Will he take the challenge or ignore it? This has been the question on the lips of many Nigerians since a member of the house of representatives challenged Babatunde Fashola, minister of works, to a 90-day tour to ascertain the state of roads in the country.
Bamidele Salam, who is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), threw the challenge while reacting to Fashola’s claim that Nigerian roads are “not as bad as portrayed”.
WAIT, FOR REAL?
Yes, the minister did say so. While addressing journalists on Wednesday, he said reports on bad roads are usually exaggerated.
“The roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed. I know that this is going to be your headline, but the roads are not that bad,” he had said.
“When I come here to announce that a particular amount was approved for a contract that doesn’t mean the amount has been paid contrary to what you suggest.”
The comment ruffled the feathers of many Nigerians, including Salam, who said the comment is “a clear indication that some of us in public offices are not at all in tune with the horrendous realities of our fellow citizens’ daily experience.”
He then threw the challenge: “As a member of the house of representatives committee on works, I will be throwing a road travel challenge to the honourable minister and all persons concerned to avoid air travel for all local trips in the next 90 days.”
BUT ARE NIGERIAN ROADS THAT BAD?
Nigeria is reported to have the largest road network in West Africa, comprising 108,000km, but tales abound of how the roads have turned to nightmares for users.
A 2017 report by SBM Intelligence which conducted a large-scale independent review of the roads found out that most major roads across the country are in very poor state with the following rated worst: Kabba-Kafanchan, Benin bypass, Mokwa-Jebba, Lokoja-Ajaokuta, Aba-Obigbo, Onitsha-Enugu, and Idoma-Benue roads.
This is despite huge funds injected in road construction projects over the years by both federal and state governments; the N100 billion Sukuk bond-funded roads easily comes to mind.
WILL FASHOLA ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE?
It has been almost 24 hours since the lawmaker asked Fashola to join him on the road tour, but there is no word yet from the minister.
Hakeem Bello, his spokesman, however, hinted this is very unlikely.
Bello told TheCable on Friday that the minister “does his job” and had in the past embarked on such tour across the country. He also said the minister’s comment was taken out of context.
“The honourable minister has gone on a tour of the 36 states by road before and once the various (road) projects get to a stage for another tour, he will do so without being prompted by anybody,” he said.
“I don’t know the aim or purpose of the challenge. The honourable minister does his job and he has gone on a tour of the states by road before… he will go again when the need arises.”