Every other day, Nigerians receive news of devastating loss of lives of fellow compatriots on the country’s major roads. In a country where lives have become so cheap, losing them due to armed robbery, kidnappings, accidents and other criminal activities seem to suggest or indeed, confirm that lives no longer truly have meanings. Pathetically, news of such carnage and the helplessness of governments make nonsense of their primary responsibility which, as is the mandate anywhere else in the world especially the civilised world, the protection of lives and properties of citizens. Although one thing that has been identified as resulting in the highest number of deaths has been located in vehicular accidents in Nigeria, the poor state of roads, banditry and related crime like kidnapping also contribute to the unnecessary and avoidable loss of lives. There is no gainsaying that every road is important, but because of the special roles some roads play in the lives of those who reside where they are located, some roads are particularly more important than others. It is for this reason that we take special note, and must emphasise the point arising from Federal Government’s identification of roads that have been classified as “critical economic routes” in the country. Such critical economic roads, the Federal Government has said, should be fixed this year. These roads are the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; AbujaLokoja Road; the Second Niger Bridge at Asaba (in Delta State) and Onitsha (in Anambra State). Other are the dual carriage way at Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja; KanoMaiduguri dual carriage way; rehabilitation of Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage way; rehabilitation/reconstruction of Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Expressway; Loko-Oweto Bridge in Nasarawa/Benue; reconstruction of outstanding sections of Benin-Ofosu-Ore-Shagamu road; rehabilitation of OdukpaniItu-Ikot Ekpene road; Odukpani-Itu-Bridgehead and rehabilitation of Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa road. In his appearance before the Senate Committee on Works when he defended this year’s budget as it affects his ministry on Monday, February 6, this year, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola assured that the roads, having been captured, would be done. The minister said that the sum of N311,487,641,643 has already been set aside for road construction under Works arm of his ministry. There are other roads which come under the second priority list. Such roads have 17.84 percent of the budgetary allocation which is N43,143,299,357. The roads in this second category include those “which serve as links between the major routes and agricultural producing hubs, factories and mining deposits for the evacuation of agricultural produce, manufactured goods and raw materials to markets and ports across the country.” Some of the roads here are the dualisation of Sapele-Ewu road (Delta and Edo States); addition to the dualisation of LagosOta-Abeokuta road (Lagos and Ogun States); rehabilitation of Owerri-Umuahia road (Imo and Abia States); dualisation of Yenegoe road junction-Kolo-Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm in Bayelosa
state; rehabilitation of Damaturu-Biu road; rehabilitation of Hadejia-Nguru-Gashua-Bayamari road (Jigawa and Yobe States) and the rehabilitation of Ilorin-Kabba-Obajana road (Kwara and Kogi States). There are other projects in the third grade area. These are “specifically targeted at routes leading to the nation’s refineries, petroleum depots, major ports and mineral producing areas in the country to ease the movement of petroleum products and imported goods from the ports and depots to other parts of the country.” For projects in this group, the sum of N25,508,708,266 which is 10.55 percent is proposed to execute them. Other projects are rehabilitation of Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos; dualisation of Suleja-Minna road; construction of Bodo-Bonny road with a bridge across the Opobo channel in Rivers State; access road to Apapa/Tin Can Port, NNPC Depot (Atlas Cove), to Mile 2, etc. According to Fashola, roads given fourth priority attention are those in “key agricultural states producing cash crops like yam, rice, maize, cassava, fruits, etc.” The minister further noted that the goal was “to boost the production of these crops and ease their movement to markets to enhance food sufficiency in the country and minimise losses,” for which 3.68 percent or N8.9billion has been allocated. The projects here include the rehabilitation of Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Kontagora-Makera in Sokoto and Kebbi States; rehabilitation of Otukpo-9th MileEnugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage way in Benue and Enugu States; rehabilitation of Abakaliki-Afikpo road in Ebonyi State; rehabilitation of Akure-Ondo; rehabilitation of Aba-AzuminiOpobo road; rehabilitation of Wukari-Mutum Biyu-JalingoNuman road section I and Wukari-Mutum Biyu road in Taraba State. All these are unassailable. We also appreciate Minister Fashola’s priority attention to the “highly trafficked” roads and bridges of North-South and East-West roads because they come handy in distribution of goods and services. But that is not all. The Federal Government must necessarily go beyond that. What need do these provisions serve if commuters do not have protection on the access roads? This is why we call on, not only the Federal Government, but the state and local governments and Nigerians to see that they realise the fact that for security to be effective, it must be seen to enjoy the collaborative effort of everybody. If this advice is heeded, a state like Kogi which is strategically located state in Nigeria, known as the Confluence State because of its unique characteristic of having a point where River Niger and River Benue, Nigeria’s two main rivers, come together, can be made safe. It is highly regrettable that Kogi State has assumed such notoriety of becoming another minefield of Nigeria, the latest being the raw deal meted out to Onitsha bound traders in Okene. With proper policing on Nigerian roads, the menace of the evil ones should be a thing of the past. We have no doubt that Nigeria’s security personnel have the capacity to achieve such a goal.