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OPINION: Who Owns the Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Egbe-Omuaran to Ilorin Road?

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola

By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

In this era of change, gambling, magic and other surprises are being born again, in the hands of desperate Nigerian politicians. Illegality, outright evil, deceptions and intrigues now also on the increase and hellbent on the destruction of all of our common sense. Our focus is on the Lokoja -Obajana – Kabba – Egbe all the way to Ilorin road. Hitherto this is a Federal road, labelled as A 123, an interstate and a big commercial Federal road until big Dangote Cement factory came on board during the first tenure of late Prince Abubakar Audu as Kogi State governor. Dangote was able to maintain the Lokoja to Obajana axis but has since reduced the road to serve his factory majorly. The rest of the road has been worsened by the daily heavy duty trailers that use the road to load Dangote cement. Our concerns here are multiple. Who owns this road and who should maintain it? Is there no difference and distiction of purpose between a busy factory road an an equally busy Federal government road? On Saturday April 9, 2016 I passed the Kabba Obajana Lokoja axis. I observed that some skeletal grading was carried out on the road recenly. Who did the job and what purpose was that action meant to serve? It is now more tolerable than before but if it was authorised from above it is far below our expectations. Even if Dangote company had done this job, it is below our demand. 

Meanwhile we notice that many Nigerian politicians are struggling with the perils of their own personal lives and desires, further complicated by their quest to develop their local connections and powers. The collusion of their unrestrained ambitions is eventually brought to the open in the way they react to ordinary daily issues like losing or winning in elections. We appreciate their plights and their desires to use their own personal resources to repair our roads even if just to make points. But in democracy our expectations are deep are robust, genuine and legal, real and necessary for the proper growth of our community. Nevertheless politicians are elected to represent us and actualize our demands. They are the go between us and the powers that be. The individuals that were rumoured to me as responsible for the recent repairs on the said road are not being condemned by this writing but we wished that they could have allowed their emotions to make them force the Federal Minister of Works to see the shortcomings on the roads and work on them speedily. This is the robust change we want. In the race against time to improve and change the way Nigeria does her things, the politicians must also learn that maybe not everything can be changed and that the change must follow ethical system and can be replicated everywhere. Nigeria shouldn’t be in any hurry at all even when the challenges before everyone in the society is mountain high. We should be logical, legal and law abiding. Democracy is a very slow process but a needful system to abide.

 If you had ever taken a road trip across Nigeria you would have noticed that there is nothing to admire on most of our roads. There are no complex winding highways to admire or sign posts that help you make your way. Instead you need to park and ask for the less potholes road because the ones on the maps are mostly out of use. You have to repair your car each time you travel on an average Nigeria road some 100 kilometres or more. The Lokoja Obajana etc road is probably one of the worst but it is only a fair representative of the Nigerian government attitude to officialdom. It is being alleged that government officials prefer to share the resources upfront rather than to create the infrastructure that can grow the resources more. They prefer to earn names by stealing rather than by performance. No wonder they are heading stories on newspaper daily because they together create a society where there is no water flowing in taps, no fuel at petrol stations, to electricity on public systems, no good roads, salaries are unpaid and etc.

The same road in discussion has gone through many phases before now. At one time we heard that Dangote was going to use the tax being paid to the Kogi state government for the said road rehabilitation. We equally heard that the governor on seat at the time refused that option and preferred that the money be paid to his own designated account. All this should be before the notorious EFCC to help us. Whatever the case Dangote should create it’s own different service road.and not subject traffic to use factory roads. I saw not fewer than 500 heavy duty trailers racing against each other on a narrow and rough road attempting to load cement bags. This shouldn’t be the preview or concern of ordinary road users. To make the matter worse the road traffic policing, FRSC, were found in Okebukun – Kabba axis (many kilometres from the action point on the bad road) stopping motorists and motor bikes and asking for their fire extinguishers instead of controlling the Dangote caused traffic. While it is true that most drivers take normal roads for granted, it is also true that most traffic policing officials take it for granted that all drivers are traffic offenders. Hence traffic police are more concerned with fault findings and arrest rather than helping to decongest the always heavy traffic.

Where does the Buhari or his Minister for Works come into this equation? Where are the members of the national assembly? We need them to collaborate their efforts so that instead of drivers complaints about traffic, tolls and potholes they should rather be marveling at the engineering and construction behind our interstate highway system. The Federal government road needs urgent attention but needs projections to the future. The population of road users in Nigeria is growing exponentially by more than 5% annually. The simple reason is the poor economy, high unemployment, in addition to high population growth rate, where individuals have taken to the road to hawk, ride Okada or push something around; just to make a living.

Building a 21st road network in Nigeria will demand more than grading some portions of the roads by kindhearted individuals but a great vision and lots of cooperation at the federal, state and local levels. Our leaders should be focusing on the need to build a transportation network that could quickly move goods and materials across the nation. In the case of Obajana area a railway system is what is needed to move the bags of cement to different destinations around the country. The trailer system is yesteryear technology. Trailers around are more costly to use, they contribute to more road accidents, they actually destroy our roadtos and create more traffic jams. In the interim Dangote can be helped develop his own separate factory service roads or to divert the public traffic away from his factory.

Nigeria lawmakers must at last be coming of age and growing above newspaper and clothing allowances to emulate their counterparts all over the world even on road construction and maintenance. They should be able to settle on a plan to construct superhighways from one state to another through reviewed studies and original search in their quest for possible plans peculiar to Nigeria. There are two ways to use to motivate our development especially on roads. One is to work on a direct interregional highways to connect state capitals and meet the requirements of the national defense in time of war. We cannot take peace for granted even on road construction. The second approach is the need of growing the road network for attractions, touring, peacetime traffic of longer range. Here you would not only connect the regions and states but also join places of economic and sight seeing values. If.the legislators have passed a highway bill there might not have been a no man’s road like the Lokoja -Obajana -Kabba – Egbe all the way to Ilorin road where any politician can come and making any noise and get free.

Prof R. A. Ipinyomi

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