The Federal Executive Council, FEC today, Wednesday approved the award of a N155.7 billion Naira contract for the construction of a hybrid two-lane-six-lane road network that starts from Abuja that cuts through the heart of Northern Nigeria: Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria to Kano.
This road project comes at a time when the administration has increased the pace of the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and is considering increasing the scope of work on it by, possibly up to N300 billion; the East-West expressway, Port Harcourt to Lagos and is pumping money into the realization of the Second Niger bridge.
At the same meeting, the FEC approved the award for the rehabilitation of the Efire-Araromi-Aiyede-Aiyela road in Ogun State at the cost of about N14 billion, as well the contract for the augmentation of the contact for the rehabilitation of outstanding sections of Onitsha-Enugu expressway: Amansea Enugu State border in Enugu State and the full rehabilitation of Umunya section in Anambra. This contract was first awarded for N24 billion in 2014 but the scale of work done is, to say the least, appalling.
This road, it will be recalled, is one of those that the leaders of the South-East brought to the attention of the President when they recently met him. The revised contract amount approved to do this work is now N62 billion.
Infrastructure experts are already claiming that the road infrastructure sector is today enjoying its best moment for a long time. The first two years of the Buhari administration have seen a quantum leap in the funding roads infrastructure. In 2015, N19 billion was set aside the former administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan for all federal roads.
The government under President Muhammadu Buhari has set aside N300 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of strategic roads across the country in 2018. In 2016, N73 billion was spent while in this financial year, 2017 alone, about N270 billion has so far been released.
For this year, 2017, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola revealed that 63 roads were identified in 34 states of the Federation construction, repair and rehabilitation.
“Noting that the road projects are spread out in such a way that no zone has been left out, Fashola listed the proposed priority highway projects in the 2017 Budget to include Kano-Katsina Road (Phase 1: Kano Town at Dawanau Roundabout to Katsina State Border), Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Yauri Road, Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa-Bokani Road, Ilorin-Kabba-Obajana Road (Sections 1&11), Ibadan-Ilorin Road, Section11 (Oyo-Ogbomosho), Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Dual Carriageway, Sections 1&11 and Lagos-Otta Road.
“Also included are Apapa/Tincan Port, NNPC Depot (Atlas Cove) to Mile 2 Accessd Road, Apapa-Oshodi Road, Third Mainland Bridge, Apapa/Tincan Island Port-NNPC Depot Access Road, Benin-Ofosu-Ore Ajebandele-Shagamu Road, Obajana Junction-Benin Road Phase 2: (Sections i-iv), Sapele-Ewu Road Sections 1&11, Second Niger Bridge, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway (Amansea-Enugu State Border), Yenegoa Road Junction-Kolo-Otueke-Bayelsa Palm and Bodo-Bonny Road with Bridge.
“Others are Odukpani-Itu-(Spur Ididep-Itam)-Ikot Ekpene Federal Highway Sections 1&11, Ikom Bridge, Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriageway Sections i-iv, Calabar-Ugep-Katsina Ala Road, Vandeikya-Obudu-Obudu Cattle Ranch Road, Oshegbudu-Oweto Road, Oju/Loko-Oweto Bridge with approach roads, Nassarawa-Loko Road, Abuja-Lokoja Road Sections i&iv, Suleja-Minna Road Section 11. Kaduna Eastern Bypass, Kano-Maiduguri Road Section 1-1V, Hadejia-Nguru-Gashua-Bayamari Road and Kano Western Bypass.
“Those listed as critical economic routes include Zaria-Kano Road, Abuja-Lokoja Road (Sections i-iv), Ilorin-Jebba-Bokani Road, Ibadan-Ilorin Road (Sections `1&11), Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Road (Sections1&11), Benin-Ofosu-Ore-Ajebandele-Shagamu Road and Obajana-Benin Road (Sections i-iv).
“Also in the list are Onitsha-Enugu Road (Sections 1&11), Enugu-Port Harcourt Road (Sections i-iv), Calabar-Odukpani-Itu Road (Section1), Calabar-Ugep-Katsina Ala Road (Sections 1&11), Alesi-Ugup (Iyamoyung-Ugup) Road, Ogoja(Mbok Junction) Abuochichie Road, Otukpo Township Road, Kano-Maiduguri Road(Sections i-v), Kaduna-Zaria Road and Kaduna-Katsina Road.” (Vanguard).
The state of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano is in a serious distress and is in urgent in need of reconstruction. After 25-30 years of usage, the lifespan of road has expired. The pavement structure is unable to cope with the prevailing traffic.
As stated by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola who made the presentation at the cabinet “this road is currently characterized by extensive pavement failures, alligator cracks, corrugation, underground pumping, rutting, longitudinal cracking, frost heaving, numerous potholes and slippage among others.”
Consequently, the users of the road are frustrated by, not only the those bumps and potholes but holdups and the criminal activities of robbers and kidnappers.
Yet, this is a road that is considered as one of the most important and busiest roads in the country. It links 14 states in Northern Nigeria to the Federal Capital, Abuja. Economically, this is the road that conveys all the grains, tomatoes, sorghum and goats and cows that feed the other parts of the country. This should translate into better and improved movement of agricultural products and facilitate commercial activities within and between the states of Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe States and the FCT.
Politically, this road leads to seven million, one hundred votes, roughly about 50 percent of the votes that helped to put the Muhammadu Buhari administration in office.
The benefits of doing this road include a reduction of road accidents and loss of life.
It should improve socioeconomic life of the people around the road corridors and help to curtail increasing incidents of armed robbery, kidnapping, and other forms of criminal activities common to the road.
Kidnapping has become a bane of the Abuja-Kaduna axis, as result of the decrepit condition of the road while Kaduna-Kano has a national record of accidents and deaths on a daily basis.
Travel time which used be about four hours or less is now six hours. This has increased, not only travel time but also costs for transporters and commuters.
Funding for the road project which was awarded to the famously efficient Julius Berger will be funded from 2017 and 2018 appropriations with additional provisions being made in the subsequent years appropriations covering the the lifespan of the project.
This notwithstanding, the FEC directed that the Ministers of Finance and that of Power, Works and Housing meet to find the money for its completion within the stated three years to avoid the horrible fate that befell the East-West expressway.
A robust roads infrastructure which just entered a higher trajectory is, in the vision of the Buhari administration, the key to increased efficiency of the movement of goods, persons and services across the country. It will boost investments and create jobs. These are things that we need to do to kickstart the economy.
The first two years of the government have witnessed a drastic reduction of the number of stalled road projects and the commencement of new ones all over the country. At the rate it is boosting infrastructure investments, roads, rail and power, the Buhari administration has undoubtedly found the road to glory.
Mr Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity