THE greater problem underlying Nigeria’s economic and infrastructural challenges is not the non-implementation of policies but the absence of quality, implementable plans, Joe Abah has submitted at the just-concluded Niger Delta Development Forum.
The forum, organised by the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), was held on Tuesday and Thursday in two states: Edo and Rivers.
Abah, who is the Country Director of the Development Alternatives Inc. and former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, made this remark while delivering a goodwill message. He described the event as very important, commending PIND for the “laudable initiative”.
He also said Nigerians often underplay the role of good plans in enhancing economic development, believing that the absence of political will to drive implementation is the biggest hindrance. He enlightened stakeholders at the forum on various types of plans which are common in Nigeria but are not the best.
“The first is the one I call for donors by donors,” he said. “Those plans are actually written by donors for the purposes of donor support. They have no support from the government, no link to the budget, no link to capacity, nothing. It is just written for donors, and quite often the donors will pay to have it written for them.
“The second is what I call the advocacy plan. The advocacy plan says this is how it should be. For instance, every kid must not be in a class bigger than 20 children to one teacher, all our roads must be paved, our environment must be clean, we should spend 15 per cent of our budget on education, we should declare an emergency on education, spend x on health and so on.
“Nobody talks about how exactly it is going to happen. And when you start to ask where the money is going to come from to do security, to build roads, to buy drugs, they will say go and ask those other people to also fight their own, as if the budget or the resources are elastic.”
“The third type of plan is the one I call the ‘God forbid plan’; and that is when people say, ‘Ah! God will not let it happen’, when you ask what will happen if this doesn’t take place,” Abah added, as the audience giggled.
“That is the kind of plans we tend to write,” he continued. “There is no plan B; there is no contingency plan; and therefore you find that when we write these kinds of plans and see the resources are insufficient, instead of building a smaller house, we build a house that doesn’t have a roof.”
He said the fourth type of plan is the beautiful plan, which in theory is supposed to transform a state into Dubai or Singapore overnight, regardless of the availability of resources. Government officials write this kind of plan, he explained, because people are generally delighted to see them.
“This is actually the kind of plan that made people say our problem is not planning because we have written how we want to be Dubai by tomorrow,” he noted.
“And then the fifth one is what I call the fire brigade plan. We do it every four years when we go for Olympics. That’s when we forget our athletes at the airport when we’ve had at least four years to know that the event will happen.”
He advised that plans developed by state governments should have mechanisms to ensure their own implementation, should ensure that resources planned are likely to be available and should prepare for all possible risks, so that implementation does not become a problem.
“That’s why this forum is so important that we can actually brainstorm and partner with relevant state governments here on how to do better plans, ensure that those plans are state-led, and that they have the potential to actually be delivered and to make a difference in people’s lives,” he concluded.
The forum also featured a development planning competition which involved seven states in the Niger Delta, as well as a plenary session on harmonising strategies for impact.
The Niger Delta Development Forum is an annual event organised by PIND and supported by other organisations such as Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE), the European Union, Department for International Development (DFID), Faculty for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER), and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI).
'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.