This week, in spite of their other serious engagements, at the margins of the United Nations General Assembly holding in New York, USA, President Muhammadu Buhari and Her Majesty, Maxima Zorreguieta, Queen of The Netherlands, have found time to meet and discussed matters affecting the two nations.
During the meeting, in his usual forthright and transparent manner, the President said Nigeria is well aware of its limitations and, based on that fact, chose to prioritise the provision of infrastructure.
“Without infrastructure, development would be limited,” the President said. “So, we put emphasis on building roads, rail, and power. We have a comprehensive plan, and we are doing our best.”
However, according to the President, Nigeria, in that respect, is hampered by the scarcity of resources, despite being an oil exporting nation. He, therefore, rightly pointed out that with more financial wherewithal, infrastructure works would be sped up.
The President assured the Queen, who last visited Nigeria in 2017, that if she visits again, she would witness a lot of differences.
And, truly, many changes and or developments, particularly in the area of infrastructure, have happened in Nigeria since her last visit. To mention a few, new roads were constructed, railway projects commissioned and education wise, the schools are better.
All the changes that occurred can, however, be attributed to the president’s realisation of the fact that the country’s state of infrastructure goes a long way to determine its development.
Infrastructure is basic essential services that should be put in place to enable development to occur. Economic development of Nigeria can be facilitated and accelerated by the presence of infrastructure.
If these facilities and services are not in place, development will be very difficult and, in fact, such a situation can be likened to a very scarce commodity that can only be secured at a very high price and cost.
The issues of provision and development of infrastructures have agitated the minds of many leaders before now but none seemed to have squarely address the matter as Buhari is doing.
And that is so because the President seems to be clear in his mind that infrastructure is an integral part of the process of Nigeria’s socio-economic development. He understands, clearly too, that to undermine development of infrastructure is to undermine growth and development of Nigeria’s economy.
Buhari had campaigned to be elected as President on the promise that he will revamp the battered nation’s economy. Thus, he reasons that infrastructure is an intermediate goods and service for the real sector and a finished goods and service for consumers.
So, if the real sector, which is the engine of growth, is to propel Nigeria’s growth and development, infrastructure should be given qualitative and adequate attention.
Infrastructure development is one of the major elements of structural reforms in developing economies like Nigeria because of its expected large economic and social impact.
Infrastructure investments alone do not, however, have a significant influence on economic growth. The institutional environment is a very important complement, allowing infrastructure investments to be translated into economic growth.
Therefore, in the area of transportation, more roads should be constructed and the existing ones should adequately be maintained. Lack of maintenance of these roads will lead to the reduction in the levels of production of firms as well as inability of the firms to evacuate consumables from one point to another.
The government should enhance competition and efficiency in the infrastructure industry, especially in the area of electricity. With that, the government can make an indirect contribution to citizens’ economic development.
Economic infrastructure has played a very significantly positive role in the growth performance of countries in recent times. Where development of economic infrastructure has followed a rational, well-coordinated and harmonised path, growth and development have received a big boost. Examples are Korea and Japan.
Where the growth of infrastructures has not followed such a rational and coordinated path, growth and development have been stunted. Examples can be found in most African countries and other LDCs.
Reversing biodiversity loss
President Muhammadu Buhari, again, in New York, has declared that the federal government has initiated some specific actions to tackle and reverse the severe trend of biodiversity loss which affects the whole world.
The trend is, indeed, frightening and, like the President has said, it must be halted. Biodiversity is more than simply the collection of plants and animals on earth; it is about local ecosystems and promoting healthy conditions for organisms to thrive.
However, biodiversity loss affects everyone and, therefore, while protecting the rainforests sounds like a daunting task, there is a lot individuals can do to promote and preserve local biodiversity at home.
The President spoke in a video message to the hybrid High-Level event tagged: “Transformative Actions for Nature and People” on the margins of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 76).
Aside championing regional and inter-regional cooperation towards addressing the scourge, the President outlined other measures to include: “Expansion of protected areas including the establishment of ten (10) new National Parks across the country as well as the creation of Marine Protected Areas pursuant to the 30X30 Agenda of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD); and domestication of relevant International Agreements, Conventions as well as Laws and Policies for the protection and conservation of biodiversity.”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) defines conservation as the management of the human use of the biosphere so that it can yield the greatest sustainable benefit while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspiration of future generations.
The President said “leveraging the cooperation and partnerships of the Development Partners as well as International Organisations and Coalitions for concrete action against deforestation and biodiversity loss; and promotion and increased investments in climate-positive and nature-positive economy for sustainable environment and land use practices” were other areas being worked on to confront the challenge.
Biodiversity in Nigeria is seriously under the threat of extinction from climate change, economic development, land use changes from agriculture, invasive species and pollution, crude oil exploration and exploitation, canalisation that has threatened mainly the mangroves, deforestation, desert encroachment, over hunting, and construction of roads and residential buildings etc.
In fact, it is the fear of species extinction emanating from the poor attitude of both government and the citizenry towards the protection of biodiversity in Nigeria that has necessitated the President to discuss the issue so that conservation practices should be implemented and taken seriously in the country to avoid a catastrophe of species extinction in the nearest future.
Experts say there is desert encroachment and advancing southwards at an estimated rate 0.6km a year with Borno, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Yobe and Sokoto states greatly affected, with Sokoto already loosing up to 11.43% of its total land area.
Nigeria has coastline of about 853km long, with the coastal areas being the most populated zones but being most seriously threatened by coastal and marine erosions and land subsidence.
The devastating effects are found in the low lying belts of the mangrove and freshwater swamps along the coast and plains of large rivers in the coastal southern states of Nigeria.
Of course, there are many governmental agencies in charge of environmental matters in Nigeria but they work at cross purposes to the extent that statutory delineation is not adhered to.
Such attitude may stem from corruption of some officials in agencies. Those charged with the responsibilities do no function properly probably because of obvious administrative bottlenecks and connivance between the operators and those flouting the order.
However, the importance of biodiversity as a natural resource cannot be over-emphasised because of the basic needs they satisfy and their role as the vital cultural heritage of the nation.
Therefore, there must be concerted efforts by the government and citizens to make wise use of these natural resources to avoid their degradation and depletion. Rapid population growth, over exploitation of resources, deepening poverty, weak institutional and legal framework need to be seriously addressed by integrating environmental and developmental objectives.
These problems need to be seriously addressed and mental education and transformation of Nigerians on the importance of biodiversity need to be given utmost attention by the Buhari-led administration.