By Suleiman Umaru
When former President Muhammadu Buhari commended Dave Umahi,a former governor of Eboyi and now President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ‘s minister of works during a visit to the state where he had commissioned some landmark projects and laid the foundations stones for the Eboyi city and flyover bridges nobody took him serious.
The then Nigierian President who could not hide his feelings had said that he was not surprised at the standard of work in the state because the two-time governor is an’’engineer of international repute’’.
This may have informed why Tinubu, has appointed him as the minister of Works to replicate what he had done in the south eastern state. Being a workaholic that he was when he was the governor of Eboyi state which may have won the heart of the then Katsina state born Nigerian President may have informed why he had swung into action barely 48 hours of his Inauguration at the Presidential Villa by the President alongside other ministers.
The minister may have kick started his ministerial job as he had promised ‘’to redesign the death trap Lokoja- Ajaokuta road within the next weeks’’, assuring the people of the north central state that the rehabilitation of the road will commence immediately.
The action packed former governor of Eboyi, home of Late Akanu Ibiam , who had taken time out of his busy schedules on Wednesday, August 22, 2023, to inspect the Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT – koton Karfe road and the Ganaja-Ajaokuta roads, may not been happy over what he saw on ground at the six roads , described as ‘’the worst during flood as it had been submerged by water making in impassable for motorists from the south-south and south -east parts of the country to come into the northern part of the country.
A ministry of Works’ source had confirmed that the road since the 2022 last flood disaster some portion of the road had been destroyed but the Buhari’s administration had no answer to it. As a prelude to fixing the road, which many believe would gulp billions of naira, the minister was said to have assured Yahaya Bello, the Kogi state governor and the people of the state that they have no cause to worry any longer about the poor state of the federal road as ‘’flyover will be constructed at the section of the Koton -Karfe road which was destroyed by flood.
His major worry was that since the flooding of 2022 the Lokoja-Ajaokuta road has remained a difficult terrain for trucks laden Containers and other categories of trucks and vehicles including buses coming from the south-south and the south-east to pass to the northern part of the country.
Many would want the minister of works who have started well to also endeavour to pay attention on the East -west road which is a major link between the south eastern ,south – south and south western geopolitical regions.Babatude Fashola, a former governor of Lagos state and immediate past minister of Works and Housing had said that construction work on the East -West will gulp N200 billion, including an additional expenditure of N13 billion on the failed Eleme axis of the road in Rivers state.
The former minister had said that the funding for the N200 million road project was under a tax credit scheme arrangement between the Federal government and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas , NLNG, though it was a full government project but that was how far he could go as the road remains a death trap
The then minister of Works and Housing had said that that NLNG, would be investing on the federal road road project and the government would pay them back for it by giving them tax waivers, which Dangote Construction Company is currently enjoying for constructing some of the federal roads across the country. Many had expected the Project Manager, Julius Beger to expedite action in constructing the multi-billion road project but had failed to do so.
Recall that the project contractor had promised at the tail end of the Buhari’s administration to make the East -West road accessible, so that motorists coming from Asaba, Ore, Benin, going to the south east and beyond will no longer experience problem on the road. The company had promised to shut down the road for the umpteenth time so that it can finish the 4 Km road that it is trying to build and also complete the interchanges still under construction.
The former Lagos state governor may have gladdened the heart of the residents of the south eastern states geopolitical region when he had said that the target for the government to deliver the project was in the second quarter of 2023. The second quarter of 2023, has come and gone but no sign of the East-West road going to be completed any time soon.
The bad state of the Federal roads across the nooks and crannies of the country was so worrisome that That Olabode George, a retired Nigerian Air Force Commodore and former Chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, during ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, had asked Fashola, the then minister of Works and Housing ‘’to fix the roads urgently rather than postulating about 2023’’, noting that these roads have not be maintained for years.
Let us hope that Engr. Umahi, the incumbent minister, of Works will make the difference. Given the ministerial assurance that ‘’a permanent solution will be applied to all federal roads across the country to ameliorate the suffering faced by motorists during the rainy season’’, which analysts had said that it is signal that he will deliver on his mandate, to rehabilitate all the federal roads that require immediate attention, by the ministry under his Leadership.
He had re-echoed the Presidential directive that any roads constructed under the administration with the new technology should be able to last for the next 50 years as nobody is going to maintain it. He has made it clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’money will be saved and rightly spent under the Tinubu’s administration compared to previous administrations.
The minister who had alluded to the fact that as Eboyi state governor, he had constructed roads that could last for 50 years without maintenance is optimistic of replicating same at the Federal level this time around. Addressing contractors to be willing to make changes in the country’s infrastructure system, the minister who had boasted about contractors’ accessibility to him when he was governor of Eboyi state stated that ‘’nothing has changed’’.
He noted that as state governor, he had only one line and ‘’responded to all messages and phone calls’’ warning against ‘’misappropriation of public funds, stressing that there are consequences attached to the act .He was said to have made it clear to the contractors that anybody taking money for any project must be ready to do the job and not abandon it mid- way as that will not be tolerated. The former Eboyi state governor who is happy serving under the Tinubu’s administration as the minister of works had said that the President will ‘’allocate funds for the construction of quality roads across the country’’. He asserted that the significant issue encountered in road construction nation-wide is ‘’the construction cost’’
. Already he has urged the civil servants ‘’to key into his agenda of providing quality infrastructure for the country, warning that ‘’no civil servant has the capacity to frustrate his efforts’’. He may have made the technocrats to understand that they can keep his file in their offices for two hours but they can’t try it this time around, noting that he was not answerable to anybody but the Almighty God and President Tinubu, meaning that any person who violatesthe laid down civil service rules and regulations would be dealt with decisively.
Enough on Engr. Umahi plans on how to fix the country’s bad roads abandoned over the years. We turn to the duo: Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, CON, minister of Defence and Bello Matawalle, immediate pastgovernor of Zamfara, described as the home state of the Bandits Group, in the south western geopolitical region. The Defence, minister had vowed ‘’to put in place a paradigm shift to tackle security challenges across the country.
Mohammed Abdulkadiri, in a statement issued on Wednesday, August 23, 2023, had quoted the minister as saying that ‘’it is no longer going to be business as usual for the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West African Province , ISWAP, which has link with the ISIS including the Bandits group in the North western states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna , Katsina, home state of former PPresident of Buhari and Niger the, home state of former military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida , rtd, . The minister may have also sent same message to the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Ibo Security network to be ready to face fire.
Appealing to all security agencies to eschew rivalries in joint operational environment towards ending the country’s security challenges , the minister was said to have assured that ‘’all actionable intelligence , pending committee reports and recommendations on ways to end insecurity in the country will be revisited and duly reviewed’’.
The minister, while promising remarkable changes in the nation’s defence architecture, had said that ‘’there will be monthly meeting with the security agencies to rub minds. Matawale, the minister of state who had said that multi-faceted approaches will be deployed to checkmate the terrorists had declared that the nation’s armed forces will be reinvigorated under the current dispensation.
Hid not stop there. Had said that more fighting equipment will be prioritised, adding that local community participation in national defence and improved regional collaboration ‘’to stem the waves of cross border crimes will be vigorously pursued in safeguarding the nation’s territorial integrity’’.