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Absurdity of Federal Ownership of Abandoned Local Roads

By Farooq Kperogi Twitter: @farooqkperogi Sometime late last year, a video of a horrible death trap of a bridge in the town of Moro in Asa L...

By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Sometime late last year, a video of a horrible death trap of a bridge in the town of Moro in Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State trended on social media. Although the bridge looked like it could cave in at any time, it was still being used by motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

When I saw it, I reached out to a well-placed official of the Kwara State government. I asked if he’d seen the video. He said he did. Then I asked why the state government wasn’t doing anything to fix the bridge both because it was a present and clear danger to multitudes of people in the community and because it was providing rhetorical fire with which the state government was being roasted--unfairly it turned out.

His response stunned me. “We have tried to fix it, but the Federal Ministry of Works asked us to stay away,” he said. “It is a federal bridge on a federal road. It is not state government property.” Let that marinate for a moment.

I later read in an online newspaper on December 3, 2021, that the Federal Government has directed that the bridge be shut down “after the state government wrote to express grave concerns about the safety of commuters along the route.” 

In what sort of “federal” arrangement does a far-off, aloof, and irresponsible central government “own” local roads and stops state and local governments from repairing the roads even when they are in an awful state of disrepair to the point of constituting dangers to the lives of people who use them? Why are we like this?

The roads in my part of Kwara State, called Baruten, are also some of the worst roads you can find anywhere in the country, but they’re “federal” roads, and state governments aren’t allowed to fix them.

Sometimes, state governments seek the federal government's permission to fix "federal roads" in their states and seek reimbursement. Former Governor Bukola Saraki, for example, shoddily tarred the "federal" roads in my local government (which are now unusable) in the 2000s. I heard he first got permission from the federal government before embarking on the project and asked to be reimbursed thereafter, although he reportedly used funds to our local government from federal allocations. I don't know if he has been reimbursed. 

But these are exceptions, for the most part. Most importantly, though, it flies in the face of logic and common sense for the federal government to "own" remote roads in the middle of nowhere that it doesn't care about.

Northern Oyo, called Oke-Ogun, has similarly terrible roads that the federal government insists the Oyo State government can’t fix and that successive state governments have never bothered to beg the federal government to be allowed to fix.

Today, I saw a "cease-and-desist” letter from the Federal Ministry of Works to an NGO in Otukpo, Benue State, known as Ochacho Foundation. The NGO's offense is that it committed the “unethical act” of repairing run-down "federal" roads in Otukpo town. 

The letter said “the illegal act” of fixing woebegone "federal" roads in Otukpo has “caused a serious distortion on the Masterplan” for the town! You can’t make this stuff up!

I think that's what some people mean when they say Nigeria needs to be restructured. The current structure where an overbearing but absent federal government lords it over every part of the country is not sustainable for a long time. It might cause the country to implode.

1 comment

  1. Prof., this cease and desist Letter would have been funny, If we are not dealing with a serious issue.


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