Nigerians are good at singing from the hymn book of condemnation. When there is marked improvement in a sector, they pretend not to have noticed. One such sector is the Federal roads of the nation. It has witnessed the most wonderful turn around in the last two decades.
If you drive out of Abuja through to Lokoja, unlike what happened last Christmas, you will enjoy your trip maximally, except for a few hitches. When the road was in a bad condition, those who pray that Nigeria should remain in desperate condition where on the route posting pictures. Perhaps the batteries of their phones have gone dead. The road up to Abaji, one hour from the centre of Abuja is wearing a new look. After Abaji, work has progressed satisfactorily and it is clear the road would be delivered as pledged this year.
Those who should know have applauded the vast improvements of the network of Nigerian roads. Incidentally, the key commentators on the road situation are those who fly from place to place.
About six weeks before that courtesy visit, ABC Transport Company had slashed its fares in a widely published advert in The Punch newspaper of Monday, May 20, 2013, with the caption, “The Roads Are Getting Better,” and gave its reason solely as the marked improvement in the country’s arterial roads. Again, in October, the Chief Executive Officer of Ifesinachi Motors, Prince Emeka Mamah, added his voice of praise to the Federal Government for the remarkable turn-around in the state of our highways.
This is the fitting background to a deep appreciation of the steady transformation of federal highways through the urgent efforts to reclaim the national road network from the abject state of disrepair, which the President Goodluck Jonathan administration inherited. With unflagging commitment to the rehabilitation, construction, and expansion of highways, the Federal Government is catalysing economic growth and national integration through road transportation. The wastages and suffering of a couple of years ago have been largely eliminated as travel times on some of the country’s notorious highways have been considerably reduced. This is why it is easy to appreciate the import of the courtesy visit by luxury bus owners to the minister of works, and the deserving praise they showered on him.
By June 2013, the Federal Ministry of Works had completed 32 road projects covering a distance of over 2,000km. These include the dualisation of Ibadan-Ilorin road section I (Ibadan-Oyo) in Oyo State; reconstruction of Vom-Manchok road in Plateau State; dualisation of Onitsha-Owerri Road (section I) and Onitsha Eastern Bypass, in Anambra State; completion of the rehabilitation of Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto road (section II: Gusau-Talata Mafara) in Zamfara and Sokoto states; completion of the rehabilitation of Katsina-Daura road in Katsina State, as well as completion of the rehabilitation of Ijebu Igbo-Ajegunle-Araromi-Ife-Sekona Road (section II) in Ogun State.
There are also a number of on-going road dualization projects of major arterial highways in the country. These include: Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja Expressway; Kano-Maiduguri road; Lokoja-Okene-Benin road; construction of Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue with approach roads in Nasarawa and Benue states; dualisation of Suleja-Minna road in Niger State; rehabilitation of Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway, rehabilitation of Sokoto-Jega-Kontagora-Makera Road in Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger states; rehabilitation of Ilorin-Kabba-Obajana road in Kwara and Kogi states, and several others. What is heart-warming is that significant progress has been made in these on-going dualisation and rehabilitation projects.
In Benue state, the hitherto bad Ugbokolo-Otukpo Federal Highway, is now in the best possible condition. The second part of the road from Ugbokolo to Otukpa is being reconstructed. This road had been a source of attack on the Senate President, David Mark. Now that the first part has been delivered, the critics have gone quiet.
In addition, the construction of a new bridge over River Benue at Loko-Oweto is transforming into a reality, with the structural members fast springing up from the under-waters. About 150 piles have been drilled along with one reinforced concrete abutment, while 22 piers have been constructed. The project has already reached about 35 per cent completion, ahead of the planned progress. To this, we should add the Second Niger Bridge at Onitsha, and the flag-off of the total reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. In fact, 2013 witnessed the flag-off of the reconstruction, or major repairs, of a number of very important roads, including Mokwa-Bida Road, Akure-Ilesa Road, Mbaise-Ngwa Road, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega road, and Owerri-Umuahia road.
The conclusion is, therefore, inescapable that more happy motoring days beckon on federal highways.
Also, a number of roads have been given a new lease of life under the Road Development Programme of the Federal Ministry of Works via the Road Sector Development Team – the collaborative platform between the Federal Ministry of Works (on behalf of the Federal Government) and the World Bank. Some road projects that have benefitted from this programme are: Jebba-Lafiaji road in Niger State; Takai-Albasu-Gaya road in Kano State; Nafada-Gombe Abba road in Gombe State; Hong-Mubi road in Adamawa State; Okpala-Igwurita road in Imo State; Ado-Ilumoba-Agbado-Ikare road sections A and B in Ekiti State; Dingaya-Galambi-Rungo road in Sokoto State; Rumukurshi-Chokocho road in Cross River State; Akure-Owo road in Ondo State; Kurfi-Chiranchi road in Katsina State; Lafiagi-Mokwa road in Niger State, and Lafia-Doma road in Nasarawa State.
For Nigerians on this platform living in specific areas where these roads exist, comment on the progress of work in area with proof of pictures to contradict the progress of work done.
This Christmas and New Year Break has proved beyond doubt, the level of work that has been done on the hitherto very dilapidated roads. There is no zone of the nation that has not benefitted from the turn-around of the roads. From the North-East, where security concerns hampered the smooth execution of the Kano-Maiduguri road to the North West down to the North Central through to the South East, South-South and South-West, key roads linkages have been tackled more than at any other time in the last twenty years.