John Adams, Minna
The Niger State Government has vowed that no amount of blackmail or threat will make it rescind its decision to close the Minna-Bida highway and other state-owned roads to trailers, tankers and other articulated vehicles.
The government said the decision to restrict these categories of vehicles from plying all it roads which came to effect on Tuesday, September 15, was overdue, saying that it was taken in the overall interest of the people of the state and other road users.
Worried by the deplorable conditions of the Minna-Bida road and the slow pace of the ongoing construction work on the road, the State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, ordered the closure of the road and other state-owned roads to trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles.
The Governor, accompanied by the state infrastructure and projects monitoring committee and members of the state Executive Council, personally supervised the closure of the road at the Bida end of the road at a brief ceremony on Tuesday, where he said that the decision to close the road to all these categories of vehicles is to allow the construction company handle the rehabilitation work speed up the job.
However, 48 hours after the closure, the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) issued a statement threatening to cut off the supply of fuel to the northern parts of the country as a result of the closure since according to them, the Minna-Bida road is the only alternative and motorable route that link the South-West, especially Lagos to the north.
The PTD, in a statement by the National Chairman, Otunba Salimon Oladiti, said the action was informed by the restriction on heavy trucks, including tankers from all the links roads in Minna, Niger state capital by the State Government which took effect from midnight September 15.
But the Niger State Chairman of Infrastructure and Projects Monitoring Committee who is also the Chief of Staff to the government, Mallam Ibrahim Balarabe while reacting to the stand by the PTD in Minna on Thursday, said the government will not yield to any blackmail or threat from any group or association to go back on the restriction order.
Balarabe pointed out that the deplorable condition of the road and activities of these heavy vehicles have subjected the people of the state to what he called ‘severe hardship,’ adding that ‘this has contributed to a large extent, the slow pace of work on the 82 kilometres road.’
The contract for the complete rehabilitation of the road was awarded to Dantata and Sowoe at the N23.4 billion in February this year, but after seven months, no appreciable work has been done and the contraction blames the slow pace of work on the activities of these heavy-duty vehicles.
Mallam Balarabe, therefore, said that the closure of the road was for the best interest of the people whom he said, have their thrown weight behind the government decision, stressing the closure will remain until the completion of the rehabilitation work on the road.
He advised the Federal Government to as a matter of necessity, give attention to some of the federal highways in the state which includes Bida-Agaie-Lapai-Lambata, and the notorious Mokwa-Tegina-Birinin Gwari-Kaduna highway to ease pressure on the Minna-Bida road.
He, however, denied that the restriction included federal roads in the state, saying that ‘we have no power to close federal highways, the restriction is only on state-owned roads and this is to enable the government work on these roads.’