By Adejuwon Soyinka
WE currently have a problem in Ogun State. Yes, we do. The problem is that in this season of economic recession, the Ogun State government, not only pays its workers regularly, but it is embarking on the construction of a 10-lane major expressway. The expressway connects Abeokuta, the state capital, with the Lagos-Ibadan expressway through Sagamu Interchange.
Now, for some people, this is a major problem. They wondered why the state government would bother to expand the existing expressway and not simply toe what appears like the easy path, which is keep patching the road and leave it as it is. Some wonder why the state government would not first complete ongoing projects like the Sango-Ojodu road before venturing into this one. Yet there are those who simply wonder why the state government would bother to fix any road or build any infrastructure rather than spend all the money on maintaining the comfort of civil and public servants, both serving and retired.
In short, the number and variety of opinion is almost equal and directly proportionate to the number of interest groups within Ogun State with each advancing arguments that solely suit its purpose.
So, what exactly is the interest of the state government in this matter? As far as the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, is concerned, it is nothing more than the overriding need to continue to improve the state of infrastructure in the Gateway state. “I have heard people ask why do we want to start another road project again? It is because we are resolute that we need to improve our infrastructure. No investor will come here if they know that infrastructure is not in place, if the environment is not conducive to do business. That is why we need to continue to push to make sure that our infrastructure is in place,” the governor said recently.
Indeed, perhaps unknown to some of the public commentators on the need or otherwise for the 10-lane expressway at this time, is the fact that the project was conceived and awarded in 2013 and the state government only waited until it got development partners willing to assist with the construction.
Not only that, now, a considerably large number of international conglomerates, including Coca Cola and SAB Miller, one of the world’s renowned brewer, have concluded plans to locate their factories, including in some cases residential quarters for staff, along that road.
None of these businesses is investing anything less than $100m in Ogun State. For Governor Amosun, now that there is still a considerable land size for road expansion, is the time to think ahead and put a world class road infrastructure in that corridor rather than wait until these factories are fully built and then have cause to demolish structures for road expansion.
Now, that is forward thinking. A good example of such thinking is the present day Ikorodu Road, Lagos. When it was built as a six lane expressway over 40 years ago, a lot of people then felt there was no need for such but today, government would pay anything to be able to expand Ikorodu road! Besides that, almost 40 years after it was constructed as a 6-lane expressway, the size of the road was one major reason the Lagos State government was able to attract World Bank financing for the construction of the BRT corridor. The World Bank will not support such projects on roads that are less than 6-lanes.
Today, the problem in Ogun State is that Governor Amosun is also thinking ahead by embarking on the construction of a 10-lane expressway that will be an impressive gateway to the Gateway state. Perhaps, also unknown to many critics of the project is the fact that the size of the road is one of the factors considered by multilateral agencies that have concluded plans to assist Ogun State in financing its construction. So what the state government is doing by starting the project is to show commitment by investing its own counterpart funding while the multilateral development partners would take over from there. Funding for the project is going to be released in phases while the construction of the road would also be done in phases.
What has just commenced is the first phase, which stretches from a the place known as MTD junction, very close to Government House, Oke Igbein to around the President Muhammadu Buhari Estate layout in Kobape area. ‘Did you say multilateral development partners? Is the governor not mortgaging the state through the acquisition of loans?’ These are some of the questions that have also agitated the minds of the people.
Again, these are good things. And you will agree with me that they are good problems if only you knew that the sort of fund the Governor Amosun-led administration is using to develop critical infrastructure in Ogun State usually comes for periods of over 40 years and they attract ½ or maximum of 1 per cent interest rate. Interestingly, similar facilities had been used for developmental projects by previous administrations dating as far back as the time of Late Chief Bisi Onabanjo, which the Ogun State government is still repaying today at 1 per cent interest rate. As good as such explanations may sound, some are still wondering, why 10-lanes? Well, the answer to that good problem is that two lanes on either side of the expressway are to be built with concrete. Those two lanes are dedicated for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles thereby reducing chances of collision between these “kings of the road” and smaller cars as well as preserving the road.
Not only that, the road is also going to host the rail project of the Amosun-led administration which will run parallel to connect the federal government rail line at Sagamu interchange and greatly reduce the travel time between Abeokuta and Lagos while ensuring that a lot more people can live in Abeokuta or Sagamu area and commute to work on daily basis on the Lagos Island. This also explains why a lot of the housing estate development projects of the state, including the likes of AAK Degun Estate, Orange Valley Estate, HID Awolowo Estate, PMB Estate and the new Makun City, to mention a few, are located along that same axis.
Yet, there are fears that this road project will affect the chances of the state government completing other ongoing road projects in different parts of the state. Why start this one when you have not completed the existing ones, some people have wondered?
Although these are genuine concerns, they however did not put into consideration the fact that the Sagamu-Abeokuta expressway was picked by development partners who are assisting with the financing, based on their independently conducted viability study. Other projects that have attracted the attention of development partners like that include the Sango-Ojodu road, Agbara-Atan-Lusada road and the Ilara-Ijoun road among others.
Not only that, the construction of the 10-lane expressway will not in any way stop the completion of other ongoing projects in the state. In fact, in the course of the 2017 Fiscal year, the state government will complete many of the ongoing projects while new ones, especially rural roads that will impact on our agricultural output, will also be constructed. And they have all been adequately captured in the 2017 budget, which was recently presented to the state House of Assembly.
Indeed, in the 2017 Fiscal Year, the state government has budgeted for the following roads among several others: Sango-Ojodu-Abiodun road, Ilara-Ijoun Road; Lafenwa-Ayetoro Road; Mowe-Ofada road; Magboro Road; Brewery–OGTV; Ijebu Ode-Ibadan junction road; Agbara-Atan-Lusada road and at least a minimum of 100 rural roads that will aid the focus of the Governor Amosun administration on the agriculture sector.
These, perhaps explain why, in the midst of the arguments for and against the 10-lane expressway that have ensued, Governor Amosun remains focused. “People will talk, however, a leader takes his people to where they want to be or where they want to belong. But a good leader takes his people to where they not necessarily want to be or belong but where that leader believes they should be.
Soyinka is SSA for Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
And that is what this administration will continue to do. We will take Ogun State to where we know it should be in the comity of states,” Governor Amosun recently said.
He added, “I know that generations yet unborn will remember us, not just me but all of us because in the next 10 years or 20 years, people will begin to see the benefits of all our efforts. Ogun will then be the benchmark for other states.”
Perhaps then, we will all agree that the challenges of today are indeed good.
Soyinka is SSA for Governor Ibikunle Amosun.