The decrepit infrastructure in Nigeria and the failure of government to adequately address the challenge has fueled the adoption of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). This is reinforced by the successes of private participation in telecom sector where private provisions have led to accessible, available and affordable services. This raises some questions in the light of known traditional roles of government. While some believe that it is fundamentally antithetical to the idea and philosophy that underpins public governance, proponents of this framework argue that this is the only means through which infrastructural challenge in Nigeria can be mitigated.
The prevailing regulatory framework and the nature of emerging trend in PPP projects diminish the expectations that it might be the ultimate solution to the infrastructure challenges. Controversies, projects failure and abandonment, protests from the public and allegation of corruption have become the hallmark of many of the projects.
The nature of PPP in Nigeria has shown that the politics of introducing PPP projects has clouded the practice of the framework. The PPP arrangement at present is skewed against private sector. It is evident to see public authorities wielding more power and becoming a dominant partner. The snag in this ‘master-servant’ relationship is most PPP arrangements cannot outlive the administration that initiated them.
While PPP can address infrastructure challenges, this is achievable when parties involved have equally shared responsibilities and risks. However, there is a lacuna in the regulatory framework governing PPP at present. This threatens projects executed under the model. Given the sophistication of issues involved, many state governments have limited expertise to effectively regulate. Relying on firms under PPP for expertise may lead to regulatory capture.
Competition is the best form of regulation. Competition can help to reduce prices and expand access. Access can increase when incomes rise and economic reforms that increase incomes can be expected to increase access irrespective of the nature of PPP. PPP activities should be open and transparent. This must go pari-pasu with mass public education to correct the widely held notion that only government should provide infrastructure. Globally, government is the driven force for infrastructure projects. This
is why private participation is government induced and private sector only participates when there are enabling conditions.
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