‘Revive national development plans, focus on self reliance’ (1)
WE may recall that our leaders who fought for our independence realised that one of the main reasons for any oppressed or colonised people to seek independence is the need to improve their quality of life beyond the limits set by the whims and caprices of their oppressors.
They also realised that planning provides one the best ways of finding an optimal solution of meeting needs and desires within available resources. They therefore adopted National Development Plans of known duration and content in providing common services for the nation. This enabled them to put the International Monetary Fund and the Word Bank at bay.
In fact the nation executed the series of four National Development Plans from the eve of independence to 1985 with emphasis on self-reliance without any crippling foreign debt burden. Rather Nigeria gave financial support to some countries on our continent and the West Indies. Money, which was then regarded simply as a means of exchange and not a commodity to be inordinately accumulated as a status symbol by a few individuals, was in circulation freely throughout the country without any restriction by the Central Bank. There was no dichotomy between the public and private sides of life, each existed naturally.
Five objectives expected to be achieved through the series of Plans to be executed were stated in the Second National Development Plan of 1962 – 68 which had to be extended to 1974 because of our civil war of July 1967 to January 1970, as to establish Nigeria firmly as:- “a united, strong and self-reliant nation, a great and dynamic economy, a just and egalitarian society, a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens and a free and democratic society.”
It was also expected that through the series of plans our nation would attain the stage of self-sustained growth by 1990, by which time we would have the ability to provide our basic needs by our own effort.
Our early political leaders also realised that planning has several advantages such as: –
Providing a mechanism for formulating and adopting policies and programmes that would enhance our economic, intellectual, social and technological development both individually and collectively as a nation.
•Allowing alternative courses of actions to be analysed before deciding on what to do.
•Establishing priorities in terms of programmes and projects to be executed within a specified time.
•Mobilising resources to achieve a pre-determined goal or target within a specified time.
•Providing a reference point with which progress in any endeavour can be compared and thus matching words with action.
•Allowing latent opportunities in many programmes to be discovered.
•Making it easy to prepare Annual Budgets and giving them wide publicity, thus ensuring accountability and transparency.
DRANATIC positive changes occurred in our quality of life during time we used to have National Development Plans. Starting with education, for instance, startling increase in the number of educational institutions at the three levels of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary occurred. Also the rate of school enrolment increased faster than the rate of increase of the population. In the case of health facilities, both their number and spread increased tremendously and in addition, several Teaching Hospitals were established with our indigenous Doctors being well renowned for their expertise all over the world. Going to housing, seeing is believing about the increase in the number and quality of the housing stock not only in the major urban centers such as the State capitals, but also in all towns and villages virtually throughout the country.
The building of Abuja, a brand new Capital City from scratch, may be regarded as the climax in this aspect. Moving to water supply, the few water works at independence in 1960, such as those at Iju (Lagos), Eleyele (Ibadan) were replaced by giant ones such as Asejire (Ibadan), Adiyan (Lagos) and several multi-purpose dams were constructed all over the country.
With respect to electric power supply isolated thermal generating plant in a few urban centers, with capacities rated at most in a few hundreds of kilowatts at independence, were replaced with several major power stations, having capacities rated in thousands of megawatts, using hydro and gas powered turbines and all linked together in a national grid. The largest power station completed in 1982 at Egbin had six turbines each of 220 megawatts capacity, thus generating 1,320 megawatts at just one single location and also bringing the total power generating capacity in the nation to 4,000 megawatts, which we were unable to surpass until 30 years later when it was announced on Monday 6th August 2012 that a generating capacity of 4,237 megawatts had been achieved in the country!. Even in telecommunications, where no spectacular achievement was recorded in the country until 2001 with the arrival of Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM), noticeable improvement in terms of coverage and technology occurred.
In the case of transportation modes, the 73,600 kilometres classified roads of single lane mostly unpaved roads (only 8,000 kilometres or about 11% were paved) at independence in 1960 were replaced with more than 200,000 kilometres of paved roads out of which more than 2,000 kilometres have dual carriageways. The quality and extent of the national road network received world acclaim and recognition as a result of which the International Road Federation produced a publication in 1982 entitled “Building Roads in Nigeria: An IRF Case History”. Consequently, the Director of Federal Highways in 1982, Engr. Ifeanyi Osili, (now deceased) was honoured as the “Man of The Year” by the Federation.
The Apapa Port Complex was greatly expanded including the addition of Roll – on Roll – off berths, in addition to several other ports along the national coastline. Air transport was expanded to cover the country far beyond the Lagos and Kano Airports and the few landing strips located in some Provincial Capitals at independence. Also about 5,000 kilometres of pipelines for transporting crude oil and petroleum products were built and linked to refineries capable of refining more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW
• Oseni is a former Director, Development and Engineering, Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja.