By Adekunle Adekoya
IN the run-up to the 2015 general elections, there was huge hope that, at last, things were going to take a turn in the direction of eldorado for Nigeria and her teeming peoples. There was massive euphoria about how the cluelessness of the government of the day would be replaced by purposeful leadership.
There were promises about electricity and how it would be made constant and Nigerians would no longer suffer blackouts. There were also avowals about fuel supply and how our refineries would be made to work so that there would be a final end to importation of refined petroleum products.
If you, the reader, remembers the promises, they included how aircraft in the presidential fleet would either be sold off and the proceeds used to fund the revival of our national carrier, and one million other promises.
Before then, much of our infrastructure, especially roads, were in bad shape. With some exceptions, the situation remains pretty the same. I want to stand in for some of our leaders who have done the much they could with what they have, but since ours is a unitarian federalism, a lot that could have been done by the Federal Government remains undone.
In the area of roads, there is plenty. According to the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Nigeria has about 195,000 kilometres of road network of which about 60,000 were paved by 2019, just three years away, leaving a deficit of about 135,000 kilometres. One road that is part of that deficit is the road linking Akure with Ado-Ekiti.
This road is just 41 kilometres or 26 miles in length, with a driving time of less than 50 minutes. But that was when the road was in good condition. It is also a road I am familiar with. Frequently I travel to both Akure and Ado-Ekiti, and each time, I kept wondering what could be responsible for the deplorable condition of this road that links two state capitals.
Earlier in the week, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State disclosed to a shocked audience that the Federal Government threatened that it would not refund the states if they tampered with a federal road.
The governor made the disclosure in reaction to entreaties made by the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye, during a visit to the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola. During the said visit, Adegoroye was said to have urged Fashola to expedite works action on the dualisation of the Akure-Ado Ekiti Expressway.
In a statement, the governor said further:
“I have spent the last three years on the subject of this road. I finally got them to award the dualisation in November 2019 at the cost of N30b. To date, the contractor has only received N2b. I then got money from the AfDB for the road through Adesina, and the FG refused to cede the road to Ondo and Ekiti states and threatened us there will be no refund if we went ahead and tampered with their road.
“In the end, we transferred the money to them and even helped them follow up with AfDB.
“Up till now, they can’t access the money because they have refused to follow AfDB procurement standards. We are now pursuing NNPC to include the road in their new tax credit roads they are funding, but we are still on it.
“There’s no month Fashola and I do not speak about this road for the past three years. It has even caused friction between the two of us. If we had been given clearance to do the road and toll it, we offered to do that, but the FG refused.
I wish Demola luck on his new venture. Senator Alasoadura did the same and even cried at FEC on account of the road. Maybe he will succeed where we have not.”
From the governor’s lamentations, one may ask: Who is the “FG” that refused to cede the road to states? Is it the President? The Vice-President? Or the Minister of Works?
What is worrisome here is that the Federal Government and the governments of Ondo and Ekiti states are all of the All Progressives Congress, APC. What could be the reason for this? Reminds me of a time in Lagos when it was commonplace to see a signpost on a bad road with the inscription: “THIS IS A FEDERAL ROAD. PLEASE BEAR WITH US.”
Then, the Federal Government was controlled by the PDP while LASG was of the Action Congress. Now that the same party is controlling most state governments, what is behind these? A related problem concerns creation of local governments. Lagos, under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, created more local governments from the existing 20, bringing the number to 57.
It was alleged that these new LGs, now called LCDAs (Local Council Development Authority) could not take lives of their own because a different party was in control at the federal level. It’s now more than seven years that the situation has changed, and they still remained LCDAs, unrecognised constitutionally. Is it not the same APC in Abuja as in Lagos? From where I stand, there must be more to this than meets the eye. It’s like a glass with water halfway in it. Half-full, or half-empty? APC top-notchers should furnish us with answers.
The condition of that road is emblematic of many federal roads nationwide, on which thousands of man hours are lost daily, and lives lost in avoidable accidents. In Lagos, most of the federal roads are in disrepair, including the bridges. What does the Federal Government do?