Monday, September 20, 2021

A conversation on Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Highway reconstruction, by Khalifa Nuruddeen Mahmood 

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A fortnight ago while in Kano State, two of my childhood friends came visiting. After the usual pleasantries, discussion on Kano local politics took centre stage between the two friends who are staunch Gandujiyya and Kwankwasiyya supporters. Not long after that, the discussion changed its course towards national issues, specifically the alleged disparity on the number of federal capital projects and their speed of execution between the north and south.

The two friends, despite their local political differences, almost reached a consensus that the northwest, and Kano state in particular, are lagging behind in the number of federally-executed projects and the ones they managed to get are being executed at a snail speed.

For almost 20 minutes while the argument raged on, I didn’t utter a word, only savoring my green tea flavored with freshly grounded cardamom and cloves. My intervention was prompted by the statement of the pro- Kwankwaso friend who said President Muhammadu Buhari administration didn’t build any road in Kano and that even the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria- Kano road reconstruction project is never meant to be completed.

I interjected, saying his statement is political and contrary to available facts on the ground. I reminded him that some moments ago he marveled at the speedI traveled from Kaduna to Kano that fateful morning. On that fateful day, I phoned him around 7am when leaving Kaduna, and by 9:30am, I called to inform him that I had arrived in Kano. I asked him how it was possible for me to be that fast (I travelled between 100 and 120km per hour) on the same road he said is not motor-able, and motorists spend hours because of the potholes and ongoing reconstruction work.

I implored them to be guided by facts not partisan emotions. I said what is certain is that the Buhari administration is not starving the region or Kano of capital projects, and even political appointments. For a start, I said, Kano state is a beneficiary of two grade-A cabinet appointments of Ministers of Defence and that of Agriculture and Rural Development – two key areas of utmost priority to the incumbent administration. I said that you don’t need a clairvoyant to know this. I said Kano alone is a beneficiary of over 30 road projects courtesy of Buhari’s administration.

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I said I am a regular traveler along the 375km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano dual carriage way, at least in the last 15 years. Therefore, I am in a good position to speak on the anatomy and physiology of the road.

Coincidentally, officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing a day earlier inspected the entire stretch of the road from Abuja to Kano. I said President Buhari would be the happiest man to ensure that he reconstructs the highway which was allowed to decay by successive administrations for more than three decades. The Minister of Works and Housing Raji Fashola and Minister of State for Works and Housing Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu are working round the clock to ensure that it was during their tenure that they initiated the total reconstruction of one of the major roads that link the northwest with Nigeria’s capital. I summed it up saying that to say that the president, Fashola and Engr Aliyu are eager to complete the reconstruction project is an understatement.

Engr Funso Adebiyi, Director, Highways Construction and Rehabilitation in the ministry, corroborated my statement during the visitation, when he said the ongoing reconstruction project has been progressing appreciably and would be completed in the life of the Buhari administration.

Parts of the delay may not be unconnected with the change of the nature of the project. Engr Adebiyi explained that the multi-billion project was initially for rehabilitation alone, but later redesigned to full reconstruction.

On the level of work done so far, Engr Adebiyi said: “we have made a lot of progress. You can see that over 100km, though not at a stretch, have been completed under section one to three (Abuja-Kano), 40km completed under section two (Kaduna-Zaria), and 70km completed under section three (Zaria-Kano).”

He pointed out that while some sections of the road are also at different levels of completion, palliative/remedial work is being carried out on the sections that are critically bad to facilitate ease of passage for motorists.

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Reacting to the allegation of delayed work, Adebiyi said: “it is important that I correct the wrong impression by the people that work is not moving. We are working to meet up with the deadline and at the same time subjecting all the work to a quality assurance test to deliver a good job.”

“Government is desirous of completing this project, as such is not leaving anything to chance, that is why we are here regularly tracking the progress of work with a view to sorting out any identified challenges.”

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My friends queried why the entire project was awarded to a single contractor instead of sharing it to five or six local contractors. I said that alone demonstrated the zeal of the government in ensuring that only quality projects that can withstand the test of time, are delivered. The construction firm handling the project is a household name that has carved a niche for itself in delivering quality and standard projects all over the country.

Contrary to popular erroneous belief in some quarters, the works and housing ministry officials declared that the ministry has got the nod of the president to devise a new strategy of completing the project before the tenure of this administration draws to an end in 2023.

The new strategy includes mobilizing the contractor to deploy more men and materials simultaneously on the two lanes of the road to fast track its completion, as well as frontally tackling the insecurity along the road.

I said the federal government’s recent deployment of 300 female soldiers to secure the Abuja –Kaduna highway is clearly one of the decisive measures the administration has taken to rid the road of all criminal elements and pave way for the full time resumption of reconstruction work.

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On the fallacy that Kano is being starved of capital projects, I said Adebiyi answered that by saying there are at least 31 road projects spread across different parts of Kano state currently being undertaken by the Buhari government.

“We have Kano Maiduguri road, we have Kano western bypass, not only that we have 22 major other roads, some of them include the Dawanauairport road which is 22km, Dawakin-Tofa to Ganduroad, we also have Bichi road. Then, we have Challawa.

“So, all these are parts of different road projects we are doing across the state and we are going on all of them simultaneously. That’s to tell you that the federal government is trying its best for Kano,” the engineer said.

Surprisingly, my Kwankwasiyya friend confirmed that indeed the 26.6km Kano western bypass which was awarded to Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company is ongoing and would be completed this year.

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I told my friends that I traveled to Maiduguri from Kano not long ago and the ongoing work despite the security challenges is impressive.

Kano is another beneficiary of the section one of the Kano- Maiduguri dual carriage way. The scope of the work involves provision of new standard carriageway from Kano, through Wudil and Gaya to Shuarin in Jigawa state with a total dual distance of about 202.73km.

The project which starts from Hotoro NNPC roundabout to Shuarin, in Jigawa State has so far reached 63 per cent level of completion.

And it includes reconstruction of three river bridges and two interchange flyovers besides culverts, drainages and other concrete works.

After these issues were settled, I said the present administration is spending more money on infrastructure than its predecessors despite the dwindling oil prices, recession and Covid -19 pandemic.

It is also a fact that the Buhari administration has awarded over 700 road contracts which are at different stages of completion across the country.

By the time my friends were leaving, there was a consensus that the Buhari administration infrastructural revolution is unparalleled, despite being deliberately underreported.

Mr Mahmood, a communication specialist, writes from Abuja.

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