Development Of Road Sector In AKS And FG Negligence ln Fixing Federal Roads
……Akwa Ibom state is rapidly growing into an economy hub in Nigeria. The current administration in the state under Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel is driving the state into an industrial haven thus, investors, business men and women, including people seeking for jobs and greener pasture are drifting into the state in their numbers. Owing to the state government’s industrialization mandate, and this expanding populace, the government is working massively towards ensuring quality infrastructure delivery to support its mandate. However, the task is enormous and requires huge investment.
Going by this drive by the state government, there is no doubt that, roads in Akwa lbom state are getting better under the current administration, and yet, the hopes are still high. Nevertheless, this piece is an insight into the Akwa Ibom state government’s drive in road sector in due of its industrailuzation mandate, and possibly, the outright negligence of the federal governmen’s role under President Muhammedu Buhari in fixing federal roads in the state hence, I therefore use this opportunity to call on the federal government to please fix most of these federal roads in the state in order to help fast-tract the current administration’s industrialization agenda in the state.
Sadly, the federal road infrastructure in Akwa lbom is indicative of the fact that the federal government has fallen short of its role. Against this background, the Akwa lbom state government, having recognized the challenges and opportunities inherent within the road infrastructure sector, has urged the federal government to adopt a workable approach to tackling the challenges facing the sector in the state while, harnessing the economic gains of an enhanced road network.
Having said that, a careful study of federal roads in Akwa Ibom has revealed the degree of deplorable condition of these highways, and the possible traffic related fatalities these federal roads are posing to cummuters. Nonetheless, my job here is to highlight on the reason why the federal government should attach importance to infrastructure development especially the roads. My emphasy is that, the Akwa Ibom state government’s industrialization agenda seeks to deliver better and safer roads to investors, who are coming into the state for investment, and as a result deserves complementary assistance from the federal government in fixing the federal roads that link the state with other states in the federation.
However, l want to say here that, due to use and time, most of the federal roads in Akwa Ibom, if not all, are becoming aged. And what may looks acceptable on the surface can actually be hiding significant problem just below. As a result, federal roads in Akwa Ibom requires reconstruction, and in this case, dual carriage ways. Reconstruction of these expired roads infrastructure is essential to preserve and enhance the aforementioned benefits to Akwa Ibom people.
Subsequently, surveys have also showed that, any attempt to maintain these roads will cause irreversible deterioration of the roads, for instance, the Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway and Abak-Akparakwa highway to mention but a few. The road deterioration has spread along the entire stretch of Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway for example, resulting in soaring costs and a major financial impact on the economy and Nigerian citizens, who plied this major highway. Besides, it has been estimated that the number of people killed in this highway traffic crashes is in excess, while many are injured. Although road traffic injuries occur for a multitude of reasons, the condition of the road surface is an important factor in preventing crashes.
Interestingly, it is the view of the state government that, with the involvement of the federal government in fixing federal roads in the state, growth and development will be facilitated. Typically, good roads imply reduced travel time, and vehicle operating costs, as well as, providing the necessary ingredient for development of other sectors in the state. In addition, economic, and commercial, and business activities will also thrive along these routes by virtue of increased traffic flow and hence, profitability.
With this in mind, the importance of reconstruction of these expired highways need to be recognised by the federal government. However in most instances, this is not recognised and as a result, poor asset management or preventive maintenance is likely to worsen the deplorable condition of these roads hence, resulting in increase road traffic death.
However, in furtherance of the industrialization agenda of the Akwa Ibom state government and in its urgent bid to meet the yearnings of the people of the state in this regard, the state Ministry of Works has embraced massive road infrastructural development, geared towards paving way for industrial boom in the state. Therefore, meeting this objective is evidence in the opening up of more rural communities in the state, as well as, linking them to urban centers within the state hence, stimulates economic and social development in the state.
As a proactive approach, the Akwa Ibom state government is working on a strategy which is basically seek to improve service delivery in this sector, and enhance management capacity, as well as, create a conducive institutional framework through joint participation with the private sector in financing and managing the road sector.
Roads, the world over, make a crucial contribution to economic development and growth of any nation. They are of vital importance in order to make a nation grow and industrialized. No doubt, road infrastructure is the most important of all public assets. Proofs abound! That out of the way, there is urgent need to ensuring that both the state roads and the federal roads in Akwa lbom are put in place to help drive the state development.
You will agree with me that, socio-economic development of any country goes as far as road infrastructure improvement can attain. This is simply because, to connect means to grow. In order to catalyze the rate of growth and development of the economy, the requisite road infrastructure must be put in place.
This piece therefore, seeks to advocate that, rather than maintaining these expired highways in Akwa Ibom, they should be dualized. This effort on the part of the federal government will go a long way to offer economic benefits over a long term period, and will help to balance the long-term need such that will benefit different road stakeholders. why is this important? It is because road infrastructure is a financial asset for society and the economy.
In this country, in spite of many measurements, the crash statistics have showed some deficiencies with regard to maintaining expired roads. However, it is clear that replacing expired road with new ones is increasing in importance because of the implications it has with regard to safety and road crashes. In other words, the federal government has the responsibility to keep federal roads in the country in a good shape, so as to reduce the number of crashes.
Hence, several individuals from Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, where the Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway, traversed are emphasising on this issue by organising a number of activities. They have also visited lawmakers with a view to draw the attention of the federal government to the importance of preserving the Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway for sustainable development. They have also persuaded members of the National Assembly to develop a sustainable framework to address the anomaly.
The federal government has enough resources to keep federal roads in the country up to date, since road infrastructure is a financial asset for the economy. Therefore, Akwa lbom people are calling on the federal government, their representatives in the National Assembly, and members of the State House of Assembly to coordinate efforts in order to address the deplorable condition of federal roads in Akwa Ibom. Focussing on reconstruction of these highways will bring widespread benefits by not only preserving current assets, but also lowering future costs for citizens, road users, taxpayers and road owners. This would prevent these assets from depreciating in value, provided that timely investment is carried out in time.
Meanwhile, the President Muhammedu Buhari-led federal government had in May 2017, announced the approval of about N54 billion for the reconstruction of the federal road, which traversed Ikot Ekpene, Calabar-Itu in Akwa lbom, and Odukpani, Ugep, Ogoja in Cross River State down to the Northeast and North Central geo-political zones. But up till date, no contractors, neither construction equipment were on site, and the rumor making the rounds is that, the federal government has abandoned the project.
Accordingly, this was confirmed when the Akwa lbom State House of Assembly Committee on Works and Transport, accompanied by the Honourable Commissioner for Works, and other Ministry officials, were on a joint on the spot assessment of the project recently.
The assessment visit came as a result of a motion moved by member representating ltu State Constituency, Hon. KufreAbasi Edidem at the plenary recently, with a view to draw the attention of the government to the deplorable condition of the road, which according to him, is a death trap to travellers along that route and has appealed for urgent intervention to safe lives of motorists.
While regretting actions of the federal government with regards to the project, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Works and Transport has cautioned the federal government to expedite action in fixing the Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway, stressing that, the highway is completely expired, insisting on a dual carraigeway in order to accommodate heavy duty vehicles that plied the highway.
Highlighting on the role federal roads play in the economic development of a country, the lawmakers however, said that, the current deplorable state of Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway, can be used as an index to assess the extent of federal government present in the state, even as they worried about the imminent danger the road is posing to commuters.
The lawmakers, who described the condition of the road as a dead trap, promised to make resolution to this effect. They also pledged to work with their brothers, who are in the National Assembly with a view to make sure that the attention of the federal government is drawn to the anonaly.
Worried by the outright negligence of the Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway, the Honourable Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen, who expressed concern over the condition of the road, called on the federal government to fulfill its promise and safe lives of the road users. According to him, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) does not construct roads, they only carry out maintenance, adding that, Calabar-Itu highway does not require maintainance but it requires reconstruction.
Commissioner lnyangeyen, likened the poor condition of Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene highway to that of Abak-Ekparakwa road. He said that these roads “require total reconstruction because the road has expired and it will be a waste of our resources to try to maintain them because of the level of traffic we have on these roads”.
Commissioner Inyangeyen who said that Akwa Ibom people deserve better roads, also observed that, had it been the federal government was sincere with the construction of Calabar-Odukpani-ltu-lkot Ekpene Highway, the highway would have boost socio-economic activities and improve the economy.
Subsequently, the people of Itu, who spoke through one Elder Iwat Nkereuwem, have joined well-meaning Akwa Ibomites in raising alarm over the imminent danger the highway is posing to motorists and have called on the federal government to intervend on the road.
The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly team was led by the Chairman, House Committee on Works and Transport; Rt. Hon. David Lawrence. Others were: Rt. Hon. Aniekan Uko, Rt. Hon. Essien Nse, Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh, Hon. KufreAbasi Edidem, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Bassey, Hon. Godwin Ekpo, Rt. Hon. Effiong Bassey, Rt. Hon. Mark Esset, Hon. Ifiok OS Udoh, Hon Victor Ekwere, among others.