Drama as politicians clash over Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin federal road intervention
It is no news that the bad road from Kabba to Egbe in Kogi State linking Ilorin in Kwara State has brought untold hardship to road users and the people of Okunland living in the area.
The deplorable state of the road has been responsible for heinous criminal activities on the axis including armed robbery, kidnapping and rape. It has also hindered the mainly farming community from moving their products to markets.
Although contracts for reconstruction of the 48-year-old Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road, last reconstructed by the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) in 1991, have been awarded four times by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Executive Council, such approvals amounted to paying lip service to the road project, as they were not backed with allocation of funds in the budgets.
Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, has repeatedly taken up the collapsed road with necessary federal authorities who have not yielded to the call.
Amid the age-long clamour for the Federal Government to pay attention to the road and the plight of the people within the area, which unfortunately has not received any attention, public spirited individuals from Okunland over the years have taken it up on themselves to commit own resources in a bid to ameliorate the sufferings of the people through offering palliatives. This includes land scraping and grading with the use of laterites, among others.
These private supports usually come towards the end of the year when the rains are gone, to make the road more motorable for travellers during the yuletide.
Of recent, the road, especially, the 25-kilometre stretch from Aiyetoro-Gbedde to Oyi River has remained impassible due to the heavy rainfall in the past few months.
The unsavoury condition of the road had forced motorists to use bush paths as a detour as well as compelled prominent groups, such as the Apapo Omo Yagba, the umbrella Yagba WhatsApp platform to initiate a N35 million intervention fund to be contributed by members to tackle the federal road menace within Yagba territory.
Residents of Yagba however lamented the nonchalant attitude of their brothers from other parts of Okunland, particularly Kabba/Bunu and Ijumu Local Councils towards the road problem. They wondered why the poor state of Kabba-Egbe road does not matter to rich citizens and politicians alike from other parts of Kogi West as Yagba Federal Constituency issue.
This is on the backdrop that the said road also serves travellers from Southwest, North-central and links entire North. In the past months, motorists from Abuja, Lokoja, Obajana and Kabba travelling to Kwara State have abandoned the collapsed Kabba-Ekiti-Ilorin road for Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road, thereby complicating matters. Trucks owned by the Cement Company at Obajana worsen the already bad road.
Meanwhile, efforts by individuals to rescue the road from Aiyetoro to Egbe is the subject of controversy between two prominent citizens from the area, Hon Leke Abejide, current member of the House of Representatives for Yagba Federal Constituency and his predecessor, Hon Sunday Karimi. Their supporters are not left out of the imbroglio.
Hon Abejide who is of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) is believed to desire second term, while Karimi who served two terms in the Green Chamber between 2011 and 2019 is aspiring for the Senate seat of Kogi West Senatorial District, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Karimi and Abejide had their backgrounds in the private sector. But while Abejide won election to succeed Karimi in the HOR in 2019, Karimi (who did not re-contest) has since gone back to his private businesses.
Come 2023, the two politicians will not be aspiring to the same political office, but that will not remove the dark underbelly of bickering occasioned by opposition politics and ego trip. This came to full glare, recently when Karimi announced the arrival of equipment he mobilised to site and had invitations sent out on the social media for the flag-off of palliative works to start from the River Oyi axis, near Ejiba, Yagba West Local Government, which is the most terrible part of the road.
According to Karimi, the palliatives would be done to Iluhagba, near Aiyetoro-Gbedde in Ijumu Local Government. The announcement came on the heels of similar interventions he had carried out in the past weeks within Yagba communities including the Egbe-Pategi road and culverts damaged by gully erosion along the federal road.
Karimi, in his message contained in the invitation to the flag-off ceremony said while road rehabilitation is not the duty of individuals but government’s, his intervention is borne out of his passion for his people and to alleviate their suffering occasioned by the collapsed road.
His words: “I have watched the sufferings of my people each time I travel on that road, which
I do often. I have also been told of stories of robberies, killings, kidnappings and raping of women on that axis of the Kabba-Ilorin Federal Road. The Iluhagba -Egbe section is just too bad. Too terrible and my people have suffered this terrible situation for too long. We have made several interventions on this road including that of our Executive Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, which have not yielded any positive fruit. I have decided therefore to undertake this rehabilitation, which is palliative, so as to ameliorate this suffering.
“Our people, who are mainly farmers can no longer move their farm products outside these areas. They cannot access markets across Okunland. Whatever they produce, which is their mainstay, cannot be sold or purchased again. This is too bad and deserves attention. That is why I have taken it upon myself to intervene in my own little way. I am not a government but this rehabilitation will enable them to move around with their products. We will still continue to mount pressure on the Federal Government to pay the necessary attention to the road.”
Trouble loomed when Karimi announced the arrival of equipment and set Friday November 5 for the flag-off.
But soon after the announcement by Karimi, Abejide’s media team went on the social media space to equally announce that the incumbent rep had paid contractors for the same job with the assurance that equipment was billed to arrive site on November 3. It also stated that the project would be flagged off same Friday, November 5.
According to the statement from Hon Abejide’s media office, plans had been afoot three weeks earlier and the road project will take about 50 days to complete. This is in addition to the promises made earlier that he would construct the road in Yagba South East, Isanlu Palace road and Ajaforunti- Egbe market-Pategi road. He also promised to do N5m worth projects in each of 71 communities across Yagba land.
Abejide, in a statement he personally signed and circulated in the social media, on November 4 said: “I have been making frantic efforts to see that our road from Aiyetoro to Egbe is constructed as awarded by Federal Government especially during this dispensation that I am part of, but the story we are getting especially from the Minister of Works is paucity of funds and I felt it is not going to help us anymore. I decided to send my team on Infrastructure for inspection of the road and I equally paid Channels TV to visit the road to call the attention of Mr President and concerned Nigerians to know what we are passing through in our fatherland, which they did.
Having seen the report especially from Iluagba to Isanlu, I knew the problem is beyond palliative measure but total construction. I have taken it upon myself to construct the 15 Kilometers from Iluagba to Isanlu starting from today (November 4). I have paid the contractors substantial deposit yesterday (November 3) to move to site and by end of today equipment will get to the site. It will take us approximately 50 days to complete the project because they have to first bulldoze the road by scraping off completely the remaining little broken tarred portions and expand the Road to Isanlu before real work will commence. By the time I finish, what will remain is just to lay asphalt on it which is the final stage and if the contractor didn’t do their work as soon as we are done doing ours, we shall complete the rest and take them to EFCC for taking money without projects execution. As you are aware and equally know that my word is a bond. Whatever I promise to do is what I will do and I want to emphasize once again that ALL RURAL ROADS in Yagba Federal Constituency will get attention from coming year and I will complete them God willing before the expiration of my tenure and plan again on how to continually maintain them as long as I am in government.”
Karimi, however went on with his own palliative works from Oyi River with assurance that the job will stretch to Iluhagba. The flag-off of the palliative works started at Oyi near Ejiba, performed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Folashade Ayoade.
Addressing the gathering of people and government officials from across the five local government areas in Okunland and surrounding communities who witnessed the flag-off ceremony, Karimi dissociated his gesture from politics, saying he was not in competition with “anybody”. He recalled that during his second term in the House of Representatives he had mounted pressure on the ministry of works in conjunction with other parliamentarians from Kogi West. He said the efforts succeeded in pushing the road project to be included in the phase II of the Sukuk funding, adding that upon leaving the National Assembly in 2019, he and Abejide met, when the latter paid him a visit, where it was agreed between them that Abejide would continue from where he (Karimi) left.
The contending individual efforts led to hot exchange between supporters of the two gladiators over the propriety of the interventions.
Dramatically, the initial tension that greeted an impending clash of two flag-offs happening same day was doused when Abejide, through his media office called off his flag-off scheduled for Friday November 5. The statement however said that work would continue from Iluagba to Isanlu, as planned. Pictures of an Excavator, machines and granites stationed at the Iluhagba end, were on display.
In his reaction, Karimi described the development as good omen, even as he enthused that the two projects eventually would melt at a point and be to the overall benefits of all road users and Yagba residents who craved a better road network, their well being and safety.
MEANWHILE, a senior staff in the roads department at the Kogi State Ministry of Works who does not want his name to be associated with politics has faulted some of the claims regarding individual intervention in the rehabilitation of federal roads.
While he admitted failure on the part of government to fix federal roads in Okunland, he noted that statements credited to some individuals regarding the extent of rehabilitation or reconstruction of federal roads in the state are off the mark.
According to him, 10 years ago, the cost of rehabilitating with asphalt lay of the road from Obajana to Egbe was in the region of N8bn. On the 15 kilometres from Iluhagba to Isanlu, he said the cost valuation of the roadwork, asphalt lay inclusive, would cost between N300m and N500m per kilometre. Invariably, he put the total cost of reconstructing 15 kilometres at approximately N4.5 billion which according to him, is beyond an individual’s capacity. He went further to affirm that at the level of reconstruction of federal roads, there are relevant laws limiting the involvement of individuals in building federal roads.
According to him: “Individuals cannot just take up the reconstruction or rehabilitation of federal roads. Under the new Highway Development and Management Initiative of the Federal Government, private individuals will be permitted to build, operate or maintain assets only on some federal highways that are considered to be economically viable and are up for concession by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission. Interested persons or companies and groups can form consortiums of road construction or road maintenance companies and be certificated by the regulatory body before they can participate. The government is doing that to ensure that its assets were entrusted into capable hands.”
With the politics of 2023 up to the hilt, in the public view, such gestures as the Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road interventions coming from politicians easily pale into a case of philantropism as a standard of political aspiration. But as Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye, chairman, Elders Committee, Apapo Omo Yagba puts it, “What is important is that at the end of these multiple efforts, we have a motorable road from Egbe to Aiyetoro Gbedde.”
“Much as I deeply appreciate the gestures from our frontline politicians, there is need for proper coordination, cooperation and collaboration for cost-effectiveness and better outcome. We must avoid working at cross-purposes while seeking to achieve same objectives. What is important is that at the end of these multiple efforts, we have a motorable road from Egbe to Aiyetoro Gbedde. I join in appreciating both Honourables Leke Abejide and Sunday Karimi for their public-spirited interventions,” he said.