By Samuel Oyejola
Close to the fall of the 2017 3rdquarter only N450bn was released for the implementation of the 2017 Appropriation Act out of the over N2trillion appropriated. One is tempted to conclude that the pressure from the National Assembly or for reasons best explained by the Ministry of Finance, N750bn was injected into the economy for the implementation the capital expenditure in the fourth quarter making it a total of N1.2trillion of the over N2trillion budgeted for capital expenditure released.
The 1.2trillion release with the possibility of more before the expiration of the Act, the government is of surpassing its 2016 N1.3trillion released for capital projects in all sector. A budget that still has a life span of five months for implementation, the government is optimistic that Nigerians would enjoy infrastructural development in 2018. With this the presidency is confidence to declare “2018: Year of Infrastructure”.
To show the commitment of this administration to this assurance, President Muhamadu Buhari commissioned the Kaduna Inland Dry Port and also the newly acquired train buses for the Abuja Kaduna railway. It is expected that before the end of the 2018 budget the Jos and the Benin inland ports would be commissioned for use.
As assurance for the 2018 Year of Infrastructure the government has stated that it is building on the improvements in the power sector which presently stay at 7kw. It revealed that about 1600kmw would be added in the year.
Power generation from new sources in the country like the Katsina Wind Farm is expected to generate 10mw, Gurara; 30mw while Dadin Kowa and Kashimbilla would generate 29mw and 40mw respectively. Also Azura, Gbarain and Afam III are expected to generate 450mw, 115mw and 240mw respectively.
However two major projects in the FCT belie the government commitment “2018 Year of Infrastructure”. Time Nigeria observed that work has practically stopped at the Goodluck Jonathan expressway, a major road project in the FCT. Should this project be completed it would ease the unending gridlock experience on the Abuja-Keffi Expressway.
Also the Abuja intra-railway project that is near completion has recorded no activities in recent month. Similarly, construction on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the major road link that connects Lagos to other parts of Nigeria is crawling.
Fear of the 2018 budget
The lion share of the Nigeria total expenditure still comes from the crude oil revenue. In order words the performance of the 2018 budget and the remainder of the 2017 budget lies on the smooth business operation in the creeks.
For the 2018 budget, the MTEF pegged the oil benchmark at $47 per barrel. At the current international market, crude oil currently sells for almost $70 per barrel. Could this be the crystal ball the Buhari government based its 2018 Infrastructure year on?
With this analysis, 47pb at 2.2mbpd gives Nigeria over $103m per day. Should the federal government remain cajoled by this silver lining, Buhari and his team would be at the peril of losing the next general election less that 14 months way.
Aside the international oil price, the major factor that determines the gains from the oil sector in 2018 would be the Niger delta militants who have threatened to commence their activities this year. Nigerians are monitoring with keen interest how President Buhari wold handle the creek boys. It is expected that the government would approach the region with sincerity and commitment to agreements and promises for the region. This would benefit the Niger Deltans and Nigerians at large.
Nigerians expect President Buhari to toll the path of diplomacy in dealing with the Niger delta agitators. 2017 Military Operation Python Dance II that silenced the Nnamdi Kanu led- Biafra agitation should do less to motivate the President in taking decisions regarding the creek boys.
The government must ensure that the current peace in the regions is sustained and concretized to forestall future crisis. The Buhari government has a lot to win if this is sustained as Nigerians who only hope for a viable economy would renew the mandate of the government not minding the recent call by former president Olusegun Obasanjo for President Buhari to stick to a single term.