascertained cost that may be borrowed. Unfortunately, the Presidential committee charged with the rebuilding efforts did not indicate whether the $400 million is all the government needs for the project and even how the figure was arrived at. This places a serious responsibility on the government to explain these gaps to all Nigerians.

It is important also to note that at the planning stages, targets and milestones must be established to facilitate performance measurement as implementation progresses. At that same planning stage, controls must also be installed pre-commencement of implementation. In a project as huge as what is intended for the North-East, controls are very necessary to ensure that money and other materials for the project are used as purposed and not allowed to end up in private pockets. If properly installed and implemented, such controls will check a repeat of the problems that were encountered when humanitarian items meant for some IDP camps were reportedly stolen by the persons in whose care they were put.

As this newspaper has always maintained, it is not enough to borrow money, the source(s) of repayment must be certain, otherwise the borrowing may become a bad one with the risks of extended higher service costs and bad reputation for the country.

When the North-East reconstruction efforts commence, the government owes it as a duty to create large scale employment for the many unemployed young Nigerians in the area. Consequently, all contractors for the project must commit to using the services of Nigerians to deliver on the assignments, except where it is apparent that none is qualified for specialised roles. Such must be the exception rather than the rule.

Well, government must not deceive itself that it can single-handedly handle the North-East initiative as its present financial situation puts a lie to any such assumption. Thus, it is advisable that the government collaborates with as many individuals and groups, local and international, as possible.

With this, progress can be made within a record time such that life will, sooner than later, return to normalcy for the millions of internally displaced persons. There are many individuals and corporate bodies who will be willing and able to work with the government in accomplishing the noble and necessary objectives in the North-East. So, it should collaborate with and encourage all willing stakeholders whose participation in the rebuilding work can have salutary effects on the quantum of financial resources the government may borrow.

Above all, security of the people in the region is paramount. They certainly cannot unlive the horrors of the past few years. But never again must they have to live them again.


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