By Nimot Sulaimon
The Senate has urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, initiate a Build-Operate-Transfer or Public-Private Partnership arrangement for the construction of the abandoned Badagry-Sokoto Expressway.
The call on the Federal Government was contained in a resolution reached by the Upper Chamber on Wednesday after consideration of a motion titled: “Need for the construction of the Badagry/Sokoto Expressway to promote economic growth and development.”
The motion which was sponsored by Senator Sadiq Suleiman Umar (APC, Kwara North), was Co-sponsored by the Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) and six other lawmakers.
They are: Sani Mohammed Musa (Niger East); Bello Mandiya (Katsina South); Yahaya Ibrahim Oloriegbe, (Kwara Central); Oyelola Yisa Ashiru (Kwara South); Tolulope Akinremi Odebiyi (Ogun West); and Ibikunle Oyelaja Amosun (Ogun Central).
In his presentation, Senator Sadiq Suleiman Umar noted that the Badagry-Sokoto Expressway is a Federal Government road which connects twelve (12) states which include: Lagos/Badagry, Ogun/Agbara, Oyo/Abeokuta, Kwara, Niger, Kebbi and Sokoto State at the national level, with Benin, Togo and Niger at the International level, in addition to being the Nigeria section of the Trans-West Coastal Highway project to link 12 West African coastal nations.
The lawmaker recalled that the Badagry-Sokoto Expressway was initiated as part of 4th National Development Plan, which was commenced by the General Olusegun Obasanjo regime in 1978, but was abandoned in 1979 – Over 40 years now – after he handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
According to him, “the original conception of this expressway was a linkage road between the North and South Nigeria and some West African countries through Seme Border; to ease carriage of goods across the borders as it connects Apapa seaports and Seme land border as well as one of the largest industrial hubs in the country, the Agbara Industrial Estate.”
He further recalled that in 2009, “the Federal Government in collaboration with the Lagos State Government started the reconstruction and expansion of the Lagos-Badagry part of the Badagry-Sokoto expressway, from six (6) to ten (10) lanes, prompting economic development around the area, but the project was abandoned due to lack of fund, thereby affecting these economic activities negatively.”
The lawmaker added that in the same year, the Federal Government in collaboration with the Lagos State Government resumed the reconstruction of the Lagos-Badagry part of the Badagry-Sokoto expressway, adding that, “nothing is being done to construct the rest of the express way.”
Umar assured that “the road if constructed, will boost food and agricultural production and connect these rural communities to major urban corridors, a necessary condition for improved agriculture value chain.
“The connection to urban corridors will increase off season employment for rural youth and sustain youth employment and employability.”
According to him, “the proximity to western neighbours of the country, will improve cross border market and international trade and help advance Nigeria’s commitment to regional and continental trade; as well as “add to the number of North South roads, enhance the durability of the roads, reduce distance and help integrate the western flack of the country into the national road structure with strong implication for national integration and development.”
Contributing, Senator Sani Musa said the road which links the Northern and Southern part of the country, “if constructed, would help free movement”, and “also sustain the lifespan of our roads that have become un-motorable.”
“I will want to use this opportunity also, to appeal to the Federal Government, to see how they can mitigate a build-operate-transfer methodology in this, because that road is economically viable.
“We can have investors that are ready to come and invest, to construct that link road between Badagry to Sokoto and then put a toll.
“It will create another economic zone for this country, looking at the fact that a lot of business will be coming in here”, the lawmaker said.
On his part, Senator Tolulope Odebiyi highlighted the numerous economic benefits accruable to the nation from the construction of the Badagry-Sokoto Expressway.
He said: “Mr. President, let me give you some historical background on the road. If you are aware, at the tip of this road, you have Agbara Industrial Estate.
“This is an estate that consist of over hundred triple A Companies. We have Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Glaxo-Smith Klein, all these estates are located at the top of this express road.
“You also have the Opic Industrial Estate that is situated on over 8,000 hectares of land with so many industries. And it is interesting to note that when this express road was being constructed, that was why Agbara Industry was setup there, so that a lot of these industries can move their goods up north, and that was the whole plan before the road was abandoned.
“Mr. President, I think if there’s one road that this country needs to build, it is this Agbara-Sokoto express road.
“I think it is economically viable, it is a road that can even be tolled and give the country the return on investments.
“I think it’s a road that enables companies to take their goods all to the neighbouring countries, especially in light of the African Continental Agreement that we have also signed now.”
Another lawmaker, Senator Adeola Solomon Olamilekan (APC, Lagos West), said, “what we are seeing here today has to do with the image of our country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Badagry corridor of this road is an international road, and the state of the road as we speak is nothing to write home about.
“The Government of Lagos State just this weekend set up a seven-man Committee to liaise with the Federal Government on the state of this road.
“Mr. President, can we imagine that the road which links twelve states in Nigeria together – Sokoto-Badagry road – is an alternative road.
“The road has been constructed but it was abandoned because if you drive on that road, you’ll see some potholes that are not constructed at all.
“This is a project that has started since 1978. If successive government had come and, if it is 50 kilometer they’ve been doing, by now it would have been a completed project.
“It will not be bad, under the Bihari administration, if this project can be brought back to life. It is very important.
“I don’t want to lay the blame on anybody, but it is the right time to bring it to the table for us to start looking in this direction, that there is urgent need for the economic presence – from the international perspective – for us to attend to this road.
“Mr. President, this is the road for Nigeria, not only for the South-West, North-Central, or North-West, but for the South-East and South-South.”
The Senate in its resolutions, thereafter, mandated the Committees on Works, Finance and National Planning and Economic Development to jointly inter-face with the Ministry of Works, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and other relevant stakeholders to determine why the Badagry-Sokoto Expressway has been abandoned for such a long time, provide a permanent and sustainable solution/plan and report to the Senate within 2 weeks.
The Upper Chamber also urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, direct the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and Infrastructure Concessioning and Regulatory Commission (ICRC), to urgently initiate a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) or Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for the construction of this most important highway.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, called on the Federal Government to revive the construction of the Badagry-Sokoto Expressway through the initiation of a Public-Private Partnership arrangement with interested investors.
He further assured of the National Assembly’s support in providing legislative interventions to safeguard the interests of both the federal government and prospective investors under such arrangement.
He said: “Government doesn’t have to provide funding for all the roads in Nigeria. There are some roads that we can construct or build through PPP arrangements.
“But government is also supposed to construct some roads, especially those that may be termed not economically viable, because it is the question of, is it the egg or the chicken?
“If you neglect them, the people and communities in such areas will never see economic prosperity where roads are supposed to help provide.
“So, government has a responsibility as well there, but some of the roads like this one is a major road, and there’ll be a line-up of investors wanting to invest.
“We should encourage the Executive arm of government to come up with a proposal on how this road will be funded. And like we have said, it doesn’t have to be wholly supported or funded by Federal Government resources, because we don’t have really.
“Last year into this year, there were many consortiums that came into Nigeria seeking to invest on roads. So, we should provide the legislative support and comfort for such companies to feel that when they invest, they are able to get back their investments with profits.
“I think that is the major thing we need to do, because it’ll put some doubts if there are no legislative support to ensure that their investments do not go down the drain.
“We, too, will work with our Committees and Executive behind the scenes to ensure that this particular road sees some kind of revival. The administration may not start and finish it, that is to say that even if it is an investment, it will have to spill to some few years after 2023, and of course, by the grace of God, APC would still be there.
“We should push for this road to go through the process of PPP because it is a very important road, and I’m sure we will have a multitude of investors who would like to invest.”