Sunday, October 2, 2016 3:27 pm
By Babatunde Raji Fashola
I will also like to emphasize that apart from being the home state of our President, Muhammadu Buhari, Katsina is the home of Daura, a place of very rich history.
Daura reminds me of my history classroom in secondary school in Lagos where I first learnt of the fable of Bayajidda, a hero of Hausa folklore and mythology.
The story tells us how Bayajidda helped to kill a snake that prevented people from drawing water from a well and how the Queen, MagajiyaDaurama, married him out of gratitude, and one of their seven children was named Daura.
Not only must we continue to project this story, and highlight the tourist opportunities here, it is important to connect these stories to the origins of the seven Hausa states and how they evolved into modern Nigeria and the history of what is now known as Katsina State.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is where the work of this council becomes most important, not only to rebuilding Nigeria, but also towards re-integrating Nigerians. I believe that transport infrastructure, such as roads are a fundamental requirement for developing our tourism economy because tourism is about destinations, and if people have difficulty getting to destinations, or it is impossible to do so safely, then tourism will struggle.
But it is not only tourism that will struggle, the larger economy struggle to grow with a poor transport infrastructure. Cost of goods and services will rise and will be passed on to consumers.
Quite apart from this, human and national integration will be affected if we cannot travel, interact and integrate.
We grow apart instead of growing closer. We stand a grave risk of also losing our history if our children cannot travel from Oyo to Kano, or from Katsina to Obudu, and many other beautiful parts of this country.
This is how important our work is when we set out to build road and bridge.
We are actually building the bonds of connectivity of the Nigerian family, we are building relationships that bind us by trade, knowledge and a shared history that leads to understanding and peaceful co-existence.
A recent text message I received from Mrs. Mbuk, on telephone number 0803 451 1827 from Calabar tells this story vividly and I will share it with you.
In her text message sent to me on 22 September 2016 she said: “Good evening Honorable Minister. I am Mrs.Mbuk and I live in Calabar. I wanted to congratulate you on the intervention by NDDC on Calabar-Uyo road. I was able to see my aged mother in Uyo after two long months as the road was impassable. The Acting MD NDDC has shown that we are really in a change era. God will bless her. I have hope that Nigeria will rise again.”
Ladies and gentlemen, as far as the congratulations are concerned, they belong to Mr. President who appointed the Acting MD NDDC, and I say amen to the prayer for the MD in NDDC, because she has shown compassion by intervening to bring relief to a community in need.
It is our responsibility as the Federal Ministry of Works to fix the road and we have commenced the work of the design, preparatory to finalizing the costs and awarding the contract to reconstruct the road.
But while I am still on the subject of these roads and other bad ones, let me say that those roads did not go bad in the last one year. Most of our roads and bridges have not benefitted from routine maintenance for decades.
They had been deteriorating progressively over the years. They were going bad at the time the country was getting richer and selling oil for $100 per barrel of oil.
They went bad at the time our government said it preferred infrastructure of the stomach to real infrastructure.
I know some people do not like to talk about yesterday but I will not stop talking about yesterday because it will help us understand what is happening today and it will help us determine the difference between yesterday and today and give meaning to change.
The story of yesterday is that about 206 (TWO HUNDRED AND SIX) road contracts had been awarded between 2002 – 2014. Their contract value of these roads is about N2.2 Trillion.
Over the last 12 years, only about N700 Billion has been paid, and in the last three years, most, if not all, contractors have not received money for work done.
This was at the time that our economy was supposedly being coordinated, and when we were earning more money from crude oil sales. Instead of budgeting to fund roads, we are now seeing where the money went. Only N18 Billion was budgeted for all federal roads in Nigeria in 2015. That was yesterday.
The first time most contractors are receiving any payment from Government for over 3 (THREE) years was in June and July this year when the Ministry of works paid out N73 Billion to some contractors to return to work and re-engage workers who had been laid off.
Very soon, we will pay some more money as soon as our accounts are credited with the second-quarter release. That is the picture of yesterday and an insight into today. Now let me share the plans for tomorrow and sustainability with you.
In every state of the federation,the Federal Government in the Ministry of Works is represented by personnel who are led by controllers.
Our plan is to challenge and empower the controllers to be more effective and responsive to the states and communities they are posted to; and to hold them to account for the quality of federal roads within their states.
We have met with all federal controllers and they have agreed to take on this responsibility.
Their success will depend on a number of factors, some of which are in the control of the states and some of which are in the control of the Federal Government.
The controllers have been briefed to recognize their roles as ambassadors of the federal government in their states of posting.
They have been mandated to develop closer working relationships with the state governments, the governors, the commissioners responsible for road works and infrastructure, the local government representatives because federal roads traverse local governments, and also the traditional rulers and community leaders through whose domains our federal roads traverse.
So I want to use this meeting and the opportunity of the presence of state representatives to urge you all to develop closer working relationships with your controllers.
They must share with you the information about federal roads in your state, while I expect that you will share with them, your individual state development plans, in order to establish critical interfaces and build lasting partnerships for development.
• Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN Minister of Power, Works and Housing, delivered this as keynote address at the National Council on workers’ meeting in Katsina State.