On incremental basis, the Federal Government of Nigeria is seemingly realizing the importance of infrastructure, especially roads and rails, as catalysts for economic growth and development.
In the last six years, infrastructure has received considerable attention and it is even argued in some quarters that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has done better on roads infrastructure development than any other administration before it.
Though we commend the federal government for the much it has done so far to connect towns and even countries with either roads or rail lines, we are persuaded that the government is not doing anything extra-ordinary by performing what is its statutory duty.
What we find extra-ordinary and even curious instead in what the government is doing is building infrastructure to serve political rather than economic expediency, or playing the ostrich in its decisions on the choice of roads to do and where to it is to be done.
It is quite strange that in Nigeria, government uses infrastructure provision as a political tool to either favour or punish certain parts of the country, depending on what it wants to achieve. The East West Road that runs through the South-South region, which has become a source of worry, is one such road.
It is quite strange that in Nigeria, government uses infrastructure provision as a political tool to either favour or punish certain parts of the country, depending on what it wants to achieve
Another is the Enugu-Onitsha Road which, it seems, the federal government has deliberately made a perpetual construction site apparently to get at the people of the zone who now drink daily doses of stress and suffering commuting on the completely collapsed road.
It appeals to reason that, at a time like this when resources are lean and economic situation in the country is dire, government should do well to prioritize roads infrastructure provision to favour those linking areas of economic, not political, importance.
We find it objectionable and a misplacement of priority for government to get involved in the construction of the Nigeria-Cameroon Road. Another is the Niger Republic rail line project.
In our view, the 443km Cameroon Road that runs from Enugu in Nigeria to Bamenda in Cameroon, with a 100 metre bridge over Cameroon’s Munaya River and a 230 metre bridge over the Cross River in Nigeria has no direct bearing on the economy of Nigeria.
Besides the beneficiaries of the project, which include users of public transport, as well as the 11 million local residents, representing about 5 percent of the total population of the two countries, we cannot point to any economic importance that the $430 million project serves Nigeria.
The Niger Republic rail line project story is a bitter pill to swallow. The ground breaking for the 283km rail line that will cost Nigeria approximately $2billion was performed by President Buhari in February 2021. It has a Portuguese construction company, Mota-Engil, as the lead contractor.
Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, gave poor road network, security challenges and harassment from various government security and paramilitary agencies, which discourages individuals, and businesses from other West African countries from exporting through Nigeria, as some of the reasons the government is embarking on that railway project.
But President Buhari in his Arise TV interview in June this year, gave a different reason for the project. “How many railways do we have; you have to cultivate your neighbours if not you are in trouble,” the president said, arguing that “if you remember when I came in, I went to Niger, Chad, Cameroun. Look at what had happened with Boko Haram if we are not in good terms with them they would have done worse things to us.”
These may be plausible reasons in the estimation of the government, but we consider them trite and of less economic importance than doing such federal roads and highways as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway which has survived three administrations and still counting.
This expressway is adjudged the busiest in West Africa with unimaginable traffic volume per day. It is a major trade and commerce route serving as the gateway from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre to Onitsha, the commercial heartbeat of Eastern Nigeria, and then to the Northern part of the country where much of the consumables in the South West, particularly Lagos, come from.
Another federal highway that needs urgent attention on account of its economic importance is the Lagos Badagry Expressway which links Nigeria to the West Coast and serves as a major trade route in the West African sub-region.
Others are the Lagos-Ota Expressway, Abuja-Lokoja Road, and Oyo-Ogbomoso-Ilorin Road (which essentially connects the north to south) and, therefore, serves as conveyor belt for farm produce from the North to the South.
We are aware that there are still many pipeline infrastructure projects across Nigeria. It is good that government is undertaking such projects because it is its duty to do so. But advise that priority should be given to those that impact directly on the economy and, by extension, the lives of Nigerians, not outsiders.