President Buhari and politics of federal roads

Buhari

Buhari

THE carnage witnessed last week along Benin-Ore road was not an isolated incident. It has become the permanent feature of the federal highways. Over 90 per cent of the federal roads in Nigeria are in ruins. My neighbour escaped death by the skin of his teeth in one of the federal roads, but his wife was not so lucky.

In trying to avoid a dangerous crater on the highway, you run the risk of skidding straight into the river or colliding with another vehicle. I often shake my head in pity anytime I drive on these death traps that are called federal highways: How can anyone avoid fatal accidents on these roads? Even the most careful driver is prone to accident! Being a new administration, nobody will hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible for the derelict state of these motorways.

But once his government marks one year or two in office, Nigerians will forget that he inherited the dilapidated highways and an empty treasury. It is just about a month that the new government was sworn in and some smart guys are already attempting to deflect attention away from the malfeasance of the last administration.

But a word first on the purse of the central government. It would seem an understatement for President Muhammadu Buhari to speak of inheriting an empty treasury.

I think we should thank God that the President even met a treasury at all. With the monetary bonanza, bazaar and lottery that characterized the electioneering of the ruling party in the last general elections, we should be grateful to the almighty that both the purse and its contents had not disappeared altogether.

With the sincerity of purpose, prudence in public finance management, transparency and accountability that will hallmark the Buhari administration (and we can see the signs already), I believe money will begin to flow back into the empty government purse and will ultimately be filled once more. But I have some worries.

A friend once told me a story that has stuck to my memory. His disciplined, prudent and industrious secondary school principal ensured those sterling qualities rubbed off on the academy, resulting in the students passing their exams with flying colours and a buoyant school till. However, within a few years of graduation, the principal was transferred and replaced by a footloose and spendthrift head. The treasury was emptied in no time, and indiscipline soon began to take its toll on the performance of the students.

The school eventually became a shadow of its former self. As the saying goes, a man may leave behind a gargantuan fortune, there is no guarantee those coming after him will be wise.

As it stands today, the politics of Nigeria is so fluid and there is no certainty about anything. No one needed a prophet to predict that the present ruling party would undergo one form of crisis or the other. That would be taken for granted in any concourse of people with different or disparate backgrounds.

But no political seer could have predicted the recent events in the National Assembly. They left every mouth agape in shock, bewilderment and horror. Dangerous politics, brinkmanship, defiance! Perhaps, I misread the whole thing.

My take-away remains – Nigerian politics is fluid; there’s no certitude about anything! I have employed every public space in the last decade to discuss the menace of federal roads in Nigeria. I did so many times in relation to our unitary system, often disguised as federalism and the Revenue Allocation Formula, which gives 52 per cent to the Federal Government, 26 per cent to all the 36 states and 20 per cent to the local councils.

FG is also in charge of the balance of 2 per cent. Clearly, the Federal Government is carrying a load that is heavier than that of the 36 states. No, it should be the other way round.

Is it proper for the FG, in a federation, to travel thousands of miles from Abuja in order to sink a borehole in a village or renovate a health centre, a primary school in a far-flung community when there is a state government that is in touch with such people on a daily basis, and will perform these responsibilities at a lower cost, since funds will move directly to where they are needed? In one instance, it was observed: “It is cheaper for states to own these federal roads.

For instance, the ongoing repair work on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos has continued to consume avoidable administrative costs. The Minister of Works and other federal officials who come all the way from Abuja to supervise and inspect the road will certainly collect allowances running into millions of naira, whereas it would have amounted to a routine duty for the Lagos Commissioner for Works and other officials.

And when you consider that the Abuja officials will have to do the same thing again and again in all the 36 states of the federation, the preventable wastage of tax-payers’ money stares you in the face.

Contiguous states to these federal roads will naturally collaborate to reconstruct and maintain them at far cheaper costs than moving money and officials first from Abuja to the regional office, and from the regional office to the states.

There is so much wastage of public funds in Nigeria.” And in my widely publicised piece in April, 2014, Between Abeokuta and Abuja, I submitted: “Despite the gargantuan 52 per cent being collected by the Federal Government, virtually all the federal roads in Ogun State are in tatters: Atan-Agbara road (Agbara is an industrial hub in Nigeria), Owode-Ilaro road, Ikorodu-Sagamu highway, etc.

I’m sure the Minister of Works has never heard the names of some of these roads let alone know their locations… from the meagre 0.3 per cent Ogun receives from the Federation Account, the police are also being funded!… Imagine the amount the state government spent to repair parts of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and several other federal roads that criss-cross the state! This is because the masses don’t like to differentiate between federal and state roads.

Ibikunle-Amosun-

Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun

Once any road is in Ogun territory, then Amosun is looked up to for its maintenance and reconstruction!” I call on the President and the National Assembly to ensure these federal roads revert to the states without much delay.

The Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and National Assembly should ensure that in the new Revenue Allocation template, each of the 36 states receives at least 1.5 per cent from the Federation Account.

This is a win-win situation for the Federal Government and all the 36 states of the federation. And if a state governor decides to steal his state’s money rather than invest in social services, then his own people who see how some other governors have judiciously spent their own funds will one day rise up against the governor.

If, for instance, you visit Ogun for an event and you see the international standard roads, the flyovers, etc.; you are aware that there is security, free education, etc.; and you also know that the governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, receives a pittance from the Federation Account, will you not ask what your own governor has done with your state’s money? With 25 per cent, the Federal Government should now concentrate on core federal matters such as foreign affairs, currency, maritime shipping, defence, etc. while most of the responsibilities are devolved to the states.

This will make the FG stronger and efficient, a beacon of excellent service delivery and an exemplar of institutional development. The President will even have the rest of mind to make Nigeria a major player in international affairs. •Soyombo, a media practitional and public affairs commentator, sent this piece via densityshow@yahoo.com



4 Comments
  • Princely Adeleye

    Mr Writer, try harder next time. This write-up is a non-starter.
    There are so many jobless professionals in Nigeria. They also seek attention by writing a supposedly eye catching piece.

    How good is the road to your home town?.
    I live in Ogun State. If you want indulge yourself in writing for a living, please carry out some kind of investigation before going to publish your writings.

    I’m not too sure which Federal road that you are displaying your unchecked emotions on.
    Take a trip from Lagos to Abuja(by road), and do another piece(with pictures). Take another trip from Lagos to Port Harcourt (again, by road), and repeat your write up with pictures.

    We Yorubas are very hypocritical by nature and by default by design. We will never speak the truth no matter how educated that we are.

    I hope that you are not one of those who will tell members of your family that you can only have a meeting with them provided that they live in Gbagada, in Lagos State. Should any of them live in Ajegunle, close to Sango-Ota, in Ogun State, they must first come into “town”(Ikeja).

  • pmagroup

    The problem of Federal Roads in Nigeria is as a result of most of our leaders do not care for the citizens. This should not be a problem to mange Federal Roads. Take for instance, do you know that there is no toll gate from Imo State to Lagos likewise from Kano to Lagos, why not privatize all this road, people will built toll gate, drivers will pay, people will be employed and the roads will be taken care-of. It is time we should think on how to solve our problems by doing what is the best to do. The issue of roads in Nigeria is because nobody cares and most of this our leaders are using flights, so they do not know what ordinary man is going through in Nigeria. For instance , electricity in Nigeria, i don’t see the reason why at this modern century we do not have steady lights in Nigeria, what else will drive development if not light for people to know where the are going, it is very fortunate that we live in a country where the big “Oga’s”, does not care for the welfare of others. I am not seeing any of this as a problem but lack of commitment to humanity and doing what is good. Nelson Mandela, was good not that in his life he did not do anything bad, but he see need for good and embrace it. Let us , our leaders and most of the elites in Nigeria start thinking that nor-matter what, you send your children to study in the USA, at the end of the day, you are still a Nigeria. let us come with our mind to develop Nigeria, we have all that we need in life to live a blessed life, but few among us is capitalizing on it, why the majority is suffering. Change we need in life is in our hands but how to activate the change to be working is all we need. In Nigeria, we have alot of crude oil, exporting this crude oil to other countries and we are importing fuel which is a by-product of crude oil, what a mess we are into it in Nigeria and i do not see any change forth coming if the basic needs of life is not addressed. We need water, light, good road, hospital, education which is the key to every developing nation. The Government should look to other countries how they are doing and see a way out to improve our country, mostly in terms of Electricity and other needed amenities. Another point is Kidnapping which is like a by2sell business in Nigeria, this goes a long way to show you how down we are in terms of security, it worries me a lot been a Nigeria and all this is happening in my life time and i hope that we can do more to bring the change we need. In Nigeria, if you have money you can hire the Government (Mobile Police) to protect you, but you are not a politician or working for the government, why hiring the government to protect you instead of private security. USA is USA because of what the people put into it, not what USA put into people. Our leaders, take a leaf from other countries and see a way out to solve the problem of our country, instead of looting the money which you know that in this life, that money will not finish.

  • emmanuel kalu

    This article make a little sense, the problem is not with policies, it is with implementation. everything that is not happening in nigeria is due to lack of implementation and innovative thinking. yes the federal govt need to reduce the federal road network. reduce the number of federal hwy, and hand it over to states. then allocate a percentage out of the nationals coffer that would go only for road maintainence to each state.

  • citiguy12

    This mess started way back in Obasanjo’s time when Lagos state was being “punished” by the Abuja government. And of course Jonathan did a great job of slavishly continuing the dreaded PDP political policy. That’s how we got here. SHAME !

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