By Hauwa Gold, News Agency of Nigeria
Road network is a crucial incontrovertible infrastructure for socio-economic and agricultural development of a nation, providing unhindered access to places of opportunities and services.
Analysts note that roads, being primary mode of transportation therefore, ought to be the most important of all public assets.
However, some residents of Sokoto State expressed concern over what they described as abandoned road projects across the state which has threatened the pace of development in the state.
According to them, lack of good roads was gradually crippling of socio-commercial activities in the state.
Against this background, peasants in the state insisted that they require good road network to transport the produce to the city markets for sale, claiming that they were the largest producers of onions, millet, tomatoes, garlic and other perishable items.
They observed that the road network across the state has deteriorated in recent times due to alleged poor attention or negligence by both the past administrations and road contractors.
Similar public outcry on dilapidated condition of roads, mostly in the rural areas, was being reported across the state, according to findings.
Concerned citizens of the state also alleged that previous administrations in the state had no regard for road maintenance.
Citing some road contracts, some residents observed that former Gov. Attahiru Bafarawa of the state awarded a contract for the Gada-Tsitse road, described as a link to several villages in Sokoto State.
Investigations on the road contract have, however, shown that the project was abandoned a few months after it began.
More than a decade after the abandonment, one can imagine how deplorable the road is particularly for motorists who do not have alternative routes than Gada-Tsitse road.
Investigations also showed that the 33-kilometre road has deteriorated with both sides cut off, constituting a danger for the road users.
A resident of Sokoto, Malam Bello Shehu, explained that erosion had further ravaged the road, making it difficult for pedestrians and motorcyclists to use.
Shehu said that he witnessed the official commissioning of the project in 2005 but never expected that it would not be completed.
“People applauded the commissioning of the road expected to link villages such as Kaddi, Gadabo, Gilbade, Tsitse, Kaffe to Dukanmaje but it is worrisome to see the present condition of the road,” he said.
Similarly, Alhaji Abubakar Gada, a resident of one of the villages, observed that villagers had attempted salvaging the road from total dilapidation through communal efforts.
“We normally engage our youths to fill the pot-holes with gravels and sand so that farmers and other road users will be able to transport farm produce to the markets,” he said.
Alhaji Musa Makeri, a motorcyclist, said that the hardship and loss of farm produce and other valuables on the road was enormous.
“This road, apart from being a death trap to our communities, the sick and pregnant women suffer on the road. We can hardly transport our farm produce to the city markets for sale,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Malam Yusha’u Anka, a commercial driver on the road, said that the cost of transportation had to be reviewed upward during the rainy season due to the bad condition of the road during the period.
Blaming the past governments in the state, a community leader, Alhaji Muhammadu Dukanmaje, observed that previous administrations had failed to complete the road since the contract was awarded.
“Poor condition of the road has led to untold hardship and setbacks because economic activities are no longer thriving and people hardly come from other neighbouring villages or towns to buy our produce,” he said.
The Ministry for Rural Development in Sokoto State confirmed that the Gada–Tsitse road project was a major contract by the state government in 2005 awarded at N288 million to RTP construction company.
The ministry said that the value of work executed to date stood at N143 million less than 50 per cent of the total contract sum.
But Mr David Pristley, the Managing Director of RTP constructing company, said that the company had to stop the project due to lack of machinery to work within the specified period.
“We wanted to ensure that we meet up with the stipulated time of the project but along the line, we had issues with our equipment as we needed more resources to import these machines,” he said.
Besides the Gada-Tsitse road project, there was also the uncompleted feeder road that had become a source of concern to residents Hurumi Village in Bodinga Local Government Area of the state.
Bodinga, about 20-minute drive from Gada village, with a population of more than 5,000 people, has a five-kilometre dusty and winding feeder road.
Findings showed that the Hurumi feeder road project was awarded in 2011 at N125 million by the immediate past administration of Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, now a senator.
Alhaji Abdullahi Maigwandu, the former state Commissioner for Rural Development, however, said that the state paid the contractor — K&E Construction — in full for the project.
He, nonetheless, explained that although the contractor had been paid for grading, tarring was not part of contract specification when it was awarded.
Irrespective of explanations, villagers warned against abandoning other ongoing road constructions across the state.
Some of them observed that transportation of food produce to the city, which should not be more than N500, can cost more than N3, 000 due to the poor condition of the roads.
According to them, taking farm produce to markets in the cities was no longer profitable because of high transportation cost.
Alhaji Muhammadu Dukanmaje, a villager, said: “This road has brought untold setback upon us as economic activities have remained uninspiring because of its bad condition.”
Most of them said they may not listen to politicians’ campaigns anymore, if the condition of the roads remained the same before the 2019 general elections.