ast week, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola announced a plan by the Federal Government to construct 44 federal highways and 63 roads in an emergency intervention programme across the country.
According to the plan, construction work on the roads spread across 36 states of the Federation, was expected to commence immediately before the rains peak in the Months of August and September.
The objectives of the roads development plan, already approved in the 2017 budget according to the Minister includes “to connect states, drive economy, move fuel, food and the import and export of goods”.
Also in the plan are 45 bridges which have been slated for rehabilitation over the next three years.
We welcome the plan by the Ministry of Works to give attention to the nation’s roads and Federal Highways which have been in very poor state.
A case in point is the Wharf and Creek roads in Lagos which give nightmares to commuters in Apapa section of the city. Some of the Federal roads that run through the cities have become a source of traffic gridlock owing to their poor shape.
For some time, the nation’s roads have been neglected in spite of the yearly huge budgetary allocations. The situation thus calls for an emergency plan of action such as the one announced by the Minister.
As commendable as the plan is, we hasten to caution that the reconstruction of the roads must go beyond rhetoric.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to ensure the necessary cash backing for road development expenditure so that the desired impact will be felt by the citizenry.
More importantly, the Minister must ensure that only qualified contractors are engaged such that they can be trusted to deliver quality work that stands the test of time.
As government moves to diversify the nation’s economy, there is utmost need to give priority attention to the roads that cut across the agricultural belts where movement of produce has been a major challenge because of the poor state of the roads.
It would be recalled that the state of Nigerian roads was one of the major campaign plans of the ruling-All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections campaigns.
Unfortunately, road construction has not received priority attention since the Buhari administration took over, leaving Nigerians with a little or no choice than score the administration a low mark in that critical sector.
To make matters worse, budgetary allocations for some roads in 2016 were not utilized at all like the case of Lagos-Ibadan expressway. This subject formed part of the reasons for the recent altercations between the Minister and the House of Representatives, until the Minister recanted and apologised over his comments.
The latest plan however, has the potential to redeem government’s image.
We salute the Minister for the comprehensive plan of action and urge him to stop at nothing until he delivers the roads to Nigerian people.
Besides, the National Assembly in the exercise of its power of oversight, must ensure funds released for road construction are effectively utilised to bring home the full economic benefits of a good network of roads.
The Ministry should go a step further to plan for maintenance of the roads being constructed to ensure durability.