Rural roads: Gov. Bello’s race to the top. By Muhammed Yahaya Kuta

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Gov. Sani Bello: Rehabilitating key rural transport infrastructure

 

For many years, evacuation of agricultural produce from rural areas to urban locations and markets was condemned as a harrowing experience. This stemmed from the absence of a safe, sound and economically efficient rural travel and transport system.

The consequences of this included heavy post-harvest losses, lowering of the ability of farmers to monetize their produce and general food insecurity.

However, a tinge of reforms introduced in 2006 by the Federal Government saw the adoption of the Rural Travel and Transport Policy (RTTP) aimed at improving rural mobility to promote increased agricultural production and ease evacuation from rural areas to urban locations and markets.

Seven years into the implementation of the RTTP scheme, there was the need to review the policy with a view to making it more effective and far reaching, so that the gains of the transport policy could properly translate to improved ease of evacuation of farm produce to the markets.



Consequently, a second scheme code-named Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP-2) was introduced to support the implementation of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s RTTP. The project is co-financed by the World Bank and French development agency (AFD) alongside implementing states.

Niger State is one of the few states in the country that have keyed into this project because of its landmass, which is the largest in the country. The state government signed up on the project because people in the rural communities were not properly linked to each other for the exploitation of their hidden potentials especially in the areas of agriculture, tourism and mining where the state has comparative advantage.

However, the good news is that the Niger State government has acquitted itself by ensuring that all the stakeholders are on the same page where the objective is to improve transport conditions and bring sustained access to the rural populace through rehabilitating and maintaining key rural transport infrastructure in a sustainable manner in selected areas in the State.

RAMP 2 which became effective in November 2013 under the immediate past administration of Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu has gladly been sustained by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, with Niger State participating alongside Osun, Enugu, Adamawa, and Imo States.

Available statistics from the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP 2) office shows that the scheme has impacted on the many communities in the areas of easy access to health facilities, increased schools enrollment, reduced transport costs and improve in the living standard of the rural dwellers economically and socially.

It was therefore heartwarming when the State Project Coordinator, Alhaji Hassan Etsu told reporters recently that huge investments in rural roads have opened up the rural areas for easy evacuation of agricultural produce to urban centres.

Etsu said in the implementation of its core mandate, RAMP in the state has constructed 519kilometers of roads made up of 117km in the first phase and 402km in the second phase, including the provision of 30 bridges in various locations to improve movement within and outside the rural communities especially the hard to reach areas.

According to him, “the first pilot project under RAMP 2 in Niger State was the Construction/rehabilitation 8.1km rural road along Rafin Yashi – Shata in Bosso Local Government area.  Evidences of its viability were felt as the sleepy state village was hitherto accessible once per day and travel time was almost two hours but after the completion travel time was less than 30 minutes and commercial trucks that evacuate farm products to the city market could make 4 trips per day and not less than 10 of such vehicles make round trips daily.”

The Rafin Yashi-Shata road project was only to test the viability of RAMP in the State, as it were. Since then, several other roads totaling 519km of roads made up 117km in the first phase and 402km in the second phase have been constructed.

Some of the rural roads constructed include Wuya suman – Lemu, Mokwa – Jaagi, Kudu, Sabon Wuse-ijah Gbagyi, sullu –Tafa; Suleja-Abuchi-Izom; Auna –Tungajika-shafini, Wawa-Malali. In the first phase, all projects were completed and handed over to the state project implementation unit. Some of the bridges constructed were Mazakuka, Adogon Mallam, Ibeto-Gyengi, Gganran Sagi, Ragadawa-Baban Dogo, Kutriko-salawu Cikan, Mukugi- Ajitupa, Eyangi- Liman , Wuya- Kanti, Emi Egimazi, Dabban, Sabon Daga, Nakpankuchi river, Maikera- Beji labude and other bridges.

The Construction Rehabilitation of 403km rural roads in 15 LGAs that are 70.4% per cent completed Fellegi – Shafini Road(12.17km) in Magama LGA, Luma–Shagunu Road(26.92km) Borgu LGA, Bangi – Kasuwan Garba (With Spur to Galma (66.7km), Mariga LGA, Kompanin Bobi – Kasuwan Garba(28.70km), Mariga, Sullu Junction – Daku Bridge – Sabon Doki (4.62km) Tafa LGA, Sullu Junction – Kabo Road (10.61km) Gurara LGA. Others are Old Gawu – Tuna – Farindoki Road (21.97km) and Kuta – Kobwa – Kafa – Layi Road (25.84km) in Gurara/Paiko/Shiroro LGAs.

The Construction Rehabilitation in my recent experience in December 2019 is commendable work on the following roads: Wushishi – Makusidi – Bida; Kutigi – Dasun – Tashan Hajiya; Doko – Gaba – Sheshi and Patibokungi – Gebo – Angbasa Roads.

As a result of the impressive performance of the state in the first two phases of the scheme, Niger and Osun states have been allowed to migrate to Phase 111 of the scheme which will cover agricultural projects, as well as construction of markets and storage facilities to curb post-harvest losses.

To deepen the gains recorded by RAMP in the state, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello has approved the sum of N6 billion for surface dressing of the roads already constructed by RAMP phase 1 and Phase 11.

The approval of the governor, according to the State Project Coordinator, is aimed at adding value to the work already done by RAMP in the intervention areas in the state with the view to upgrading the roads for more sustainability.

Under this initiative, 230 kilometers of roads already constructed will be surface dressed to ensure durability of the projects and to in the long run, address infrastructural deficit on trunks B and C roads in the state, especially now that these category of roads need serious intervention from the federal government.

Interestingly, since Governor Sani Bello mounted the saddle, RAMP has witnessed tremendous improvements with prompt and diligent construction of rural roads and the creation of employment for the teeming youths of Niger State. This is in tandem with international best practices.

Available data shows that 225 unemployed Nigerlites have been engaged under the community based road maintenance scheme and are been paid monthly stipend of N20, 000 per km. Annual Mechanized maintenance for about 47.2km pilots roads consisting of 6 roads in 5 LGAs have been completed. The clusters are located in Fa’azhi-Batati; Pandogari-Zara Cluster; Tungan Mallam-Tungan gana in Paikoro; Tungan Wawa-Madara in Kontagora; Dukku-Tungan rini; EmiNdayisah –EmiNdajiya.

The Rural Access and Mobility Project has also reduced maternal mortality by about 60 per cent as a result of the people having improved access to health facilities in the intervention areas. Statistics also showed that travel cost in the intervention areas has reduced by 40 per cent, whereas travel time has also reduced by 50 per cent as a result of the project.

Furthermore, RAMP has helped to reduce drudgery in the activities of the beneficiaries in the intervention areas. Example is the establishment of Cereal Processing outfit at Abuchi Koro village courtesy of the intervention by the state government.

Today, in tune with rural development paradigm, the state is witnessing the springing up of new buildings along the roads in the intervention areas; reduction in post-harvest loss by about 30 per cent; reduction in travel cost compared to baseline by about 20 per cent as well as reduction in maternal death compared to baseline by about 60 per cent in the intervention area.

At the last count, about 728,891 people are already benefitting from the project intervention in the state as the Governor Sani Bello led administration fine-tunes arrangements to key into the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP).

This huge leap in the provision of rural roads is a clear testimony to the unwavering commitment of the government of Niger State to take the front seat in taking development to the people of the state and who majority live in the rural communities.

The achievements recorded in the provision of good roads represent a springboard to the major turnaround in the fortunes of Niger State as one of the fastest growing states in Nigeria as acknowledged by many stakeholders who have attested to Governor Sani Bello’s abiding desire to take the Power State to the Next Level!


– Kuta is a professor of Agricultural Extension and Development Communication at the University of Ibadan.

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