Public-Private Partnership as a Policy Strategy of Infrastructure Financing in Nigeria

For much of Nigeria’s post colonial history, the state has been the dominant provider of infrastructure finance. The capacity of the Nigerian state for exclusive funding of infrastructure was, however, seriously challenged in the early 1980s when Nigerian economy was hit with a severe crisis culminating in the adoption of the IMF and World Bank-inspired Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). Under the SAP regime, the state was required to disengage from social delivery, including infrastructure provisioning. Within the context of the current global economic recession, the declining revenue base of the Nigerian state has made sourcing for alternative means of funding infrastructure inevitable. PPP represents one sure way of overcoming the challenges posed by the global financial crisis. This paper interrogates the phenomenon of PPP in Nigeria. It contends that while the initiative has high prospects, attaining its promises is contingent on the availability of certain success factors.
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In all economic jurisdictions, infrastructure is crucial to economic development. Economies with inadequate or underdeveloped infrastructure are bound to experience slow economic growth, and, in some cases, social unrest with the attendant human and material casualty. Any economy faced with the challenge of infrastructural deficiency is generally unattractive to capital, domestic or foreign. Such economy that can hardly raise the quality of life of the citizenry as the success of any meaningful effort at raising or maintaining the standards of living is heavily contingent on the adequacy of infrastructure services both in terms of their quantity and quality (Esfahani, 2005). Also, such an economy can not build human capital or attract skilled manpower. Therefore, countries that are desirous of competing for investible capital and exploiting the benefits of sustainable development need to upgrade their infrastructure to world investment standards in today’s global business milieu driven by globalization and aggressive investment policies. 

At the regional level, infrastructural deficiencies remain a major challenge undermining Africa’s capacity to compete in global markets (World Bank, 2008). The World Bank has documented that the state of infrastructure in many Sub-Saharan African economies is appallingly poor in absolute terms and relative to Asian countries with which they are presently competing and will compete with in the future (World Bank, 1994). This infrastructure deficit not only stunts economic growth and reduces international competitiveness; it also seriously undermines the poverty reduction efforts of African regimes (World Bank, 2006). For the African continent to meet the 7% growth rate requirement for halving income poverty in the region, African governments will have to commit 5% of the regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to infrastructure financing, while additional 4% of GDP will be needed to service operation and maintenance requirements. Overall, Africa’s infrastructure investment needs will be in the neighborhood of USD 20 billion a year, a figure that is twice what African regimes currently commit to infrastructure funding (World Bank, 2005). While mobilizing this huge infrastructure finance from internal sources remains a daunting task for the continent, the situation is aggravated by a steady decline in annual Official Development Assistance (ODA) for infrastructure on the continent which amounted to an average of approximately USD826 million between 2002 and 2004 (World Bank, 2006). Net ODA disbursements by the 22 member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of   the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) declined by USD3 billion in 2006 (World Bank, 2007).

For the Nigerian state, the story is equally appalling if not tragic. Today, Nigeria’s infrastructure is in dire state. Aside from the fact that it does not meet the needs of the investor, it inhibits investment and scales up the cost of transacting business in the country (FGN, 2004). In the Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010, released by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum in August 2009, Nigeria was ranked 99th out of the 133 economies that were surveyed by the global body. To fix its rapidly decaying infrastructure, the Nigerian state requires an annual infrastructure investment of between USD 6 and 9 billion, which only the business community is best placed to mobilize. Today, in Nigeria, the cost of expanding, improving and maintaining public infrastructure has evidently overstretched public resources, making efforts for alternative funding sources inevitable, particularly within the context of the global economic meltdown ravaging world economy with the resultant negative effect on the revenue accruing to countries of the world. Nigeria’s former Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola, recently gave an insight into the negative impact of the global financial downturn on the country’s revenue base. Speaking at a conference in London, the minister disclosed that the country’s excess crude account savings, which has lately become a significant source of infrastructure finance for the oil-rich nation, decreased from USD20.4 billion in January 2009 to USD11.2 billion in June of the same year. According to the minister, the nation will need an annual investment of USD10 billion to address the infrastructure deficit facing the country.

If countries of the world are to meaningfully compete for investment, particularly in the current period of global economic recession, they must provide an enabling environment for investment. Infrastructure constitutes a very significant factor in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in all economies. Given the cash crunch that characterizes the current global economic crisis, developing countries in particular, having become the worst hit by the global crisis partly because of the underdeveloped nature of their economies, have devised alternative sources of infrastructure funding. The severity of the current global financial crisis is underscored by the collapse of key corporate bodies particularly large financial institutions which constitute the pillars of the global economy (Sampson, 2008). Public- Private Partnership (PPP) initiative is one of the alternative sources of infrastructure financing available for developing economies as a coping strategy against the effects of the global recession. Other consequences of the global economic meltdown are negative economic growth, growing unemployment, rising inflation and crashing stock markets (Oyesiku, 2009). PPP is a radical departure from the traditional practice in developing countries of the global South, where the state has solely provided the resources for infrastructure financing. PPP re-defines the role of the state in infrastructure provisioning, transforming its status from a 'provider' to that of an 'enabler' and 'regulator', which fit into the neo-liberal ideology of market economy. 

The PPP initiative, described by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a 'wave that is sweeping the world', is rooted in a complex but contractual relationship between government and private sector organizations. A new and increasingly popular strategy of social delivery with global endorsement, PPP can be prosecuted as a project ( when private investors build and operate service delivery institutions) and as a strategy of service delivery where private institutions discharge the responsibility of providing services hitherto provided by the public sector agencies.

Today, across developing economies, the traditional method of infrastructure financing is witnessing a fundamental change, moving away from the statist model of infrastructure investment and challenging governments to design alternative sources of financing infrastructure needed for economic growth and human development. This shift in the method of infrastructure funding underscores the realization that the traditional approach is no longer sustainable in the face of the dwindling resources of the state and inefficiency in the state sector. This situation brings to the fore the need for private sector participation in the financing of infrastructure both in terms of providing the needed huge capital, and injecting greater efficiency into the management of public utilities. The PPP arrangement provides a lifeline for the government in the face of its depleting resources, as it offers business opportunities for the private sector to be involved in social provisioning.  This paper interrogates the PPP initiative as a policy strategy by the current Yar’adua/Jonathan administration to provide, rehabilitate and manage infrastructure in Nigeria. It examines the imperative of this strategy and identifies success factors that are crucial to the achievement of the goals and benefits of the initiative. The paper in conclusion proposes measures of mainstreaming PPP initiative in Nigeria’s development quest.

The Nigerian State and Infrastructure Financing: An Ex-Ante Analysis

Traditionally, the state has dominated infrastructure financing in Nigeria. The public sector was the dominant actor in financing infrastructure in Nigeria till the 1980s, when reforms were introduced to confront the dwindling oil revenue that challenged state capacity for infrastructure provisioning. The state-led development strategy of that period essentially meant that the public sector was the sole financier of infrastructure. The nationalists, who inherited power from the colonialists on independence, refused a dominant role for the private sector in the economy, and, in effect, merely conceded a marginal participation to the private sector in their development quest (Assibey-Mensah, 2009). The socialist ideology adopted by the nationalists to legitimize their control of state power in the immediate post-independence years was regarded as an effective strategy for stimulating and accelerating economic development. This strategy spawned heavy public investment in the establishment of several state-owned enterprises in different sectors of the national economy. The statist approach also led to government initiating several capital projects such as universities, hospitals, river basin development authorities, road construction, airports, refineries and steel mills. For instance, buoyed by the oil boom of the 1970s, the military dictatorships of Generals Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo made substantial public investments on capital goods, physical and social infrastructure (Fadahunsi, 2005).

The basic assumption underpinning the statist approach to development is that the state is the primary agent for development with little or no role assigned to the private sector or civil society in the development process (Mabogunje, 2007). This model, which endowed the public sector with a commanding role in the development process, is referred to in the literature as 'the regime of dirigism or developmentalism' (Olukoshi, 2003), dominated the political economy of post-colonial Africa till the early 1980s. It is, however, tragic that state enterprises thrown up by state-led development approach could not make significant contributions to the economy in spite of the huge public investment on their establishment and operations. According to one source, successive Nigerian administrations invested up to N800 billion in these enterprises while the annual returns on the investment was well below 10 per cent of the investment capital (BPE, 2000).            

The trend of exclusive state financing of infrastructure continued under the Babangida military administration with the activities of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), instituted by the regime to specifically improve rural infrastructure. In the fiscal year 1987, DFRRI received a budgetary allocation of N400 million, while N500 million was allocated to the agency in 1988 to develop rural infrastructure which would, in the reasoning of the Babangida regime, impact on the development of agriculture. One striking feature to note about budgetary votes to DFRRI during this period was the fact that the agency received higher allocation than most ministries and parastatals of the military state. For instance, while the Ministry of Education was allocated N4 million in 1987, it got N302 million in 1988. Similarly, the Ministry of Health got N166.9 million in 1987, and N259.9 million in 1988. It was only the Ministry of Defence with a vote of N717.6 million in 1987 and N830 million in 1988 that recorded higher allocation than DFRRI (Ake, 2001).

The early signs of the waning capacity of the Nigerian state as the sole provider of infrastructure finance began to manifest in 1983. By this period, the Nigerian economy had been hit by a serious crisis. As a result of this economic crisis, which has been described as the most severe in terms of impact and depth since the creation of the Nigerian state as a specific Anglo-colonial project (Bangura, 1982), the Nigerian state witnessed a swift decline in its capacity for social and infrastructure provisioning (Jega, 2000), which subsequently led to increased legitimacy crisis of the state (Amin, 1996). During the oil boom era, state legitimacy was enhanced through massive public expenditure in critical sectors of the economy such as construction, commerce, industry, banking as well as in social service delivery. The immediate consequence of the collapse of the world oil market of the early 1980s on the Nigerian economy was the sharp reduction in her oil earnings from N10.1 billion in 1979 to about N5.161 billion in 1982. This spawned a major industrial crisis with many industrial concerns either closing down or operating well below installed capacity utilization (Olukoshi, 1993). The fact that the economy had slid into crisis was further underlined by the increase in the percentage of budget deficit, which grew to 12 percent of the GDP in 1983. All the efforts of the state to stem the tide of the economic crisis, including the Economic Stabilization Act of 1982, instituted by the Shagari Presidency, failed to prompt Nigeria to adopt World Bank and IMF-inspired Structural Adjustment Program in July 1986 (Ake, 2001). The implementation of SAP meant not only that adjusting countries needed to generate export surplus to pay their debts, but also that they needed to profoundly restructure their economies along neo-liberal lines (UNRISD, 1995). With reduction of public expenditure as one of the major policy components of SAP (Kukah, 1999), state funding of infrastructure was adversely affected as the state’s ability to maintain social services and infrastructure visibly declined under the SAP regime (Ake, 2001).                                 

The Ascent of PPP in Infrastructure Funding in Nigeria

Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the provision, maintenance and management of social services and building of infrastructure has been a practice in Western countries since long. For instance, in North America, private firms were awarded contracts to clean the streets of New York as early as 1676, a century before the American Revolution. Indeed, throughout the history of the United States, there has been a heavy presence of private sector organizations in the construction of roads, canals, water ways, railways and airports. Also in Europe, private sector partnership with the public sector was a common phenomenon in the first half of the 20th century. In Latin America, the challenge posed by the dearth of infrastructure in the 1990s was overcome through concessioning (a major variant of PPP), which brought in private sector efficiency to bear in the management of public infrastructure.

PPP is, however, a relatively new initiative in Africa. For the Nigerian state, it is a post-transition phenomenon. The post-1999 reform project, initiated by the Obasanjo presidency, represents a fundamental economic ideological shift from the socialist character of the Nigerian economy to a full-blown free market economy with neo-liberal policies such as deregulation, privatization, monetization and right-sizing of public bureaucracy featuring prominently on the policy agenda of the government. Prior to the institution of these reforms, several state utilities were in a state of dysfunction having been organizationally crippled by corruption, inefficiency and indebtedness with many of them having no audited account for many years. At the first anniversary of the restoration of civil rule in the country, the federal government alone had about 600 state enterprises in various sectors of the economy. Most of these enterprises were in a parlous state and had unimpressive record of long years of under-performance. Generally, these state-funded enterprises 'constituted a drain-pipe on the national treasury' (FRN, 2000). Also, much public infrastructure had suffered state neglect or at best under-funding leading to infrastructure decay with dire consequences for social service delivery.

Two basic assumptions underpin PPP initiative in Nigeria namely, more efficient social service delivery by the private sector which is imbued with better risk management; and declining revenue accruing to government occasioned by financial crisis currently troubling the global economy. Four major areas of Public-Private Partnership can be delineated from the current operation of the PPP initiative in Nigeria. These are infrastructure development and management, revenue generation in which private sector institutions collect revenue on behalf of the government (particularly state and local), waste management, and technical management (for instance, as attempted by the Obasanjo presidency for the management of Unity Schools) and capacity building in terms of training of public sector workers in areas like Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and tax administration. Mabogunje (2007) has identified seven types of Public-Private Partnership which, though diverse in character, tend to overlap in some cases. According to Mabogunje, these variants of PPP differ in their allocation of responsibilities and risks between the state and the private sector, and in their complexity as well as in their duration. The seven types are Build, Own and Operate (BOO), which entails the government authorizing private firms to build, own and operate an asset; Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT), which is similar to BOO, but differs from it to the extent that the asset is transferred to the government after an agreed period of time, reasonably enough for the private investor to have recouped its investment; Contracting Out, which involves contracting out the provisioning of specific technical services by public sector agencies to an external private company; Franchising/Concessioning, involving a private firm assuming responsibility for operating a service and collecting charges for a specified period of time; Aftermage in which the public sector controls the construction and owns the fixed assets but contracts out to private sector organizations the operation, maintenance and collection of service charges; Leasing, which involves one of the partners(public or private sector) making use of equipment or assets belonging to either of them without purchasing the equipment/assets but by paying a lease to the other partner; and Management Contract, whereby the private sector organization takes over  responsibility for the operation and management of a specific infrastructure using staff and equipment of the public sector.

Of the seven variants of PPP initiative identified by Mabogunje, concessioning appears to be the dominant type currently in operation in Nigeria. This fact is underscored by the setting up of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) by the late President Umar Yar’adua. Many analysts believe that the Yar’adua presidency took a bold and strategic step towards overcoming the conundrum of infrastructural deficiency with the institution of ICRC, a body provided for by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Act signed in to law by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005. The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Act 2005 provides for the participation of the private sector in financing, construction, development, operation or maintenance of public infrastructure or development projects of the federal government through concession or contractual arrangements.

With the enhancement of investment in critical physical infrastructure and human capital development as the major philosophy of the 2009 budget (see President Yar’adua’s 2009 Budget Speech), the Yar’adua administration has made modest achievement in this regard as will be shown presently with an examination of public infrastructure being financed through PPP initiative. The 30-year-old Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been handed over by the Federal Government to a concessionaire, Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited for effective management of the ever-busy 110 kilometer expressway. The rehabilitation work to be carried out on the Lagos-Ibadan highway covers areas such as full reconstruction of the existing carriageways, construction of additional lanes to the present four-lane carriageway and provision of ancillary facilities like parking areas for heavy duty vehicles, rest areas with eateries and conveniences as well as emergency communication equipment, all for the welfare and security of the highway users. The new manager, Bi-Courtney Limited, is expected to source for about N89.53 billion to prosecute the turn-around project which will be executed on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement, spanning a 25-year concession period. The investment on the project by the concessionaire and return on  it will be recovered through tolls to be charged on the highway subject to regulatory guidance from the federal government. Terminal 2 of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, one of the oldest airports in the commercial capital of the country, Lagos, is also currently being rehabilitated under the BOT scheme with Messers Bi-Courtney Consortium as the new private sector managers. This project was the first to be executed under the current PPP regime. Also being financed through the PPP initiative is the rehabilitation of two main gateways in the Federal Capital Territory namely, the Airport Expressway and the Outer Northern Expressway which runs from Zuba through Kubwa to Asokoro, the seat of federal government. While the federal government will provide 40%, the contractors will source for 60% of the costs of the projects which when completed will, according to the immediate past Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Adamu Aliero, generate about 25,000 job opportunities and boost commercial activities within and around the federal capital. In the same vein, the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge at Onitsha for which the Federal Government will provide a N4.3 billion counterpart funds; as well as the construction of the Guto/Bagana Bridge across River Benue for which the Federal government would mobilize N3.6 billion counterpart funds are being funded through PPP arrangement (see President Yar’adua’s 2009 Budget speech). Other road projects being financed through PPP initiative include Shagamu-Benin road, Lagos-Badagry road as well as Abuja-Kaduna-Kano roads. In the food sector, the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, has aggressively adopted the PPP initiative to manage its silos and reservation facilities.    The completion of the projects examined above and others not captured here will go a long way not only in making Nigeria a preferred investment destination but will also impact positively on the living conditions of the citizenry.

PPP and its Success Factors

Public-Private Partnership offers the Nigerian government a huge relief from the biting effects of the global financial crisis even as it gives the private sector a greater stake in the management of the Nigerian economy, specifically in the area of infrastructure provisioning and management. Neo-liberal scholars have contended that the private sector offers developing economies the best prospects for rapid economic growth if allowed to operate in competitive market conditions (Moran, 1986). However, as promising as PPP is as a strategy of  economic growth and infrastructure development, its efficacy in the Nigerian context is contingent on the availability of certain 'success factors' without which the gains derivable from the initiative tend to be elusive. A strong and functional institutional framework is the primary success factor for any PPP arrangement. In a significant manner, governmental institutions shape the implementation of public policies as they give continuity and stability to the processes of policy making and administration (Bullock III et al., 1983). In the absence of a virile institutional foundation, benefits of the PPP initiative may not be forthcoming. Regulation represents an important success factor in public-private partnership in low-income peripheral economies with their relatively weak regulatory mechanisms (World Bank, 2000). The World Bank has documented that economies with political stability, predictable processes and methods of altering laws, property rights protection and a strong judicial system tend to be preferred investment destinations and record higher economic growth than countries where these attributes are lacking. Within the context of Public-Private Partnership, institutions are conceived as sets of formal and informal rules that govern the actions of the actors in the PPP framework. This institutional infrastructure must contain unwritten codes of behavior that encourage cooperation and conflict resolution as well as formal enforceable legal rules which guarantee that contractual obligations are enforced and property rights honored. The existence of such institutional framework will encourage private investors to provide the huge financial investment infrastructure financing requires. Also, the concessioning process which leads to the handover of public utilities to private sector managers must be inclusive. All the major stakeholders, including workers and users of public assets being concessioned, must be involved in the process so as to allay fears of job loss and prohibitive user charges. This inclusive process will help in preventing avoidable post-concession protests as witnessed after the handover of Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos and the old Domestic Terminal of Murtala Mohammed Airport to new private sector managers. It is gratifying to note that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission held a stakeholders’ consultations on Nigeria’s Public-Private Partnership program for infrastructure development in Abuja on September 24, 2009. Such consultations should be sustained and the inputs of stakeholders should be fed into the PPP process. Also, the PPP initiative demands a transparent process which is necessary for confidence-building among the participants in the initiative, particularly with regards to risk sharing. If the requisite transparency is injected into the PPP process, it will be a departure from, and a remarkable improvement over, the extant regional practice in which African regimes 'are not open and transparent about their international economic relations and investment agreements' (Keet, 2008). 

Mainstreaming PPP in Infrastructure Management in Nigeria

Across economies, public policy represents a state intervention that directly impacts social welfare, social institutions and social relations. Policies are formulated and executed in pursuit of national, social and economic goals of all countries. Public policies are not only an expression of values; they can also serve as a major transformative instrument in the development quest of any country. Within the context of PPP, the great challenge is to effectively manage the contradictions between the latent and manifest functions of the initiative in a way that provides an enabling environment for robust private sector participation in the economy without undermining the social responsibility of the state to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of the citizenry.

The growing adoption of Public-Private Partnership initiative, both for infrastructure development and service delivery by all the tiers of government in Nigeria, is a strong indication that the PPP industry is maturing in Nigeria and this signals positive development for the national economy if properly designed and well managed. Though essentially a federal initiative, PPP is rapidly being replicated at the state and local levels of governance in Nigerian Federation with many states and local governments engaging the private sector in the area of infrastructure financing and management. For instance, Lagos state government not only hosted an international workshop on the Public-Private Partnership initiative on 5th November 2007, it also has a special Unit in the Ministry of Finance which coordinates PPP-related activities. The Lekki Concessioning Company (LCC) is currently undertaking the construction of major roads in Lagos such as the Lekki-Epe Expressway under BOT terms for a period of 30 years. Many local governments in Lagos state have also latched on to the PPP initiative to combat rural infrastructure challenges. In the oil-rich Rivers state, the incumbent Rotimi Amaechi administration has resorted to the Public-Private Partnership scheme to fund its Public Health and Housing Programs (Njidda, 2009). On its own, Cross Rivers state government recently signed a N100 billion project with an American firm, Jack Rouse to design and build its park project, to make it a preferred tourist destination.  Mainstreaming this initiative in Nigeria’s infrastructure management may, however, be confronted by institutional challenge. There is a growing concern within the country that the absence of a strong and strictly enforced institutional regulatory framework, and government capacity to effectively monitor the PPP process, may limit the accruing benefits from the initiative. There is, therefore, the need for the Nigerian authorities to design a strong and enduring institutional framework for the PPP scheme. Issues that must be emphasized in the institutional building for the initiative include autonomy, transparency and effective oversight. Mainstreaming PPP in Nigeria’s development drive will also require state capacity to translate political commitments into effective public policies. State capacity in this regard refers to the ability to build political consensus or 'social pacts' for the PPP initiative. This will, among others, contribute to social solidarity, encourage the private sector to have faith in the initiative and delegitimize violent opposition to the PPP regime. There is a need to improve the investment climate in Nigeria to meet global standards. Obadan (2004) has rightly observed that until recently Nigeria’s investment climate has been unattractive as characteristics such as policy instability, unsatisfactory institutional and regulatory framework, political instability, corruption and infrastructural deficiencies were the defining elements of the country’s investment climate. In mainstreaming PPP initiative, however, cognizance must be given to the social character of the policy. Thus, while the PPP arrangement should guarantee profit for the private investors on their investment, it should not repudiate state social responsibility to the citizenry. Inevitably, this reality produces tension between the demands of economic rationality (profit) and welfare of the citizenry. Therefore, a mechanism should be built in the PPP process that mediates this contradiction.


The correlation between infrastructure and economic development is widely acknowledged. There is no denying the fact that Nigeria’s slow development is largely a consequence of its underdeveloped infrastructure. Bridging the infrastructure gap should, therefore, be a top priority of the Nigerian authorities. This paper has interrogated the Public-Private Partnership initiative in Nigeria. It examines the imperative of the initiative, its contextual emergence and the feasibility of sustaining the initiative in infrastructure management in Nigeria. The paper contends that, within the context of the economic downturn troubling the global economy, which remains the worst since the Great Depression of 1929, the PPP initiative represents a lifeline for the Nigerian state. The global economic recession and the consequent financial crisis constitute a serious challenge to the Nigerian state as its revenue base has been adversely affected by falling oil prices. PPP initiative is one sure way of cushioning the harsh effects of revenue shortfall on infrastructure provisioning and management. Attaining the promises of PPP, however, rests on the availability of certain 'success factors'. Institutional and other related mechanisms that will drive the initiative will have to be put in place. Measures such as improved business environment, well-functioning regulatory framework and more efficient public sector will be crucial to the achievement of the gains of PPP. The potentiality of Nigeria to be one of the 20 biggest economies in the world is not in doubt as the country offers opportunities for high returns on investment. The challenge for the Nigerian authorities is to transform this potential into concrete reality.


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