- FG begins enforcement of compliance with road usage regulations, Monday
Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Nigerian military on Saturday reopened Maiduguri-Bama-Banki road closed at the peak of Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.
The road, which passed through fringes of Sambisa forest was closed on 1st September, 2013 by the military to reduce carnage and allow for unimpeded attack on the terrorist group.
The road is strategic to the region as it leads into three neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger and passes through Bama and Gwoza, which were both held by Boko Haram at the peak of the insurgency. Declaring the road reopened, Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who was represented by the deputy governor, Alhaji Usman Durkwa, said Borno people would continue to pray for the successes of the Nigerian President and Military in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency.
He said the state government would continue to support the federal government rebuild the North-east and ensure the return of the IDPs back to their original homes.
He noted that security was the job of everybody, urging all and sundry to support and cooperate with the security agencies to return peace permanently to the state.
He said he was not in any doubt that the reopening of the road would boost socio economic activities of the area, calling on the people to carefully use the road.
The head of counter-military operation in the North East (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Rogers Nicholas, said following improved security in the area since he assumed office and degradation of the Boko Haram insurgents, the Nigerian military deemed it fit for residents of the area to start returning back home and resettle down in their communities to continue their peaceful livelihood.
He said it was also aimed at returning the commercial activities of the area. He however advised the Boko Haram insurgents to embrace peace and surrender so that they can return to their people and live in harmony.
Nicholas urged the road users to be careful and watchful while plying the road, promising that the military will still provide security to motorists plying the road for now depending on when it is deemed fit for the motorists to ply the road freely and alone.
The Chairman National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Borno State, who was represented by the State Secretary of the Union, Alhaji Ahmadu Musa thanked the Federal government, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Armed forces for reopening the road which he described as a unique commercial route for the Sahara trade since time immemorial that has been closed since 2013.
He said the closure of the road had paralyzed commercial activities in the area and rendered most businessmen and women jobless and hopeless.
He assured the military that the members of the NURTW would assiduously comply with the conditions or rules of the mandate given to them on the use of the road.
Ahmadu added that the NURTW executive had sat down with its members and ironed out rules and regulations for the heavy duty vehicle drivers and other commercial drivers that will ply the road with a view to maintain the conditions given to the Union by the military.
According to him, only 100 vehicles had been approved to be screened or cleared by the military for the first or inaugural trip to flag off the reopening of the road while calling on the military to continue to patrol the road to ensure safety of the road.
A trailer driver from Maiduguri to Banki, Malam Adamu Haruna told journalists: “Definitely, I am happy and among those who are highly impressed with this development and have been waiting patiently for many years to see this day becomes a reality.”
Meanwhile, starting from Monday, the federal government will begin to enforce compliance with rules and regulations guiding the use of its highways, to guarantee the integrity of the nation’s road network, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has said.
According to a statement made available to THISDAY by the information department of the ministry, the minister gave this indication at a public enlightenment meeting on developments in the road sector, held at the Nigeria Air Force Centre, Abuja.
Fashola, who reeled out efforts of the administration so far, however, said the reason a majority of road users ignore compliance was because such abuse gave rise to cheap and corrupt incomes at collective expense.
Interestingly, however, this decision by the government may have come to stay as stakeholders and major players in the industry had given their support to the enforcement in the event that the appeal for voluntary compliance fell on deaf ears.
“Our ministry is convinced that voluntary compliance by stakeholders takes us further and nearer to the prosperity that is beckoning; and this is why we convened this meeting before the process of enforcement commences,” he said.
Detailing efforts of the government so far and the need for road users to play along in national interest, Fashola said: “Our Economic growth, National productivity and job opportunities will be impacted by the conclusions and resolutions of this meeting. For example, how do we optimise the opportunities that lie in road networks like Trans-Saharan highway that connects Nigeria to Chad, Niger, Tunisia, Mali and Algeria; the Lagos-Abidjan Highway through Benin, Togo and Ghana, or the Enugu- Cameroon Highway through Abakaliki-Ogoja, Ikom and Mfum?”
He said there were existing treaty obligations within the West African sub-region and beyond that regulated the amount of load any goods vehicle could put on an axle and by extension on the road in order to do business within ECOWAS and beyond.
While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the instruments of ratification as soon as it was brought to his attention, after many years of delay prior to his tenure, Fashola maintained that compliance with the regulations would open a massive door of opportunity and prosperity of cross-border trade to Nigerians engaged in the transport business.
Buhari, in his Keynote address, said the meeting was an indication of the important role that road transportation plays in the nation’s economic development, adding that the critical place of road transportation in the country’s evolution and the national life had never been more alive than it is presently.
He said: “Presently, the haulage of industrial goods, agricultural produce and industrial raw material, petroleum products, power plant components and other economic materials required in the manufacturing sector are carried out using the road network,” adding that it was this realisation that underscored the promise of change by the present administration in May 2015 with infrastructure as a priority.