Proposed Overhaul Of National Road Infrastructure

IN his 2018 new year day broadcast, President Muhammadu Buhari outlined the policy thrust of his administration to fix the nation’s dilapidated roads spread across the six geo-political zones. Beside charging the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to embark on a 12-week rapid intervention to repair federal roads all over the country, the President assured his administration is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads nationwide.
The nectar of the road development package was his declaration that N100billion had been set aside to fund 25 major highways distributed across the zones, with each zone primed to benefit by an equal amount of N16.67billion for the massive rehabilitation work. Roads that gained specific mention under the scheme included Ofosu-Ore-Shagamu, Yenegoa Road Junction-Kolo Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm, Enugu-Port harcourt, Onitsha-Enugu, Kaduna Eastern Bypass, Kano-Maiduguri, Abuja-Lokoja-Benin, Suleija-Minna and Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano.
The initiative is welcome as it captures every geo-political zone in the country. However, the plan is coming at the wrong time. If President Buhari was truly ready with a road map for his party’s change mantra, the plan ought to have been unveiled in the first year of his administration.
As impressive at the plan is, there is the real danger that it will be caught and scuttled in the web of intrigues and jostling associated with the president’s desire to get seek reelection. Invariably at a time that governance has taken a back stage and the politics of reelection has taken prominence, the projects may suffer avoidable delays.
Construction of some of them may commence, but a lot may not be completed or started at all. Practically, the roads had posed grave challenge to the nation’s social and economic development. Specific cases in point are the Onitsha-Enugu and Enugu-Port Harcourt expressways.
Good roads, globally, are known to promote rapid socioeconomic development of their environment, impacting significantly on social and economic investments. These gradually transform into huge support base for the entire nation. Good roads, constructed to last beyond 50 years, are products of deliberate engagement of the appropriate and reputable road construction firms with track record of performance that do not compromise standards to build roads.
But what obtains on our shores is practically a reverse of the global best practices in road construction. This, unfortunately, is attributed to the nauseating Nigerian factor, which is an euphemism for corrupt practices that result, painfully, in lowering of standards and diversion of huge sums into private coffers. Of course, there are corporations who do not engage in such practices to protect their integrity and image, and would rather stay without jobs than compromise.
These are issues we urge the Buhari administration to take into account as it begins to walk the impressive talk. National interest must be placed before any other consideration in the new mission. This must involve the hiring of only competent road construction companies to undertake the rebuilding of the massive network of roads.
With just 17 months to the end of its tenure, President Buhari should convince citizens that he means every word in his declaration by pragmatically commencing the nationwide road rehabilitation work with the zeal and precision with which he delivered his New Year broadcast. He should allay the fears of Nigerians that the robust intention is not yet another mere political talk to win the confidence of the electorate.
The projects may spill into years beyond his tenure but he must start now and not stop midway to reassure Nigerians that he is determined to make significant contributions to the building of a country of our collective dreams.

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