Federal Govt Should Hands Off Roads



Recently, there was a mild altercation between President Goodluck Jonathan and the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, on the dichotomy between federal and state roads.

The occasion was the inauguration of the multi-billion naira WEMPCO cold steel plant at Magboro, on the outskirts of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.

It was Governor Amosun who fired the first salvo when he accused federal officials of frustrating the rehabilitation of federal roads in his domain. The Ogun governor while soliciting for federal assistance in the provision of roads infrastructure in his state, disclosed that his administration rehabilitated some federal roads very critical to the economic development of the state, adding that this had not happened without confrontations with officials from the Federal Ministry of Works.

Governor Amosun said officials of Federal Ministry of Works were fond of creating bottlenecks whenever attempts were made to rehabilitate or reconstruct federal roads in the state. He called on the president to do something about this.

Responding to the allegation, President Jonathan who was taken aback by the public condemnation of federal officials, blamed the rift on communication gap between the Ogun State Government and officials of Federal Ministry of Works.

He explained that there should be no controversy at all about a state or local government intervening in any federal road, adding  that any state that intervened in a federal road at the time the federal government was not ready and wanted the federal government to reimburse it, the central government, he said, will only pay the amount planned to be spent on the road. No more, no less.

Moreover, to receive the money, the state or local government must follow its procurement process, President Jonathan added.

This open confrontation between the President and the Ogun State governor took place in the full glare of Chinese officials of the company.

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To us, this show of shame would not have happened in front of foreign officials if the voice of reason had been allowed to prevail in the first place. For a long time, there have been calls for us to practise true federalism. In a federal state, the central government has no business with road construction and rehabilitation. It is the duty of the component units (states) to provide road infrastructure to ease movements within and outside the states.

In the lopsided federalism which we are practising, the federal government has arrogated so much power to itself that it can no longer meet its obligations to the electorate. Many federal roads across the country are so bad that they have become death traps to motorists.

We have complained times without number that the federal government has no business with issues like roads, pools, value added tax, electricity supply, schools, health and a lot of others that it currently struggle with state governments to control.

The federal government, we maintain, has no business with road rehabilitation and construction in the component states. The roads constructed by the federal government should be handed over to the states and the revenue allocation formula adjusted in favour of the states to take care of this additional responsibility and others.

A situation where the states and federal government will be bickering over roads is undesirable and condemnable.

Announcement by the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, on Monday that his ministry spent N120 billion on 32 roads within two years goes to butress our submission that the central government has no business with road construction and rehabilitation.

Most of the roads said to have been rehabilitated are only on paper. The majority of federal roads are in a poor state. The state governments should be empowered to construct and rehabilitate the roads in the interest of the citizens and prevent the kind of embarrassment witnessed in Magboro.

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