A very close friend and Comrade send the following message to me this morning (Monday, November 26): “Just read that FG award Abuja – Mkd (Makurdi) dual carriageway for USD 542 million. This translates into NGN 195,120; 878,918 m NGN.”
The exclamation “Haba Dan Uwa”, meaning, why this my brother, followed the message. Without looking at the value of the figures and attempt to make any sense of it, I simply replied; “why should we collapse to this pedestrian mentality? Assuming it is true, what other details do we have to influence our judgement? We should rise above this national madness pls.”
I thought I was making a clear point about the need to ensure that our judgement is informed by other details and not just some financial figures. Unfortunately, my friend and Comrade went personal by reminding me about his over 30 years of engineering experience, which can not be reduced as pedestrian. At this point, I had to caution myself that I am talking to a truly important friend and Comrade who, together, we share a lifelong dream of a society driven by justice, equality and respect for the human person irrespective of gender, religion, ethnicity and all the divisive factors that have today characterized our country.
With such caution in mind, I responded, “It isn’t my place to judge you. But since you have concluded, I trust your judgement and I accept guilt as a member of APC without even the privilege of detailed information. This perhaps is the new price of friendship and comradeship.” I thought this will close the matter. Alas! My dear friend and comrade responded that “I thought I should bring to your notice a potential source of embarrassment. As a civil servant, to have survived for thirty years is evidence of resilience to political magic.”
I just had to again caution myself that it is needless for this friend and comrade to go this far in his reminders. With that in mind, I replied that “it will be completely wrong to judge you. It is even more embarrassing that you are reminding me about your accomplishments. The only reason you are coming to me with this information is that I am a member of APC. Maybe I should have simply asked, what is it that can be done? But get me right, if this also come through as questioning your knowledge and accomplishments, I am sorry, don’t bother responding pls.”
His response was, “no. Your initial reaction is natural. I don’t hold it against you. These are trying time.” What is natural about my reaction? Is it the part asking for details or the part affirming my membership of APC? This has left me completely confused. Should I therefore just accept that contract for Abuja – Mkd (Makurdi) dual carriageway has been awarded at the cost of USD 542 million? The Naira value can always be computed and to that extent, I want to ignore the figures – NGN 195,120; 878,918 m NGN.
Somehow, I told myself that maybe I need to ask colleagues for more information, and here is what I got:
Under the 2017 FG budget, investment of 2.5 billion Naira was recorded for the Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road. This is estimated distance of 58 kilometers. Correspondingly, in the 2018 FG budget, additional funding was released for expansion when the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing made the request for the award of the Akwanga-Jos-Bauchi-Gombe road, which was approved for the sum of N348, 595, 000, 000 (N348.595 billion), for a total of 420.6 kilometers and the project scope is the expansion of the current two single lane highway into a dual carriage way. (Announced on August 8, 2018)
My source revealed that: “What is significant about this project is that it completes the integration of the North-Central zone with the South-East and the North-East, having earlier approved contracts for the Abuja-Keffi road and the Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road all in the North-Central as well as approved the 9th Mile-Enugu-Makurdi road which connects the South-east to the North-Central.”
The FERMA rehabilitation story is in the link below.
May be this is a completely different information from the one my friend and comrade is referring to. But if my information is correct, the portion under reference can only be a fraction of the combined Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi and Akwanga-Jos-Bauchi-Gombe road. Note that already Abuja – Lafia Road has been dualized. Inclusive of the N2.5 billion expended under the 2017 FG budget on the Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road, this would have brought the total cost of constructing the over 420 kilometers road to about N351 billion.
Let me say that, I am not an engineer and my knowledge of road construction is very poor. However, I think as a people and as a nation, we are allowing our anger against our governments and public officials to take over our sense of judgements. We tend to relate with each other based on a binary constructed by such anger. This binary dominates our consciousness and is used to determine how we relate with one another. It is true, we have all manner of justifications for our anger against governments and public officials. However, our anger mustn’t dictate how we relate with one another.
Now, back to the issue of road construction, I want to ask, what should be the acceptable cost of constructing 420 kilometers “two single lane highway into a dual carriage way?” Is the approved cost of N348.595 billion really embarrassing? What is even our government’s scorecard for road construction in the last few years? How much has been budgeted, how much has been released and how many kilometers have actually been constructed?
Our anger may be informed by the truth behind answers to these questions. Could such anger therefore be justifiably applied to projects and their costs being executed by the Buhari APC government? Perhaps it is true, these are trying times. Does it therefore mean that every information about government and public officials must not be questioned? Or simply because we are not happy with our governments and public officials, we should accept every negative publicity against our governments?
It is so difficult now to engage in public debate on assessments of government initiatives without our anger dictating how we engage the debate. Most times, this anger is applied based on our leanings, real or perceived. To the extent that some of us are known partisan actors, these angers get projected in our direction, because we are adjudged to be accomplices. I accept guilt as a member of APC but will demand that kindly let me have the details of allegations and I will exercise my right of reply!
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Progressive Governors Forum