By Misbahu Sa’idu
The flag-off of the construction phase of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano Gas Pipeline (hereinafter refer to as AKK) project on Tuesday, 30th June 2020 is potentially a watershed in the history of infrastructure development in contemporary Nigeria.
The project which is a component of the Nigerian Gas Master Plan (NGMP) approved by the Federal Executive council in 2008 has the potential of catapulting Nigeria into the club of industrialized nations. The other major gas transmission systems are: The Western System, that is, the existing 36” Escravos-Lagos Pipeline I and II with 2.2 billion feet capacity and the On-going East-West connection via the Obiafu/Obrikom-Oben Pipeline (OB3) featuring 2.4 billion feet per day capacity as confirmed by Festus Okoromadu in the Leadership Newspaper of June 30, 2020.
This AKK project is indeed a step in the right direction considering decades of skewed emphasis on crude oil production and export by preceding governments of a gas province called Nigeria. Evidence has shown that Nigeria has about 202 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of proven gas reserves, ranking 9th in the natural resource globally and the first in Africa.
The regional competition towards industrialization which climaxed with the adoption of Northern Nigeria Industrial Plan of 1963 has transformed the industrial map of the Northern region of Nigeria. The feasibilities studies commissioned in this period led to the subsequent establishment of industries, especially in Kano-Kaduna axis.
For instance, the number of industries in Kaduna increased to about 332 by 1985. Within a short period of five (5) years (between 1981 and 1985) not less than 116 manufacturing of different classifications had been established. By 1985 a large number of single industrial concerns with between 3,000 and 11,000 workforces were in operation in Kaduna notably: the Kaduna Textile Limited (KTL), the Arewa Textile Limited, and the Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited. These industrial concerns transformed Kaduna from a mere capital city into a bustling commercial entrepot and nucleus of the modern commercial hub in Nigeria.
Between the 1970s and 1980s, more industrial establishments sprang up in Northern Nigeria as evident in the emergence of industrial clusters at Sharada, Challawa in Kano State. Similar clusters also developed in Kakuri, Kaduna; Jos, Plateau; Zaria, Kaduna; Funtua, Katsina; Gusau, Zamfara; and Gombe.
Above instance is critical in our discourse because it shows that Northern Nigeria was industrializing in 1960, the 70s and early 80s. However this trend was slowed down and later arrested by the first military coup of 15th January, 1966, the industrial corruption of the 1970s and the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of 1986 otherwise called Structural Entrenchment Programme by late Dr Yusufu Bala Usman. Combination of these and other factors led to the proliferation of sunset industries in the north and by extension justifies the current call for reindustrialization in the region.
Because as a process, reindustrialization does not take place in a vacuum; it occurs in hitherto industrial areas. Based on this conception, the old Northern region had eminently qualified to be described as a thriving industrial hub in the recent past. It is within this context that the significance of AKK Gas project to the industrial sector could be located and understood.
The AKK project, when completed, could add 2.2 billion cubic feet (BCF) of gas to the domestic market and provide additional 3,600 megawatts of power to the national grid. This is critical to the reindustrialization of the Northern region as the epileptic power supply has been one of the major factors that led to the ‘murder’ of industries (industry-cide) in the region.
This view is supported by numerous reports of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and numerous scholarly articles on the subject matter. For instance, according to a survey by MAN in 2013, out of the 450 large, medium and small industries that existed from the early 1990s in Kano state, only about 120 were surviving as at 2017. The capacity utilization of these industries was about 45-50% prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
In the Kaduna sector of MAN which includes Katsina, Abuja and Niger out of 105 industries, 72 were operational as at 2017 while 33 have closed down. In the Jos sector of MAN, which includes Bauchi and Benue, out of 54 industries, 38 were operational in the pre-corona virus era.
It is pertinent to note that successful completion of the AKK gas project and the attendant reindustrialization of the northern part of Nigeria require other ingredients. These include a strong political will at both the Federal and state levels. This will ensure effective and efficient implementation devoid of discontinuity which is often occasioned by corruption, tenured political cycles and successor-predecessor rivalry syndromes among others.
In addition to this, active private sector participation is critical. Other ingredients include (but not limited to) the adoption of alternative sources of energy (wind, solar, biofuels etc) and the general provision of the three I’s of industrial development: Incentives, Institutions and Infrastructure.
Finally, it is worth reiterating that the development of sound infrastructure and a vibrant industrial sector requires committed political leadership. Therefore, as motions and movements towards 2023 elections began, Northern Nigeria should fill its basket of economic agenda with projects like the Gas project in question, the Mambila Hydropower project, and the dredging of River Niger among others. The need to ensure sustainable security of the region is also paramount as it is tied to meaningful development and genuine reindustrialization.
May God help us all! Ameen.
Misbahu Sa’idu writes from Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, and can be reached at, email@example.com