Enough of semantics on shameful state of federal roads

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Fashola
Fashola

While the argument on the poor state of the federal roads rages, the federal government should take urgent steps to provide alternative roads where necessary, so that the contractors can continue with their road construction or maintenance now that the dry season is about to start

By Anayo Ezugwu

THIS is not the best of times to travel on Nigerian roads. Almost all the key federal roads in most parts of the country are currently in deplorable state. From Enugu-Onitsha, to Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano and East-West road all are death traps for commuters who travel on the roads daily.

The story is the same while travelling on Enugu-Port Harcourt; Gombe-Numan, Damaturu-Biu; Biu-Gombe; Kontagora-Yauri-Jega; Numan-Jalingo; Otukpo-Obolloafor; Suleja-Minna; Lambata-Lapai-Agaie-Bida; Lokoja-Ajaokuta-Itobe; Lagos-Cotonou and Oyo-Ogbomoso, among others.

Though repair work is on-going in some of the roads, but many of them are still untouched. Federal roads have not been in this deplorable state for a long time. And the festive period approaches, the people from the southeast of the country, seem to be the most affected of them all. Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Owerri-Port Harcourt expressways are no go areas. The bad state of the roads is believed to be aiding bandits and herdsmen, who kill and kidnap travelers along the impassable spots on the highways. As the people prepare to travel for the festive season, it is believed that kidnapping may increase as a result of the state of the roads.

To make matters worse for the people of the region, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu is undergoing rehabilitation and will not be functional until April 2020. In view of the ugly experiences Nigerians are going through on the roads daily. Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, said Nigerian roads are not as bad as often portrayed. Fashola, while dismissing reports on bad state of the highways said,

“The roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed. I know that this is going to be your headline, but the roads are not that bad,” he said.

The minister explained that, but for funding challenges, most road projects would have been long completed. Fashola also stated that some parts of the country faced peculiar issues like high water table, which made construction in the rainy season difficult. He mentioned the South-East and the South-South among areas with such difficulties. The minister added that the ministry and contractors were waiting patiently for the rains to subside so that they could return to sites.

But Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance and national planning, has countered Fashola’s claim that lack of money was responsible for the bad state of the roads. She said of  the N650 billion so far released for capital projects in the 2019 budget, ministries of works, housing, power and transportation had so far received the highest releases. “Works is always on the priority list; housing is always funded, same are transportation and power, though we have revenue challenges,” she said.

As the debate over the state of Nigerian roads rages, Fashola could be excused because most top administration officials always blame their predecessors or invent excuses when confronted with failure. But in his case, Fashola has been the minister of works since November 2015, so he cannot blame anyone else for the deplorable state of federal roads. With the minister’s comment, it is obvious there is no solution in site to the challenges of bad roads.

Apart from this comment, Fashola made another statement at Ilara-Mokin, that the federal government would not reimburse state governments that undertake repair of federal roads. Some state governments undertook this task out of desperation, not because they have too much money in their purses. Rather than discourage them, the federal government should instead insist on prior approval, giving specifications and strict monitoring of the work as condition for repayment.

The statement by the minister has generated a lot debates with so many Nigerians questioning the rationale behind such comment. Timothy Olawale, director general, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, is one of those who didn’t understand the position of the minister concerning the roads. He said the minister might not be plying the same roads as other Nigerians.

He made reference to the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso road, saying that it was a very good example of the terrible situation of Nigerian roads. “The huge craters along the Oyo-Ogbomoso road can swallow vehicles. These are roads that were manageable before but they have gone completely bad. People spend hours on that expressway because of tankers that fall into the craters. The sad thing is that the government is not doing any kind of palliative work on the roads,” he said.

On his part, Wasiu Olaleye, deputy president, Ogun State Chambers of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture, disagreed with the minister. He said Nigerian roads were ‘nothing to write home about.’ He advised the minister to travel on some roads in Ogun State and beyond, adding that it was difficult to cite any good road in the country.

“The roads in Nigeria are nothing to write home about because, when you look at the road we are using; the Lagos-Sango-Abeokuta road, I was told by one of my members yesterday that a section of that road from Itori to Papa, you can’t even try to move in that part with vehicle at all. A friend also just sent a message that he spent about three to four hours on that road on Saturday night and he even posted it on social media.

“I entered there 6am, I came back at 11, so, what is he saying? I want to say that he should make himself available and travel on our roads with the leadership of business organisations like NACCIMA and MAN.  He should therefore go to Agbara and travel from Agbara to Atan then he comes back to Sango. He should travel from Abeokuta through Ifo to Sango and at the same time Ajah, Epe then back to Ijebu-Ode,” he said.

Even members of the House of Representatives have also lent their voice to the ongoing debate over federal roads. The lawmakers expressed their dismay over the dilapidated state of the roads, saying that it has lead to accidents, resulting in deaths and injuries as well as exposing road users to attackers.

The lawmakers from Niger State, who co-sponsored a motion titled ‘Deplorable State of Federal Roads in Niger State, urged the federal government to declare a state of emergency on the appalling condition of its roads in Niger State. The sponsors cited statistics from the Niger State Command of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, which showed that between January and September, 2016, about 147 people lost their lives and 915 persons were injured in 361 road accidents in the state; and in 2017, not fewer than 516 road crashes recorded resulted in 197 deaths; while in 2018, 476 crashes resulted in 289 deaths.

“The House is concerned that in addition to the adverse effects of the poor state of the roads, kidnapping and armed robberies, loss of vital man-hours on a daily basis are recorded, thus adversely affecting the growth of the developing economy like Nigeria’s. The key to economic growth and development in any nation is the provision of basic infrastructure such as good road network,” they said.

But the minister has denied the comment attributed to him, saying he was misquoted. He made the clarification in Ilara- Mokin, Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State while commissioning the privately-funded four township roads executed by Michael Ade-Ojo, Chairman, Toyota Nigeria Limited.

The minister maintained that he did not use the word exaggeration. Fashola, who said contrary to insinuations on social media, he had travelled round the country on roads to assess the condition of federal roads, maintained that the federal government would fix its bad roads based on priority list.

“Let me start from the journey by roads to the 36 states, 12 hours every day, so I know what I saw, and I also said what I wanted to say in that press conference, and thankfully, I must thank your TV Channels, at least, showing the maturity and the professionalism, responsibility to play the whole tape, so people can see the context of what I said,” he said.

Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, has also come in defence of Fashola. He said the minister couldn’t have said Nigerian roads are not in deplorable conditions.

He added that his recent meeting with the minister in his office showed that Fashola knew and understood that many roads across the country need serious attention. He said Fashola had presented him with a list of about 3,800 roads across the country that needed urgent attention, but that budgetary approval was only made for 500 roads.

– Nov. 15, 2019 @ 18:55 GMT |

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