Members of the House of Representatives recently concluded a tour of projects being executed by the Ministry of the Niger Delta, as part of their over-sight functions in the Niger Delta and came to the grim conclusion that the funding of the East-West Road project was grossly inadequate.
Knowing the important place of the road on the survival and wellbeing of the people of the Niger Delta, the honourable members resolved that there was an urgent need to channel funds meant for other capital projects under the Ministry of Niger Delta budget into the East-West Road project with the view to salvaging the road.
Clearly, the failure of successive governments to deliver on the East-West Road has become counter productive . It is on record that the East-West Road, which is about the only gateway to the Niger Delta states, has also constituted one of the greatest challenges of the region. By land, the Niger Delta people are trapped and exposed to danger every day.
As successive governments pretend to work on the road, portions of the road take turns to fail. Of course, vehicular traffic is heavy on the road at all times of the year. So, the combination of the nature of the soil and bad jobs on the road, there are always issues on the road.
The Tide thinks that the frequent accidents and fatalities on the road are no longer acceptable. We think also that the damage to vehicles and the wedge it places on businesses in the region should no longer be accepted.
It is therefore not surprising that members of the National Assembly would prefer to stop all other projects just to ensure that there was enough money to prosecute the East-West Road. But we think that decision was hasty and capable of doing more harm to the people of the Niger Delta than good.
We fear that even if all the money meant for other projects are thrown into the East-West Road, the road cannot be delivered and the reasons are many. If that happens, the region would have lost on all fronts.
Without going to the legal requirements and administrative procedures for transferring money meant for other projects, we think that the action can only multiply the number of abandoned projects in the Niger Delta. It will frustrate contractors handling the other projects, result in waste of funds and inadvertently put all eggs in one basket.
On the other hand, the people who may have started looking forward to the completion and enjoyment of certain projects, would be disappointed. How this would accumulate into anger across the region cannot be guessed. Already, some groups have started meeting over the failure of government to show seriousness on the East-West Road.
We think that it is simply abominable to stop all other projects because of the inadequate funding of one. The rules on this issue are very clear; if government needs more money for a particular project or programme, it presents a supplementary budget and we think the East-West Road far deserves it.
This is more so, because apart from the annoying history of failures on the road and the fatalities, the Federal Government cannot forget that the execution of the East-West Road was part of the post-militancy programme. The apparent disregard for the lives of the Niger Delta people that are lost on this road qualify to anger anybody.
We think that the Federal Government has enough crisis, as it were, on its hands and should not allow the growing pains of the Niger Delta people to degenerate any further. We join the people of the Niger Delta to demand that the East-West Road be completed now.
The Tide cannot understand why the region that lays the sweetest crude should suffer this sourest neglect and disregard. We cannot understand why the Nigerian Government would prefer to transact the oil and gas business under the most unhealthy and dangerous road system. Apart from the worsening of the roads by heavy petroleum tankers, the vehicles also take a toll.
The petroleum tanker fire that consumed more than 200 lives at Okogbe town, Rivers State, a couple of days ago, is an example of how industry vehicles fall on the roads and compromise the lives of innocent Rivers people. No relief effort after such fatalities can bring back such lives or go to any issue.
Our expectation is that the governments of the Niger Delta states would specifically take up the issue of the East-West Road with the presidency. This idea of doing politics with the road has got to stop. They are either doing the road or they are not. The idea of building a road like the one we see, between Warri and Port Harcourt for ages is nothing short of playing on the intelligence of the people.
We demand that a supplementary budget be raised for the East-West Road. We ask that the order to stop work on the other projects be rescinded and that work should begin on the East-West road now.