By Ochereome Nnanna
DR. Mohammed Hassan Lawal, the Honourable Minister for Works is an experienced member of the Federal cabinet. He was one of the very few ministers that the Yarâ€™ Adua regime inherited from the Olusegun Obasanjo cabinet. Under Obasanjo, he was the Minister of Labour and Productivity.
When Yarâ€™ Adua assumed power he was reappointed in that position. With the fall of Dr. Adenike Grange as a result of shared unspent money scandal, Lawal was allowed to hold her Health portfolio along with Labour.
Late last year, President Yarâ€™ Adua dropped some ministers. Lawal was not one of them. Rather, he was reappointed and â€œpromotedâ€ in a manner of speaking because he was handed one of the most widely valued and coveted portfolios â€“Works.
Only those considered to be privileged and close to the heart of the President or governor are put in charge of this Ministry because it oversees an action-packed, money-guzzling axis of governance which often defines the success or failure of a regime.
What all these tell me is that Hassan Lawal is one of those individuals who easily win the respect of their principals as a result of some identified qualities.
Few ministers, like Professor Tam David-West and his intellectual sparring partner, Professor Jibril Aminu, have successfully crossed from an old regime to another one that ended up undoing a lot of the policies of the old one.
Ordinarily, Hassan Lawalâ€™s ministerial track record should be interpreted as an affirmation of the quality of his mind, ability to work with others as a team and to deliver the goods. Being moved to the Works Ministry at a time that the Yarâ€™ Adua regime was being lampooned for lack of performance was interpreted by me as a mandate to go perform his magic on the roads and infrastructure of the nation.
It is with a sad realisation that about a year later, Dr. Hassan Lawal is presiding over one of the worst experiences Nigerians have ever undergone over the nationâ€™s federal highways. On Friday, October 8, 2007, a petrol tanker negotiated a bend at Umunya Junction near Awka in Anambra State on the Enugu â€“ Onitsha federal expressway.
Due to the existence of deep gullies on the road the tanker fell over and began spilling its cargo of death on the roads populated by a number of commuter buses and private vehicle. A pick-up that was immediately behind it rammed into it and an explosion occurred and after four hours of the ensuing conflagration, over 70 Nigerians trapped in burning vehicles were sent to their early graves in a most painful and gruesome manner.
These unfortunate Nigerians would not have lost their lives ifÂ Dr. Hassan Lawal were up to his job of constructing and reconstructing roads in Nigeria.The Umunya incident was just one of the daily losses of lives and property going on in all parts of Nigeria where for over 10 years the Federal Government of Nigeria has demonstrated its inability to maintain its road network.
I am a regular traveller. I am in a position to report firsthand that the following federal roads are also in a similar state of disrepair. Enugu/Onitsha, Port Harcourt/Enugu, Owerri/Aba, Aba/Uyo/Calabar, Calabar/Obudu and Abakaliki/ Ogoja. Others are East/West Road from Warri to Port Harcourt , Sagamu/Benin, Lagos/Ibadan, Ibadan/Jebba, Jebba/Mokwa/Kontagora/Kaduna, Okene/Akoko/Ijesha, Abuja/Kaduna and Kaduna/Kano. I have noticed work in slow progress on the Wudil/Potiskum dualisation, Okene/Abuja dualisation, Owerri/Onitsha dualisation and Abuja/Airport expansion. In most states of the federation (such as Jigawa, for instance) any bad road is a federal road. Governor Sule Lamido has reconstructed all major roads in his state to guarantee thirty year lifespan.
The most unpardonable neglect goes to the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and Lagos/Badagry Expressway, which are not only gateways to Nigeria but also hold the key to its economic well being. Tankers and trucks from all parts of the federation converge in Apapa everyday. Our countryâ€™s leaders are so daft that they donâ€™t even realise the need to keep all roads that sustain the economy of the nation in top shape.
When Hassan Lawal decided to come on a familiarisation tour of Apapa/Oshodi express, the hold-up occasioned by collapsed section forced him to abort the trip halfway. I thought he was going to swing into action. But he simply went back to his comfort zone in Abuja and forgot all about it.
Hassan Lawal worsened the situation of the federal highways when he came up with a new policy that stopped the reimbursement of state governments which rehabilitated federal roads in their domains.
State governments resorted to doing this to give their people a new lease of life and save lives. But for this policy Governor Peter Obi could have patched the gully that led to the death of innocent Nigerians in his state. But because the federal government was instigated by Hassan Lawal to stop repaying the states, and what with a large amount still being owed it, the Anambra State Government stopped work on federal roads.
Hassan Lawal has not brought his wealth of experience as a long-standing minister to bear on his Works portfolio. He is no longer hungry for achievement. His neglect of Nigerian roads makes him and his principal, President Yarâ€™ Adua, accessories to the avoidable homicides on our roads.
Nigerians depend on roads for their livelihood as we have no access to rail and water transportation. Hassan Lawal and his principal failed to protect the only means through which Nigerians are able to move from one end of the country to the other in search of daily bread.
He has failed this nation. He should resign.