The story of road development will never be told in Nigeria without giving special credit to President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. He, not only put road infrastructure at the front burner for economic acceleration, but also harnessed some of the finest human resources to initiate viable reforms for the sector.
These milestones by Federal Government are however prompted by the fact that the importance of good roads can never be over-emphasized to any nation. Chairman of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur giving credence to this noted some time ago that roads are like arteries which carry blood to all parts of the human body, same way roads convey economic activities to all parts of the country. So, these roads are essentially required to be in good condition always for good economy to flourish.
The spirited determination in driving repairs of many of the nation’s decaying roads in the past two years is obviously what has resulted in the busy nature of many project sites across the country. For those that quickly forget the past (many do anyway), the deplorable conditions of Benin-Ore-Sagamu expressway and the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway, before now, were part of what amplified the clamour for the declaration of state of emergency on the nation’s roads.
The perennial failed spots at Ore axis which troubled that road for many years deteriorated to such a gory sight that motorists had to abandon the road and meandered through bush-paths. Armed robbers feasted on many of them at will. The journey from Lagos to Benin which ordinarily took three and half hours suddenly became nine hours or more. On Enugu-Port Harcourt highway, vehicles sometimes got sub-merged in deep potholes that once littered the expressway.
Following the political will from President Jonathan and not any state of emergency, the Federal Ministry of Works under the leadership of Arc Mike Onolememen gave these roads and many others astonishing succour. Motorists who used the Benin-Ore-Sagamu expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway and many other highways have been short of words in lauding government’s intervention which some have equally described as a dose of ‘fresh air’ in the road sector.
Since road developments are tangible for all to see, Nigerians based on what they have seen have appreciated efforts at improving all the nation’s major road corridors. Impressive records have been achieved on the dualization of Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road in FCT and Kogi State and the dualization of Kano-Maiduguri road in Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Yobe and Borno States. As at 2011, these roads awarded in 2006, were already wearing the garb of abandoned projects. Because of the drive to have unbroken dual carriageway across the six geopolitical zones, Arc Onolememen gave the fillip for value-added work on them.
Works have also started on the dualization of Lokoja-Okene-Benin road alignment in Kogi and EdoStates, which is described as the ‘missing link’ in the comity of dual carriageways in the six geopolitical zones. It is hoped that in the next two years, Nigerians will be able to drive from Maiduguri to Lagos on an unbroken chain of dual carriage ways through Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Lokoja, Okene, Auchi, Benin and Sagamu to Lagos. It is the same from Kaduna through Abuja, Lokoja, Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu to Port-Harcourt!
A critical section of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, from Ijesha-Beachland Estate in Lagos State is now wearing new looks and the Trailers’ Park, intended to keep over 400 trucks out of Lagos roads is nearing completion.
There is also the ongoing works on Loko-OwetoBridge, over River Benue with approach roads in Nasarawa and Benue States and the dualization of Suleija-Minna Road in Niger State.
Apart from these, a record of 32 other roads have been completed in the past two years. Among them is the dualization of the Section I of Ibadan-Ilorin road, (from Ibadan to Oyo), repairs of Third Mainland Bridge (Phase Two) which was completed 10 days ahead of the scheduled date, Otta-Owode road in Ogun State, old Oyo-Ogbomoso road in Oyo State, Omuo-Ifaki road in Ekiti State, reconstruction of the Lafenwa Bridge in Ogun State, Gbogan-Iwo road in Oyo State, Ijebu Igbo-Ajegunle-Araromi-Ife-Sekona road in Ogun State and Rumukurshi-Chokocho road in Cross River State.
The Ministry has also rehabilitated the Uba-Mbalala road in Borno State, reconstructed and commissioned the Vom-Manchok road in Plateau State,repaired the Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto road (from Gusau to Talata Mafara) in Zamfara and Sokoto States, Katsina-Daura road in Katsina State, Anka-Daki-Takwas-Gummi road in Zamfara State, Langtang-Lalin-Tunkus-Shendam road in Plateau State, Numan-Gombe road in Adamawa and Gombe States, Mararaba-Pambeguwa road in Kaduna State, Jebba-Lafiaji road in Niger State, Takai-Albasu-Gaya road in Kano State, Nafada-Gombe Abba Road in Gombe State and Hong-Mubi road in Adamawa State.
The dualization of Onitsha-Owerri road with Onitsha Eastern bypass, in Anambra State was also accomplished by this administration. Other newly completed roads such as the Obiozara-Uburu-Ishiagu road in Enugu and EbonyiStates, the Abakaliki-Mbok (Ogoja Junction) road in Ebonyi and Cross River States, Owerri-Aba Road in Imo and Abia States, Okpala-Igwurita road in Imo State and Ikom-Mfum Road in Cross River State are great landmarks in the history of road development in Nigeria.
The Ministry has also done very well in responding to wash-outs and gully erosions that have eaten up many federal roads in the recent past. Three wash-outs along Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageway in Anambra and Enugu States, the collapsed sections of Wukari-Mutum Biyu road in TarabaState, wash-outs on Gombe-Potiskum road in GombeState and the massive gully erosion that cut off the Okene-Benin roadin Auchi, EdoState were all reinstated in record times.
Flooding occasioned by global warming also had adverse effect on many roads and the Ministry quickly intervened to bring succour on the Kano-Katsina road in KatsinaState, Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriageway in EnuguState, the Yenegoa-Kolo-Nembe-Brass road in BayelsaState, Shendam-Yelwa-Ibiroad and Langtang-Lalin-Tunkus-Shendam road, both in Plateau State.
Part of the transformational agenda is to link all economic centres with good roads. As a result, the ministry completed the rehabilitation of access road to Kaduna Refinery in Kaduna State, access road to Warri Refinery in Delta State and the access Road to OnnePort in Rivers State.
The novel Operation Safe Passage of 2012 which has remained unparalleled in the history of road development was aimed at recovering several deplorable sections of our major roads to ameliorate the sufferings usually experienced by road users at the end of the year when there is massive movement of people across the country for festivities. Some of the roads rehabilitated by the Ministry under the Operation Safe Passage include; Lokoja-Okene road, Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa-Tegina-Kaduna road, Suleja-Minna road and Lafia-Makurdi-Aliade-Oturkpo-9th Mile road.
Others include the Jalingo-Kona-Lau road in Taraba State, Kano-Zaria-Kaduna road, Kano-Bichi-Katsina-Jibia Niger border road, Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt road, Aba-Ikot Ekpene road, Odukpani-Itu road, Okene-Auchi-Benin road, Irrua-Ilushi road, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Ibadan-Ilorin road and Apapa-Oshodi road.
On resumption of office in July, 2011, Onolememen quickly proceeded to upgrade the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit to a full department. As a result, Nigerians are on the verge of benefiting from PPP for road development since budgetary allocations alone are grossly inadequate to satisfy the nation’s appetite for modern roads like other nations of the world.
With numerous new policies aimed at efficient service delivering abounding at the Federal Ministry of Works, both contractors and staff alike are upbeat that work is ‘good to go’ as the youthful Arc Mike Onolememen parades new ideas to improve the road sector like never before. He has again sounded it to contractors that money will only be released for permanent works like asphalting and no more for ordinary earth works as in the past. This is another way of checking the short-changing of government through project abandonments and endless request for augmentation occasioned by washouts by contractors. It’s a new test of true patriotism at the federal ministry of works indeed.
Tony Ikpasaja, Special Assistant on Media to Honourable Minister of Works, writes from Abuja.