With the unveiling of the road map towards rehabilitation of Nigeria’s roads by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, DOZIE
EMMANUEL looks at the pre-election promises of President Buhari and the possibilities of using this road map to uplift the state of roads in the South East region
No doubt, the South-East has the worst state of federal roads in Nigeria. Prominent sons and daughters from the geo-political zone have on several occasions called on past and present governments to rehabilitate the roads not only because it facilitates economic and commercial activities, but also it gives the people a sense of belonging. Despite all these calls, most of the roads in the region are currently not motorable. Commuters go through hell, especially during the rainy reason, in some of these roads better described as ‘death traps’.
Thus, this has forced concerned federal lawmakers in the 8th Assembly, to sponsor many motions calling on the Muhammadu Buhari’s government to speedily intervene on the poor state of roads in the South-East seriously undermining the socio-economic development of the region and address them urgently.
It is unfortunate that the poor state of the roads in the region have become a subject for campaign. For instance, the All Progressives Congress, APC Presidential candidate in the last general elections, Mohammadu Buhari, in one of his campaign tours in Aba, Abia State, did promise that the debilitating poor network of roads in the South-East would be a thing of the past if APC won the election.
He said that his administration would also tackle ecological problems in the zone among other infrastructural challenges the zone is facing.
According to him, “from what I have seen since I came into Aba town is lacking in infrastructure and everything will be done to address this if I become the President of the country after the elections. Not only this, power supply, which has posed a major problem to the numerous artisans in the city and indeed the business community in Aba, will be frontally tackled.”
Similarly, after a private visit to Enugu, the Vice President, Prof. Yomi Osibanjo again promised that the federal government would embark on the rehabilitation of the badly-damaged road networks in the region. He said government was interested in ensuring that all inter-state roads in the region of the country are accessible for the ease of commerce and movement of people. The Vice President said government would intervene in addressing this national challenge for traders and commuters in the interest of the country’s economic development. He further disclosed that he had already discussed the issue of rehabilitation of the Enugu- -Onitsha road with the Enugu state governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
“We are certainly interested in ensuring that all of the access roads especially between states where commerce is thriving are in good condition. We are going to have a very good look at it, to see what the financial constraints are.
“Despite all the constraints, it is important that we rehabilitate the roads, especially between cities where there are lots of commercial activities,” Osinbajo stated.
The South-East is one of the economically viable regions in terms of trade and commerce in Nigeria. Ironically, the state of federal roads in the five South-Eastern states is in shambles, therefore making travelling within the zone an ordeal. Vehicles plying the roads usually involve in an accident trying to avoid potholes. These vehicles plying the roads often brake down, thus making movements an ugly and hallowing experience.
Prominent Nigerians have consistently lost their lives or got maimed in the course of plying the roads. Literary icon and one of Africa’s best brains, Prof. Chinua Achebe, lost his legs to accident on Enugu-Onitsha road in 1990.
Regrettably, this unfortunate situation has lingered for a long time with little or no success.
It is indeed disheartening that in spite of several promises that the roads would be fixed, the state of the roads still remains a nightmare.
Worse still, a good number of these roads, for which contracts have been awarded, have either been abandoned or the pace of work too slow to make any meaningful impact.
Perhaps, this is why most state governors now embark on unscheduled inspection to contractors carrying out construction work on major roads because of the manner they abandon these roads.
As hard working and honest people, the people of the region are still optimistic that the Buhari-led government will fulfill the promise it made to the region before the end of his four-year tenure. Interestingly, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has been given a clear-cut mandate to embark on addressing most of the dilapidated roads without any sentiment or discrimination.
A public affairs analyst, Ejike Anyaduba, was of the opinion that the greatest threat to roads in the South- East, apart from poor quality of handling, is erosion. He, therefore, advised that only reputable companies should be encouraged to undertake jobs in the region.
It is now a moral burden to the current administration to fulfill its promise to the people of the region by ensuring that contracts are not only awarded, but also well executed on record time. The Buhari-led government cannot afford to leave out the South-East in his quest to transform the country’s road network currently in bad shape.