Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Lanre Akinola

The euphoria that greeted the so called performance of the Lagos State Government headed by Mr. Raji Fashola particularly, on the construction and rehabilitation of roads has begun to wane. With the beginning of rainy season, most people have now woken up to the reality that, after all, the administration of Mr. Raji Fashola is not fundamentally different from that of his predecessors as most of Lagos roads are characterized with pot holes and gullies. They are simply impassable.

Several billions of naira have been claimed by the Lagos State Government to have been spent on construction and rehabilitation of drainages and roads within the last three years of administration of Mr. Raji Fashola. But it seems the money has gone down the drain as it is not out of place to conclude that about 95% of Lagos roads are still in bad state. Indeed, a blogger with the Punch newspaper has submitted that only six roads are good in Lagos! For the purpose of this piece, I will limit myself to the area where I live and very familiar with. I reside somewhere in Agege and work in Ojodu.

Between my house and office, it is a distance of about 10 kilometers that cuts across three constitutionally recognized local governments namely; Agege, Ifako-Ijaiye and Ikeja. In the recent time, I have passed through almost all the major roads within these three local governments and I dare to say that most of the roads are in very bad conditions to the extent that you cannot move within a distance of five meters without pot holes and gullies.

For instance, from Oko-Oba in Agege Local Government through Pen Cinema and Ogba to Ojodu in Ikeja Local Government, the distance is less than 10 kilometers, which ordinarily should be about 10 minutes drive. However on many occasions, I spend an average of one hour due to traffic jams mainly caused by the failed portions of the road.

The most embarrassing portion of the road is at where Mobil filling station is located at Odo-Eran, very close to Ogba. This portion of the road is worse whenever it rains and driving through it is like driving through Atlantic Ocean.

On a particular occasion last year, my 22 year old (1988 model) Nissan Sunny was badly damaged at that point by flood. I spent almost forty-thousand naira to replace the damaged parts of the car. It is on record that every year for the past seven years; Lagos State Government has been carrying out so-called rehabilitation work on this particular portion but all to no avail. The terrible situation of this junction and others in Ogba is not lost to the Guardian which reveals in its editorial of August 13, 2010 that the road junctions at Ogba were constructed with World Bank facility but, “washed away after one rainy season”.

Another example is the road that leads to Adeniyi Jones from Fumec Filling Station/First Bank junction at Acme road. The rehabilitation of the road started more than three years ago but the road is still in a very bad state. In fact, almost all the roads at Acme, Wempco, Akilo areas of Ogba are impassable whenever it rains.

Also, the construction of drainage at Capitol road of Agege has started for the past two years but there is no indication that the work will be completed soon. The conditions of roads in other parts of the State are as bad as the areas mentioned above contrary to the propaganda of the Fashola’s administration that the Lagos State Government has performed creditably well in terms of road rehabilitations and constructions.

It seems the administration of Fashola performed better than that of his predecessor, Bola Tinubu, in terms of road rehabilitations and constructions, but its performance still falls way below what is needed. This could be likened to two students who wrote the same examination. Out of obtainable 100 marks one of them scored 25 while the other scored 35. Though, the latter performed better than the former, both of them failed the exams.

On several occasions, the Lagos State Government and every other government at federal, state or local government levels blamed the poor conditions of our roads on rain and contractors. These reasons, to say the least, are ridiculous and laughable. The rainy season is not peculiar to only Nigeria but all other countries also go through such types of stormy seasons yet a good number of them have good and durable roads. The truth of the matter is that the quality of the materials often used for the rehabilitation and construction of the roads are sub-standard and therefore pot holes and gullies resurface on the roads within a very short time. The Ministry of Works which has oversight function to ensure that a contractor does a good job does not have the confidence to question the quality of the materials being used by the contractors because, before the contract is awarded and payment effected, a huge amount out of the contract sum is usually paid by the contractors to government officials as kickback. Even if good roads are constructed they are usually done at very outrageous contract sums.

There is no doubt that the Lagos State Government is capable of reconstructing and rehabilitating all the major roads given its financial resources but instead of spending the money on roads and other services that will benefit mass of the people, huge amount are spent to maintain political office holders and a legion of hangers-on. Specifically, the creation of additional 37 Local Governments Areas being disguised as Local Council Development Areas without additional funds from the federation account has further worsened the situation. It was done to create jobs for the “boys” and satisfy the selfish interest of politicians at the expenses of service delivery. The money that would have been used to reconstruct and rehabilitate roads and provide other services are used to pay huge salaries and allowances of chairmen, councillors, press secretaries, personal assistants and other political office holders ‘elected’ or appointed as a result of the creation of additional 37 Local Governments.

The solution to crisis of good roads in Lagos state and elsewhere in Nigeria is political. The problem is not lack of resources, but the fact that road constructions are used as a means of gratifying the greed and self-serving interests of elements in political offices and their business and political associates. In deed, the new trend which has started in Lagos state with Lekki road is to hand over public roads to private vampires who impose outrageous tolls in order to make super profit at the expense of the working people and poor. This is in line with the anti-poor neo-liberal policy of Public Private Partnership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) government in Lagos which makes available public property for private profit.

Nigerian working people and youth need to fight for a government that represents the interests of the poor working people and therefore prepared to commit public resources to provision of basic needs, social services and infrastructure like education, health care and roads. Such government will not be that of contractors but one that equips the works department to the level that it could deliver quality and standard jobs. It will only engage the service of private construction firms where and when it is proved that public works department cannot handle such projects. However, whether a project is carried out by public work department or private firm, such a pro-people’s government will ensure that the project is subjected to open democratic control of professionals, workers and communities right from the planning to the execution. This will ensure not only quality jobs but also that an amount of money that is usually used to carry out a project could be used for a multiple of it.

Unfortunately, there is no political party today which can usher in such a government. It is therefore incumbent on the trade unions to start building a working peoples’ political alternative that could win political power and establish a genuine working peoples’ government run on socialist programme.