State Of Federal Roads In Rivers

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In spite of huge budgetary allocations for the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of federal highways across the country by successive governments at the centre, the state of federal roads, especially in Rivers State, remains horrible and pathetic. In fact, majority of federal roads across the nation are not only in deplorable conditions but are clear death traps for motorists and commuters.
It is on record that in 2013, the Federal Government allocated N136.5 billion to the Ministry of Works for the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of federal roads across the country. It also allocated a capital budget of N128.6 billion for works, representing 2.8% of total annual budget for 2014, and a paltry N39.6 billion allocation for works in 2015. In 2016, the Federal Government upped the game, with lion’s share of the budget for the works sector, amounting to N433.4 billion, N529.3 billion in 2017; and N682.96 billion in 2018.
But despite the massive budgetary allocations to the works sector over the years, the nation’s highways remain the worst in the West African sub-region, with virtually all the roads in the South-South, South-East and South-West still in very bad shape and nearly impassable. For instance, in Rivers State, very popular roads such as the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road, Port Harcourt-Aba Road and the East-West Road, among others, are now safe havens for notorious armed robbery and kidnap gangs, particularly at chronically bad spots.
Besides, the roads have taken and continue to take heavy tolls on the economy of the region, especially Rivers State, as thousands of private and commercial vehicles are not only stranded or broken down on the roads, but have taken repeated beating, thereby accelerating the frequency of wear and tear on the vehicles. Even manhours lost to heavy traffic and the avoidable delays on the roads have unleashed huge economic losses to the state, the region and the nation. This, indeed, is a scandalous badge of shame for the nation because it is a reflection of the persistent neglect and marginalisation of a region that produces more than 80 per cent of the nation’s wealth.
We are disturbed that despite the state government’s efforts in rehabilitating some of these roads, the Federal Government appears to be turning a consistent blind eye to the challenges faced by the state government in this regard. Thus, scarce funds expended in fixing the roads have not been refunded to the state. We are worried that even as the state government has repeatedly called on the Federal Government to refund the total sum spent on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of federal roads in the state, no meaningful effort appears to be in the offing to address the problem.
The Tide, therefore, calls on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on federal highways, especially those in Rivers State, as millions of manhours and lives lost on these roads are daily on the increase. For example, the Eleme Junction, Oyigbo section of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road, the Port Harcourt Refinery-Onne Junction section and the Choba Bridge-Mbiama section, both of the East-West Road, are now an unending nightmare for motorists and road travellers who ply these critical routes on a daily basis.
This is why we insist that the Buhari administration must explain to the Nigerian people, and particularly the impoverished and deprived people of the Niger Delta, how it spent the humongous N1.67 trillion allocated to the works sector between 2016 and 2018, when there is no reasonable progress on roads rehabilitation and reconstruction in the South-South and South-East, where more than 70 per cent of all bad roads in Nigeria are, unfortunately, located.
Perhaps, it would not be out of place to demand a comprehensive and holistic blueprint on how the government plans to revamp all the federal highways in the state. Besides, we demand a thorough investigation to unravel how the N185 billion approved by the Federal Government for roads’ rehabilitation and maintenance has been spent without any significant breath of fresh life on the roads in the state, in particular, and the region in general.
We insist that this culture of frivolity and misappropriation of public funds must stop, so as to usher in a culture of transparency and accountability in the expenditure of public funds.