By Obas Esiedesa
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on Monday urged the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to deploy its $60 million budget for programme in Nigeria into large projects that would impact on Nigerians.
Fashola was reacting to a speech made earlier by the UNIDO Representative and Director ECOWAS Regional Office, Mr. Jean Bakole during a working visit to the ministry in Abuja.
Bakole had listed nine areas of focus for UNIDO new work programme for Nigeria that cut across industrial development, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Agro and Allied processing, infrastructure developments among others with a budget of $60 million, with the Federal Government contributing $30 million as counterpart funding.
But the Minister observed that the amount was small for a country, the size of Nigeria, pointing out that while the amount could be big for some countries, it was not so big for programmes in Nigeria.
He also pointed out that rather than spread the amount thinly across several sectors, it could be spent on few large projects that would have maximum impact on Nigerians.
He said: “My thoughts are, if you will permit me, instead of spreading this money thin over a very wide and un-impactful area, why don’t you think about beginning to something of scale.
“I did a rough conversion and $60 million is about N21 billion. If you have that kind of money, why don’t we use it to do one or two big things. Why don’t we have one massive industrial complex that becomes an example for others to follow”.
He however observed that “it is not always the size of money that matters. It is how it is actually used”.
He noted: “$60 million may be enough in some countries, with respect it is not enough in Nigeria. What works in some parts of Africa, certainly, by our size, we need to do a lot more up scaling. Even in medicine, there are prescriptions for pediatrics, and prescriptions for adults. We need adult dose”, he added.
Fashola said the Buhari government was investing a lot in improving infrastructure across the country, noting that very soon, the result of government’s effort would become apparent to Nigerians and their experience will change.
He said Nigeria has clearly embraced the partnerships that UN and its affiliate organizations offer for the improvement of the standard of living of member countries.
He however, stated that giving that UN has come a long way some its foundational rules and regulations are obsolete and therefore need to be upgraded.
“Some of its rules and regulations clearly need an upgrade without a doubt. The world is increasing faster and changing much more rapidly. The UN charter as provided about 75 years ago clearly are in need of urgent reform to bring them in conformity with today’s challenges”, he added.