Over the last few years, Lagos businessman, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim has been in the UK pursuing his post-graduate studies. Recently, he completed 2 Masters programmes, MSc in Mega Projects at Oxford and MBA from Cambridge and he is currently studying for a PhD in Management Sciences at the University of Cambridge and PhD in War Studies at the University of Buckingham.
All of these intellectual pursuits have opened the eyes of Jimoh Folorunsho Ibrahim to the many things that are wrong with Nigeria in terms of successful execution of all our mega projects.
All the researches he has conducted so far show that a lot is wrong with Infrastructural development, as population growth far outweighs provision of infrastructural facilities.
It was during one of his researches that he discovered that 3 of Nigerias abandoned projects make up 70% of our National Debt. Read on…
Over the last 5 years or so, you have been busy at Cambridge & Oxford Universities studying for your Masters & Doctorate degrees. How has your exposure to global knowledge changed your world view about how things are done here?
It has in many ways. If you read very well, you will see that Nigeria still needs a lot of corrections and you will start to ask yourself whether Nigeria has started to think about development, because you will see that basic things are not available, just like Systems, Strategy, Style, Structure. Like if you look at things from the Strategy point of engagement of government, you will see that it is from virtually all the governments.
So, if you look at mega projects for instance, and if you look at my preliminary findings, which excites the University of Cambridge, you will be shocked that 3 abandoned projects, are about 70% of our national debt. That is amazing, isn’t it?
3 abandoned projects is equal to 70% of our national debt. If you complete those 3 projects, for instance, it means 70% of our national debt will disapper. That is a very big one. There are more than 20 findings that I have, preliminarily, without engaging in data.
When I met President Buhari recently, he was so concerned about that fact. What even interested me was the fact that he was not thinking of doing new projects. He is thinking of completing existing projects. That is phenomenal.
When I met President Jonathan, he explained why he embarked on so many massive projects. He explained that those projects were key to national development. When ex-President Ibrahim Babangida was in power, he also explained his own projects. I had to interview all these leaders as a pilot scheme to test what I was investigating. I had to go to all of them. I asked ex-President Babangida why he did 3rd Mainland bridge. He completed it for $1 billion. He now said before he became head of state, somebody said Africans could not do it and when he became President, he decided to give it a trial. It cost $1 billion. It was big money then, but he said he had the confidence that he could defend the amount.
He said he wanted them to give it to him as a present for his birthday. So, he supervised them with Raji Rasaki, who was the Governor of Lagos State then and of course, it was delivered. That is a viable project. You can imagine what Lagos would have been, if they had not done 3rd Mainland bridge.
And I interviewed Baba Obasanjo also on Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and he told me the amount of efforts he put in place, to complete the project when he came back for the 2nd time. But the Russian company says it is not interested. So, he had to do some concession of the place, rather than selling it out outright, as was wrongly misconceived.
I also went to Ajaokuta. I travelled there, so I spoke with the Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and the Management and I asked them what they needed to complete the project. We had some mixed feeling, initially. They said $400 million, at another time, when I pushed the interview further they said $1.4 million.
This is how mega projects look like. You never can be too sure of what it will take to complete them. I also went to Ughelli to see the Hydro-electric power, funded by China at $1.27 billion dollars. Of course, work was massively going on and I told President Buhari when I saw him. That was Fashola’s effort to make sure that hydro-electric power works. We are also looking at Mambilla which is 35 years old.
It is an ongoing investigation. When I finish, I will pack them into a book next year before my Thesis comes out. I know once my thesis is out, it will arouse a lot of interest. Everybody is already waiting for the thesis when I have not even started the 1st line. I am still collecting data. I have not even started writing.
My thinking might be that maybe Intent is a problem for projects in Nigeria, and it might be Governance. And it might not be. Who cares? It might even be Execution. I can’t see clearly. But I have built a Myotic Machine that can really tell you whether a project will fail or succeed, from the start, before you scratch the ground.
So, we are looking at so many projects like the Airport, for instance, the Chinese support to the Jonathan administration, and then what Buhari did, completing Kaduna, I think Abuja and Lagos were almost completed before Jonathan left, except that they were opened by the President. And so many. But for now, let me not make any conclusion. Honestly, I have not started writing, but I have a lot of data in my head about why large projects or mega projects fail. Large projects or Mega projects are projects above half a billion dollars. That is what I am investigating. The skills required in doing those projects are different. Like Jonathan said, Mega project is not meant for small-hearted people.
From what you have explained so far, it seems we need to pay a lot of attention to Infrastructure?
Of course, yes. Without adequate infrastructure, you can’t develop. Of course, you know that Population is growing at 5% and the economy is growing at 1%. The growth rate in Nigeria is 2.1%. If you have 200 million people, 10% of that is 20 million people. It means that every year, you add 10% to your population. If you continue to add, in 20 years you will double the population from 200 million to 400 million. Can you double infrastructure in 20 years?
No. We have been busy building Ajaokuta for 40 years, we have not been able to get there. So, how do you double infrastructure in 20 years? But whether you double it or you don’t double it, the population will keep doubling. The population will double in 10 years. So, in 2030 the population will be 400 million people and as we all know infrastructure will come up as a big challenge. And that is very, very important to our development. As it is now, the government is running far behind in terms of infrastructure. Development is far behind the needs of the people.