By Kassim Afegbua
I have had the rare privilege of serving in a government at the state level, so I can’t pretend not to know the procedure involved when trying to fix some of our decrepit infrastructure. Under emergency situation, what is usually at issue is getting the right funding to meet with several competing issues begging for attention.
Road construction happens to be quite an expensive project depending on the terrain. It is money guzzling because of its engineering details and other components that make for good road construction.
I have not elected to ridicule one of the finest Nigerian public servants in person of Babatunde Raji Fashola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the Honourable Minister for Power, Works and Housing; a man whose intellect I admire so much. I have just set out to pour out my reservations about the state of our roads and the need to take some drastic actions to arrest the present drift.
I can understand Fashola’s frustrations in the light of declining revenue amidst a plethora of infrastructural challenges in the road sub-sector, I am nonetheless sure that he can do better than what we are witnessing presently.
I do understand also that road construction suffers a lot of neglect during rainy season for reasons that are obvious, but we cannot use that as a flourishing excuse for the parlous state of our roads across the country. It has gotten to an embarrassing level that one begins to wonder if there is actually a government in place. Even when one is privileged to call the attention of some state governors to these deadly roads, the fact that they are called federal roads makes the intervention not forthcoming.
State governors would tell you that the Federal Government owes them for previous interventions and remedial works done on the roads, hence they wouldn’t want to commit further funds to carrying out any palliative works on the roads until the outstanding payments are paid. Travelling across the country by road has become a nightmare.
Some of the roads are not just littered with pot holes and craters; they are easily impassable thus making travelling very troubling and tiring. The road to Minna is left with what former President Ibrahim Babangida did over 25 years ago when the road was rebuilt.
There was initial effort to dualise the road from Suleja to Minna by Obasanjo-led administration; which approximates 90 kilometres. For the past 10 years, such dualisation has not seen the light of the day.
Today, the road is not just in a sorry state of disrepair, it has become embarrassing and deadly to road users. When you travel on that road, you will still see one caterpillar or another scavenging for sand by the road side and pretending to be working. Visit the road again in another one month, you will still see the workers on the same spot forming clusters and blowing hot air as if work is ongoing but alas, it is all a mere fluke.
But the state government is making some impacts by patching parts of road. If Minna road is in a bad state, that of Okene to Benin passing through Okpella and Auchi is another road to hell. From Okpella to Auchi portion of the road has become huge death trap and totally unacceptable. If Okpella to Auchi offers road users some escape, that of Ekpoma to Ehor has become almost cut off.
The bridge at Okpella is almost caving in. With gridlock of heavy duty vehicles permanently on the bridge, it will soon give way. That bridge was built in 1977 and its present state needs serious reinforcement and urgent repair.
The traffic on that road as we speak runs into 20 kilometres stretch on a daily basis. The heavy duty vehicles mostly from BUA Cement Factory are not helping matters in any form. BUA itself has shown a complete disdain for corporate social responsibility.
Because of the bad roads in Okpella, accidents at the bridge end of the road have become prevalent. Travelling to Benin by road these days has become eyesore, debilitating and grossly nerves breaking.
Trucks and heavy duty vehicles have converted decrepit street roads in Okpella into familiar terrain for want of escape from the disturbing gridlock that has become a permanent feature on that road. Before Comrade Adams Oshiomhole bowed out of office, Fashola paid a facility visit to Edo State and travelled on that road. What he saw was total decay in the area of federal road infrastructure.
He did promise to come back and fix the road; we are still waiting for that “genuine” promise to materialize. If the road was bad last year, it has now become worse. I found it interesting when I watched the Acting President visit the site of the collapsed bridge along Mokwa-Jebba road. Such prompt response to disaster sites is desirable, but preventing them from happening would have been more judicious and rewarding.
The Jebba-Tegina road has been in the news long before the bridge caved in. I can’t remember how many times I watched the disturbing site on television alerting the government of the danger of that road. Government did not take immediate action to remedy the situation, but when the bridge decided to bow to the pressure of decay and erosion, it caved in.
The rest, as they often say, is now history. Suffice it to say that a stitch in time saves nine that is why it is imperative for Fashola’s Works Ministry to spring into action before another embarrassment befalls the nation, aware that the said road connects the North to the East. The previous regime of PDP rather than fix our roads ended up vandalising the roads further in the name of mobilizing to site.
Their caterpillars came to Edo, stopped at Aduwawa and Ehor axis along Benin-Auchi road, and removed part of the tarred surface.
They left the caterpillars on site and campaigned with them declaring to who cares to listen to their litany of lies, that they were working on Edo roads. As soon as they lost election, the roads whose tarred surfaces have been removed, were now exposed to agents of denudation.
As we speak, the Aduwawa end of that road down to Ramat Park in Benin City has been properly constructed by the Fasholaled ministry with side drains. What is urgently required now is to commence work on the other part of the road leading up to Okpella and Okene. The present hardship being experienced by road users plying that road can no longer be tolerated. Honourable Minister, please do something urgently.
Please, please. There are several roads across the country that are also suffering similar condition of disrepair. Kabba-Ilorin road is one of such deadly roads let alone other East-West roads that were left uncompleted by the PDP government.
We cannot continue to lament the present state of our roads, we must take urgent steps to arrest the descent to anarchy on our highways and save our people the orgy of road accidents many of which are caused by these unwholesome roads. Once the rains abate, we must jump into action and help give Nigerians a breath of fresh air in the area of good road infrastructure.
I feel terribly ashamed these days when one is being confronted and shown terribly bad roads as the relics of APC poor performance. Even when you try to blame PDP-led government for the cause of the ridiculous state of our roads, they ask a simple question; since APC has come, what have they done? Over to you, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN.