6 February 2013

Nigeria: Poor Rural Road Networks Threaten FCT Communities

People living in Igwa, Imi Machada, Shenagu and Shaga communities in Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as well as the surrounding villages, said they find it very difficult to carry out daily activities, especially during the rainy season due to the deplorable state of the only road linking the villages with Zuba town.

Majority of the people living in the villages are farmers. And the absence of efficient farm-to-market road network has held back rural economic activities and denied the people including women and children access to health care services at the appropriate time.

The villages located close to Zuba, about 50 kilometers to Abuja city centre, also have no basic infrastructure including electricity, pipe-borne water and healthcare facilities which further complicated living there.

Dangana Isma'ila living in the area said, "My farms are located in Shenagu and Chitumu and I grow large quantities of maize, guinea corn and yam annually. The road is very bad both during the dry and the rainy seasons and it's very difficult to transport produce."

He said there are two rivers crossing the road; one very close to Igwu and the other which is bigger is just before Shaga.

"Vehicles won't move any day it rains heavily because the swollen rivers can wash away anything crossing. We normally delay movements to about two to three hours after a heavy rain. A bus carrying water melon and other fruits was once knocked over while crossing the river."

People living in the area, according to Isma'ila, have forwarded complaints letters to the area council and FCT Administration on the appalling condition of the feeder and link roads in the area but there was no response.

"To ameliorate the problem, a wealthy man living around the area bought huge concrete pipes to make culvert in Igwu after an agreement with the local elders. It was agreed that the man will recoup his money from levy collected from drivers and motorcyclists along the road but the project has stopped and the culvert wasn't made," he said.

He said famers taking their farm produce to Madalla on Thursdays (market days) pay extra money due to the bad road condition.

"There is a secondary school very close to Imi with hundreds of students from the adjoining villages. During the rainy season students have to skip classes or report late to school any time it rains because it is difficult for them to cross the river," he added.

He said people suffering from various ailments including pregnant women and children have difficulty in getting medical attention due to the poor road. According to the residents, people are cut-off from major economic activities which eventually brought retarded pace of development in the area.

Government allocates billions of naira every year for both new and ongoing projects in the Territory but rural roads remain in deplorable conditions.

Our reporter learnt that a whopping sum of N44,632,306,455 was earmarked for infrastructural development in the FCT including roads construction in 2011 but the amount was channeled towards existing projects with no rural road constructed.

Also, the sum of N35,255,944,092 was budgeted for infrastructural development, yet the rural roads are bad commensurate to the money released.

Over N35 billion was projected for roads this year.

An official of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, said the road networks in the city-centre are better than those in the rural arrears.

"Money is not readily available for new projects and rural roads are hardly ever given attention. Rural roads are supposed to be constructed in conjunction with the local councils but the councils have insufficient budgetary allocation for roads projects. One other issue contributing to the problem is the inability of the government to release exact money budgeted for projects," he said.

Another source in the Satellite Towns' Development Unit of the FCT Administration, said the main problem that hinders development was the inability to release appropriated funds as well as classify rural roads as priority projects.

A local manicurist, Ahmed Musa, said he goes round the villages to offer services to the people, adding that "business does not thrive during the rainy season due to bad roads."

Also, the road between Dawaki Village and Dutse in Bwari Area Council, is so poor that it is partly abandoned during the rainy season by the residents.

Dawaki is very close to Gwarimpa Estate, the largest housing estate in Nigeria and barely 25 kilometers to the city-centre where government ministries are located. Local yam farmers between the two towns have difficulty in transporting their produce and farm implements as a result of deep potholes and gullies on the road.

Dangana Bawa, a resident of Dawaki said the road to Dutse becomes dormant especially during the wet season due to deep gullies and its 'slippery nature' that make vehicular movement difficult.

"People use the commercial motorcycles to transport goods through footpaths. The poor nature of the road has impeded economic development in the area," he said.

He said the government officials have inspected the road on several occasions and promised that it will be 'tarred' but nothing was done.

According to him, places where top government officials are living have better roads and other basic services but rural settlements were neglected. "This has further widened the gap between the rich and the poor, the government and the people as well as the elites and the less privileged," he added.

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