Nigerians from all works of life have continued to lament the deplorable state of roads across the country, with many describing road travel as ‘a nightmare.’
As a demonstration of its commitment to infrastructure, the federal government, in four years budgeted N1trillion for the development of roads nationwide.
Buhari’s words at inauguration
Upon assuming office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration would concentrate on developing the country’s infrastructure which had suffered neglect under successive administrations.
The president also said government would raise the percentage allocation for capital expenditure in future.
He said: “To deliver our development objectives, we have increased the capital expenditure portion of the budget from N557 billion in the 2015 budget to N1.8 trillion in the 2016 budget.
“For the first time in many years, capital expenditure will represent 30 per cent of our total budget.
“In future years, we intend to raise the percentage allocation for capital expenditure.”
Buhari further said the measure became necessary in fulfillment of the government’s promise to align expenditure to long-term objectives and government’s commitment to sustainable development.
In line with the administration’s position, Blueprint’s checks revealed that the Buhari-led federal government voted huge sum for road construction and repairs.
Our findings revealed that in 2016, the sum of N301.8 billion was allocated for road construction, in 2017; it went up to N347.5 billion before dropping to N159.5billion and N262 billion in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
And for 2020 fiscal year, the federal government will be spending N315.5 billion for works and housing.
Non-release of allocated fund
Checks by our correspondent revealed that the federal government released a total of N504.1 billion out of the sum of N890 billion that was appropriated for the construction and rehabilitation of federal roads across the country in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
A breakdown of the amount showed the sums of N198.3 billion, N177 billion and N128.784 billion respectively were released out of the N260 billion, N274 billion and N356 billion appropriated for the three years.
Even in 2019, a total of N650 billion was released for capital projects as against N1.24 trillion allocated to capital expenditure for the year.
Top government sources said with revenue stream that continues to shrink due to commodity price volatility and oil theft, it has become difficult for the government to achieve its projection.
According to Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, SAN, the works sector received only 53 per cent of the over N300 billion appropriated to it in 2016.
The former Lagos state governor said the ministry’s capacity to implement the budget had been directly related to the monies released to it.
“It is not the question of lack of capacity but the question of how much revenue the country earns and how they can give to us to pursue our work.
“We received only 53 per cent on the allocation; there is the possibility that we will get more before the current budget fully winds down,” the minister said on 2016 budget.
‘Allocation, drop in ocean’
Speaking to Blueprint in a telephone interview, an economist, Mr. Friday Efih, said the amount of money allocated to road construction and rehabilitation was small compared to the deplorable state of roads nationwide.
While acknowledging the massive improvement in capital expenditure (capex) allocation since the present administration assumed power, Efih likened the amount to a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to fix the country’s roads.
He said: “When you travel round the country you will discover that the country does not have roads. Name it, from the North to the West, the South and the East, the story is the same. Bad road is making travelling a nightmare for Nigerians that use the road.
“In all fairness, one cannot blame this administration because if past governments’ allocation was as high as what this administration allocates to capital expenditure; maybe the roads won’t have been as bad as they are at the moment.”
In a chat with one of our correspondents, a driver, Mr. Ojo Damilare, who just returned from Agbor, Delta state, said apart from Abuja-Lokoja-Obajana junction section of the road, all other sessions were in deplorable conditions.
“However, from Iyahmo to Auchi section, it is a smooth road but after Auchi T-junction to Ewu village road, the rest is in deplorable condition.”
Damilare also noted that the road from Ewu village linking Uromi was also motorable; saying seven kilometres after Uromi to Agbor was also in a deplorable condition.
Also, an Abuja-based journalist, Olalekan Awojodu, told one of our reporters that the road from Omu-Oke- Ekirinade was in a deplorable condition, and called on the federal government to urgently repair it.
Also, another commuter, Malam Ibrahim Abubakar, who just returned from Bida, Niger state Sunday, lamented the deplorable condition of Minna-Bida road.
He also said the road from Lambatta to Minna was also in a deplorable condition, but called on the government to urgently fix the Minna-Bida to give motorists and travellers some reprieve.
BMO blames poor state on budget delay
When contacted for comment, chairman, Buhari Media Organisation, Niyi Akinsiju, said the unnecessary budget delay by the 8th Assembly, revenue shortfall, were among others, responsible for the bad state of roads in some parts of the country.
“No doubt, some inconveniences are being experienced across the country; some on account of the ongoing construction, rehabilitation or renovation of roads, while some on account of bad roads. It’s unfortunate that we found ourselves as a people and country at this point.
“This is the direct consequence of the infrastructural deficit we are talking about. This is the outcome of the abandonment of more than 10,000 kilometres federal government roads of road through to 2015, the fall in federally collected revenue, the unnecessary delays in passage of budgets are some of the factors responsible for the inconveniences being experienced by Nigerians on our roads.
“But I am confident the narrative will be different and better, going forward. The return to the normal January to December national budget circle, the assurance of increased revenue, the passage of the amendment to the procurement act and such other acts and policies will aggregate to alleviate whatever inconvenience Nigerians are going through at this time
Need for synergy among 3 tiers of govt.
In another reaction, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former presidential aspirant of the party in the 2019 elections, Dr Abubakar Alkali called for enhanced synergy and collaboration between the three tiers of government to tackle the current deplorable state of the nation’s roads.
Alkali commended the efforts of the Buhari administration in infrastructural development, particularly road construction.
He, however, said more needed to be done, particularly on rural roads, at the local government and other grassroots levels.
The politician lamented that despite the over N1 trillion had been spent on road construction in the last four years, the nation’s roads still remain in a sorry state.
He, however, attributed the development to serial neglect by past administrations which, according to him, the current government was trying to make amends.
The party chieftain also called for a strategic and periodic road maintenance plan as against the current ‘fire brigade approach’ where roads were built and left to develop serious potholes before being maintained.
Alkali cited the allocation of N169.88 billion in the 2020 budget for road construction and rehabilitation as the right step in the right direction, particularly the rehabilitation of the 9th Mile-Orokam Road in Enugu state, the reconstruction of the Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Kontagora-Makera and the Lagos-Sagamu-Ibadan dual carriageway.
He said: ‘Infrastructural development should start from the grassroots, hence the need to give priority to rural roads,” and therefore called on states and local government’s greater participation in road construction across the country.
Alkali further stated the need to allocate more funds to local governments to enable the third tier handle road construction/rehabilitation directly at the grassroots level.
“The current system places too much emphasis on the urban areas most of which are already developed. There is the need for a balance and more funds allocated to rural areas for peace, tranquillity and sustainable national development.”
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenged the APC-led government to show the roads the administration put in place in the last four years.
In a phone chat with one of our correspondents, PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan said the APC government has failed the Nigerian people.
He said: “Where is the road? It is not enough for the federal government to say it has spent over N1trillion on Nigeria roads. They should show us the roads. Where are the roads?
“They should list out the roads and let Nigeria point to them and even judge them. They should tell us the roads they spent the money on in Nigeria. If you claimed that from Akure to Abuja you have spent so and so amount, Nigerians will reject what you claimed you have done.
“It is a total dismay for the APC government to come out and said it has spent such amount on our roads without anything to show for it. This government is a government of deceit. They have been in government for 5 years and they cannot point at a single project they have done.
“Nigerians already know and they have come to a consensus that the APC government has failed.”