Is Nigeria Committed to the Trans West African Highway?

Is Nigeria Committed to the Trans West African Highway?

By Oduche Azih

Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

Recently I read again the usual lament about the deplorable state‎ of the Enugu-Onitsha federal expressway. This one was by my friend Ikem Okuhu on Facebook.

As expected, the reaction was fast and furious with fingers pointed (correctly) at the Federal Government, a major Southeast representative in the Federal Executive Council in the person of Dr Chris Ngige and of course the various Senators, Representatives and others sleeping on duty at Abuja.

I do not intend to toe that line.

When Ikem stated “the only road linking Enugu and Anambra States,” he completely missed the point. The tragedy is not local. The Onitsha-Enugu-Abakaliki-Ogoja-Mamfe highway, just like the Shagamu-Ore-Ofosu-Benin highway, is part of the Trans West African Highway to which our government committed over 30 years ago. The agreements have been observed more in the breach. This is the only sensible way of looking at the omissions and commissions of those who pretend to govern Nigeria over the years.

That Ndigbo occupy a particular stretch of this long road that starts at Dakar, in Senegal, is neither here nor there. I recently followed a report on Al Jazeera concerning the upgrade of the Mamfe-Douala segment of this very highway, on the Cameroonian side of the border. The thrust of the report was the fantastic economic impact on the lives of the people.

Stupidity will not allow our rulers to realize that if all the major roads in the Southeast are properly built and maintained AND TOLLED, we may be able to collect enough revenue to build roads in other parts of Nigeria where the road projects are not exactly bankable. After all, why on earth is it that it is only at the SECOND NIGER BRIDGE that state government participation and eventual toll collection is being envisaged?

Mind you, I do not intend to address the issue of equity in this particular commentary. I have dealt with that in previous outings. The truth is that whichever way you look at it, the Southeast rocks! An editor in one of the national dailies, writing on a different matter, made reference to the Wise Men of the East. We are not exactly all wise, but our people cannot deliberately sit on the floor when they can afford chairs, or something to that effect. The same applies to roads.

In the final analysis, the Federal Government should, in the spirit of fiscal federalism, get out of the business of road construction, toll collection and maintenance. I do not derive any pleasure blaming an “outsider” over a matter that my brothers and I can take care of ourselves, if only we can get rid of this stupid and rigid structure.

Oduche Azih,

Lagos

 

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