The Cross River State Government’s rural development programme supported by the Africa Development Bank (ADB) for the construction of rural roads in the state is changing the way people live writes Jude Okwe
Though, provision of infrastructure in most of rural Nigeria is still at the drawing board level; In Cross River, the state government has a clear idea of how to take development to the hinterlands. It has discovered that development cannot get to villages way off the urban centres unless there is accessibility. That is, Good roads.
Thus, the Cross River State Government in 2008 launched an aggressive rural transformation programme anchored on the provision of access roads, electricity, water and health care delivery.
The Africa Development Bank (ADB) thus partnered with the State Government to fund the construction of roads for its rural population.
Under the earlier arrangement, the bank was to pay a higher percentage of the counterpart fund of N20.2 billion for roads under Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP). But the new arrangement which allowed the State government to do more for its citizens the State Government is picking 65 per cent of the bill (N13 billion), while ADB/Federal Government of Nigeria takes 35 per cent of the amount. In swift response to development, the state government has released N6.225 billion for the project.
Undoubtedly, rural dwellers in Cross River have continued to enjoy social amenities. In rural communities in Cross Rivers State THISDAY observed constant road construction going on to provide access.
The network of roads either completed or under construction is a marvel as its inter-village linkage seems endless. “Through this, mobility has become easier, shorter and cheaper. Farmers now get value for their produce as they convey them easily to the cities where they sell at a good price. Generally, economic activities are in a boom era in those communities where accessibility is no more a problem”, said the Cross River State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Legor Idagbo.
During the recent presentation of the Cross River Rural Access Mobility Project (CR-RAMP) in Calabar, Idagbo stated that only 47 per cent of Nigerians have access to all season roads as 53 per cent of them commute more than two kilometers to access the nearest road. “The situation is worst in far flung forest villages where logs of wood are blocking movement, streams and rivers causing a huge hindrance to rural mobility,” he added.
This condition, he said, has persisted because, “more than 50 per cent of the existing rural roads are in a poor or fair state of maintenance implying that inhabitants perceived to have access to rural transport do not benefit fully from the available facilities. This condition has persisted owing to a number of problems, chief of which are inappropriate surface quality, faulty designs, inadequate drainage system and poor maintenance culture, resulting in majority of the available roads only usable during the dry season”.
According to him, for want of accessibility in the rural areas, there’s the problem of accessing education and health care. This dearth also affect “rural productivity and economic opportunities, especially in agriculture, all hindered by inefficient rural transport infrastructure and high transport costs. There is no doubt that improved rural access roads will enhance rural development, promote better farming practices and improve production margins”.
In order to finance his rural development programme, Governor Liyel Imoke on December 24, 2007 through the Federal Ministry of Finance signed the main loan agreement with ADB worth $39.40 million
The project according to Governor Imoke is to be implemented within 43 months and would be constructed using asphalt surface to make it a lasting one. Though outside what ADB can commit to, the state government agreed to fund the cost of the bituminous surface.
“This singular decision by the state governor radically altered the financing arrangement leaving the state government to bear the larger portion of the financial burden. This brought the civil works to the sum of N13,308, 634,980 to be contributed as counterpart fund. ADB will now contribute the sum of N7,016,391,786.10, thus making the ratio of contribution of ADB (34.54 per cent) and Cross River State Government (65.48 per cent)”, Idagbo revealed.
According to Idagbo, Imoke’s doggedness and determination led to the initiation of the Rural Development Programme aimed Primarily at “rural transformation of rural roads as a cardinal focus of his administration and on the 18th of July, 2007, his effort paid off with the ADB’s approval of Mobility Project under the leadership of Engineer Charles Okongoh.”
The major targets of CR-RAMP is “to increase all-weather road from 20 per cent to 40 per cent in 2020; to have the average transport cost reduced by 20 per cent on all rehabilitated road network before 2020; provision of access roads to rural markets from zero in 2007 to 28 rural markets by 2013, access to basic social services in rural areas from 10 per cent in 2007 to 20 per cent in 2013.
In Bakassi, Akpabuyo, Calabar South and Odukpani Local Government Areas, over five roads linking many communities have been constructed. These roads put together span 59.6km and are being constructed by Zenith Construction Ltd. Akamkpa, Odukpani, Calabar Municipality and Obubra Local Government Areas have John Davids Construction Company Ltd as their contractor. All the roads under construction have 59.66km distance. In Obubra, Abi Local Government Areas, Adland Projects Nigeria Ltd is the contractor whose task is to construct 56.30km of roads. Although most of these roads are still under construction, they are already being put into use by rural dwellers who over the years have suffered the problem of smooth mobility.
Impressed by the success recorded in the implementation of CR-RAMP, the management of ADB is on the verge of commencing the second phase of the project which would involve 500km of roads. The bank’s financial arrangement with Cross River is a model being recommended for other states for the project in Nigeria.