By Rita Iliya
Gov. Abubakar Bello of Niger has urged articulated vehicle owners to cooperate with the state government on the issue of the state roads in order to safeguard the socio-economic activities of the Nation.
The state roads serves as a major link between the Northern part of the country and the South-West part through its Bida to Minna axis which is a state road.
Bello, who spoke on the background of the re-opening of the closed Bida-Minna road, said the weight of the vehicles was heavily affecting the state of roads in the state.
He added that currently the Bida-Minna road has finally given way and motorists especially the truck drivers are going through another state road; the Bida-Lapai-Paiko road.
The governor said articulated vehicle should stick to the agreed tonnes of 40,000 litres of those carrying petroleum products and 35 tonnes dry weight for other goods.
“One of the causes of the deplorable state of the roads is that overtime, no one has paid attention to trucks and trailers. So, tanker owners decided to increase the carrying capacity of their tankers from between 45,000 to about 90,000 litres. For dry cargoes, they carry 60 to 70 tons. I don’t think any of our Nigerian roads have been designed to carry such weight.
“So, within two to three years, we realised that most of the roads, especially in Minna town, from Chachanga Bridge to Kpakungu roundabout, have been destroyed by these trucks, not because of the volume of the trucks but the weight. The number of trucks that ply that road does not really matter, as long as they carry specified tonnage.
“Recently, we awarded the contract to Dantata Construction Company for the reconstruction of Minna-Bida road. Unfortunately, the contractors are complaining that the pace of work is so slow because of the volume of trailers that ply the route,” he said.
He explained that the re-opening of the state roads was to mitigate the negative economic hardship faced by people in the northern region due to shortage of petroleum products and food.
He added that since inception, the administration has been carrying out intervention works on some of the federal roads in the state, mainly to ameliorate the sufferings of its citizens in spite of lean resources.
The governor, however, said that the Federal and state government were taking remedial measures to forestall hardship and resolve the issue of bad road network in the state.
“The decision led to shortage of petroleum products up Northern Nigeria, as Niger State, particularly Minna-Bida road became the transit route for tankers moving premium motor spirit (PMS). Other heavy duty vehicles between the South to the North suffered similar fate and food shortages stared all in the face.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a stakeholders meeting was convened in Abuja at the weekend, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, with the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the Department of State Services, the Managing Director of the NNPC and the Minister of Works in attendance.
Briefing the press after the meeting, Bello explained that the meeting looked at the shortage of the supply of petroleum products up north.
“We also looked at causes of why we are having problems today.
“Overtime, most of our highways have been ignored. We all know that the main road most people travel from the South-west to the northern part of this country is the Jebba-Mokwa-Tegina-Kagara-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna. That is a trunk ‘A’ road that has been abandoned and neglected for many years. It is not motorable at the moment.
“The option was to take Mokwa-Bida-Agaie-Lapai-Lambata, which also is very bad.
“I am glad today, in the meeting, we discussed this and agreed on 45,000 litres for PMS, which I believe is still too much but we can work with it, or 35 tons for dry cargo.
“The idea is, if we control the weight, the road will probably survive the rainy season. We will do some remedial works, meaning, the failed section will be maintained and the bridges, whose integrity test is questionable or show signs of weakness will be fortified just to survive the rainy season.
“I am aware, the minister of works is making arrangement to fund those contracts. His ministry has already awarded but at the moment, our major concern and challenge is to survive the rainy season. Once we are able to survive the rainy season, the contractors will go back to site.
“We did not close the Minna-Bida road to inconvenience people but to save and protect the only road that connects the South-western and northern parts of the country.
“My understanding is, while the state government is doing some remedial works on Farin-Doki up to Chachanga, City Gate to Minna town, then Pakungu to Bida road, the Federal Ministry of Works will concentrate on Lambata-Bida
“Hopefully, they will also concentrate on Mokwa-Kagara-Tegina-Birnin Gwari road. Once those roads are fixed, people in Minna will begin to see reduction in the volume of trailers passing through Minna town”.
On the measures put in place to ensure compliance with the new directive, the governor said: “First of all, we expect the depots not to load any truck that is more than 45,000 litres of petroleum products. We also expect, especially the cement companies not to load any trailer that is more than 35 tonnes”.