On January 31, while receiving Certificate of Compliance for the concession of federal roads, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, announced that the Government is expecting over N1 trillion from private investors for the development and maintenance of some highways across the country.
The concession of federal roads which is managed by the Highway Development Management Initiative (HDMI) will see the private sectors taking over the construction and maintenance of 12 Federal roads, including Benin-Asaba, Abuja-Lokoja, Kano –Katsina, Onitsha-Owerri-Aba, Shagamu-Benin, Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga, Kano-Shuari, Potiskum-Damaturu, Lokoja-Benin, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Ilorin-Jebba, Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta, and Lagos-Badagry-Seme.
The government argued that investment from the private sector would reduce the burden of maintaining and rehabilitating the earmarked roads, while funds will be diverted to other sectors of the economy.
While massive road constructions and rehabilitations are important for the economy, as we will see a beehive of economic activities in the sector, which will equally provide jobs for many Nigerians, what the government has shied from with this concession is its own failure to provide basic amenities to the people.
Concession of federal roads is not new in our clime, and the Lekki-Epe expressway toll road readily comes to mind, but Nigerians need further explanations on what has happened to the trillions of budgetary allocations to construct and maintain road infrastructures over the years.
Also, the HDMI document and concession plan may not have highlighted that the concession will mean the return of tolls on these roads, which is the only way the private investors can recoup their investment; but it’s believed that Nigerians will rather pay tolls than risking their lives on the “death traps” we now use as roads.
However, SING Nigeria welcomes private sector investment and participation in the economy which we believe is necessary for growth and sustainability, but cautions on the “unwarranted” toll fees that may arise from this move which will place more burden on the common man.