The matter of the failure of government to conclude Nigeria’s much-talked-about East-West Road, which kicked off in 2006 and is to span 413 kilometres, with the promise to deliver incalculable benefits to the country, leaves a sour taste in the mouth, to say the least.
The proposed coastal road is structured to run from Epe in Lagos State to Calabar in Cross River State.
The deliverables from the road project include a significant shortening of travel time from East to West of Nigeria and points between. Also included is a reduction of accidents, many of which cost life, limb and material of economic value. Further included in the benefits are a boost in trade and commerce, job creation, a reduction in the percentage of farm produce spoilage en route markets on account of bad roads, and the lowering of the cost of food and other goods to market, as a result of lower transport costs, the growth of industries on account cheaper and speedy delivery of raw materials, as well as the distribution of finished products, among others.
For these reasons, a good road network connecting the entire Niger Delta region of Nigeria and the rest of the country is viewed as the beginning of economic development and emancipation in the region and, indeed, the entirety of the nation.
Given the marshy coastal background comparable only to Lagos, South-West Nigeria, it will amount to an exercise in futility attempting to unlock the trapped potential in the region without a strategic road network linking the region to the economic hub of the country.
In realization of this fact, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), in 1998, proposed the construction of East-West coastal road. To further emphasise the strategic importance of the road, the international conference on the development of the Niger Delta Region held in Port Harcourt from 10-12 the December 2001 under the aegis of NDDC and UNDP concluded that without the proposed road, no meaningful development would likely take place in the region.
But the project has continued to drag without any meaningful progress.
It was, therefore, a rekindling of hope when the Senate recently set up an adhoc committee to investigate the back-to-back failure of every attempt of governments to complete the East-West Road since 2006.
The committee, headed by Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi), was on a tour of states of the South-South in the past week. It visited Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States, where the governors lent their voices to appeals for the government to complete the road, given its strategic importance.
“The East-West Road is very strategic to all of us in this region. With what we have contributed to the nation in the past and with the region contributing the highest wealth to the nation today, it is proper that attention is paid to this region,” Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, said when he received the Senate adhoc committee.
His Bayelsa State counterpart, Douye Diri, lamented that the Niger Delta has been abandoned for too long, “because you cannot explain that an East-West road has been under construction for decades, and it is still ongoing. Because of the flood last year, Bayelsa was cut off from the rest of the country, and up till now, those parts that were damaged on the Rivers State axis and the Delta State axis have not still been fixed.”
For Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, it was time to ensure actual commencement of reconstruction work on the East-West Road to end the intractable sufferings experienced by the people using the road.
We align ourselves with these governors and join in urging the Senate to go beyond holding public sitting on the matter and move to actual construction of the road.
We also agree with Senator Mpigi Barinada (PDP-Rivers), who moved the motion on “Urgent Need for Construction of Onne, Eleme communities Axis of the East-West Road” that led to the setting up of the Senate adhoc committee, that, if need be, the government should seek alternative sources of funding a critical national project like the East-West Road. According to him, there are critical infrastructure and industries located along the road corridor, including two refineries, two petrochemical industries, an Oil and Gas Economic Free Zone, a deep-sea port, NPA and many other businesses and industries that contribute huge sums of needed revenue for the nation.
It is good that the Senate has taken the initiative. When the adhoc committee submits its findings, we expect the new government of President Bola Tinubu to move decisively and with commitment to complete this all-important project and write itself a good and early testimonial. The time is now.