oge omume in Anambra State

Chido Nwakanma debuts The Public Sphere in Enugu Metro, looking beyond policy rhetoric by state actors to the burden of citizens in states when federal infrastructure habitually fail.

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Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu forced contractors to the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene federal road on Wednesday 6 October following the crushing to death of a student of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture by a truck on the failed road. Students protested all the way to the Governor’s Office.

Abia State claims the horrible road remained so because the Federal Ministry of Works would not pay its assigned contractor nor allow the State Government to manage it.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Plc put its might and reputation on the line October 11 to appeal to petroleum tanker drivers to shelve a planned strike because of massive failure of federal roads across the country. In state after state, the plaintive cry of citizens and state governments alike is about the failure of federal roads.

Note that the Buhari team met ongoing work on “most of these roads” and have yet to complete them after six years, only promising completion by 2023. However, we should look beyond the abdication by the Federal Government.

Chido Nwakanma

This correspondent reported the challenge of the Ekiti and Ondo State Governors in fixing the collapsed Akure-Ado Ekiti federal highway. Governor Kayode Fayemi confirmed that Ekiti State approached and received funding loan approval from the African Development Bank. They only needed an endorsement by the Federal Government. They have yet to receive it and the road has worsened.

Reports over the weekend seemed to indicate that traditional rulers have entered the fray. The Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 111, contributed N4b of his personal funds towards the completion of the Koko-Ogheye Road project. Levant Construction appointed by the NDDC demobilised its personnel and equipment due to lack of funding.  The Olu denied this story.

The Koko-Ogheye Road is a coastal road that could reduce travel time between Warri and Epe in Lagos to just one and half hours instead of five hours.

Added to the collapse of the roads is the insensitivity of the Federal Government. It would not fix the roads, pay contractors for roads for which it awarded contracts, nor allow state governments take on the task of fixing these vital roads within their states.

This portion of a statement 4 October issued by the Abia State Commissioner for Information captures the dilemma of states.

“After assessing the work to be done there, the Honourable Commissioner reverted to the Governor last Friday and informed him that they would have to get written permission from the Federal Ministry of Works before commencing work as the said road has already been awarded by the federal government and handed over to the contractors who are claiming that adequate funds have not yet been provided for commencement of the work.

At that point, the Governor was furious and asked, “Is there a deliberate plan to totally destroy trade and commerce in this state and punish our people?” He recalled that the federal government also awarded Aba-Ikot Ekpene Highway since 2017 and could not do any effective work on it for so long up to this year to the extent that the state government had to commence reconstruction of the road from Opobo Junction, Aba, area using rigid pavement (cement) technology.

Aside from Aba-Ikot Ekpene and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Federal Highways that are in terrible conditions, other federal roads leading to our major commercial and agricultural hubs such as Abe-Port Harcourt Segment of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway, Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia Road, Arochukwu-Ohafia-Bende Road are death traps.

The most painful part is that these are the major roads leading to our centres of trade, commerce and agriculture, the mainstay of our people. Indeed, visitors to our state form opinions about the state based on the poor state of these federal roads and until they are fixed it will remain difficult to appreciate the work the Ikpeazu-led administration has done to renew our infrastructure since 2015.

Abia State Government moved to fix the Osisioma-NNPC Depot Road in Aba, belonging to the federal government, two years ago and after working on more than 1km of the road the federal ministry of works sent a letter directing the Abia State government to leave the federal road which they claimed to have been awarded for reconstruction. Two years down the line, absolutely nothing has been done as the federal contractor claims he is yet to be funded. Our appeal to allow us to fix the key road for a future refund fell on deaf ears.”

The irony is that the lamentations follow claims about infrastructure triumph and revival by the Federal Government. Ahead of the October 1 fable of President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration had done the eighth wonder, Works Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola claimed the Federal Government achieved unheard feats in infrastructure including federal roads. Fashola resorted to his familiar one-upmanship asserting that the Buhari administration has done more for Nigerian infrastructure than the PDP collectively achieved in 16 years.

It turns out the Federal Government only offers a promissory note on the roads. President Buhari affirmed the position during the Midterm Presidential Performance Review Retreat with his ministers. Buhari stated, “On transportation, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure.

‘‘The PIDF projects are also advancing remarkably. These include the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 375 km Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Expressway and the East-West Road. Most of these projects are expected to be completed within this second term of our Administration,’’

Note that the Buhari team met ongoing work on “most of these roads” and have yet to complete them after six years, only promising completion by 2023. However, we should look beyond the abdication by the Federal Government.

Commendations to Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Ogiame Atuwatse 111, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and all those rising to the challenge of fixing the lacuna created by the Federal Government. Thank you for activating the Spirit of Community and Self-Help. Enough of whining and excuses. Governors of the South and the South-East should activate the hero within by tapping the time-tested model of independent action to fix infrastructure. This emergency calls for different approaches.

When federal infrastructure fail by Chido Nwakanma