By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that tran-Saharan highway projects would continue to receive deserved attention and funding by his administration, not only to bolster economic activities, but to enhance regional and cultural integration in Africa.
Buhari, who gave the assurance Monday at the 70th session of the Trans-Saharan Road Liaison Committee (TRLC), in Abuja, said when he took over the mantle of leadership in 2015, his administration decided to introduce changes geared towards sustainable and quality infrastructural development to drive economic development and job creation.
“Our commitment is to increase Nigeria’s road infrastructure in order to ease the cost and time of doing business and improve our economic competitiveness as envisaged under our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. In view of this, our administration shares the aspiration of the trans-Saharan Road Liaison Committee aimed at encouraging member-countries’ development of the sections of trans-Saharan roads within their respective territories,” Buhari said.
The president, who was represented by the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, described the Lagos-Algiers highway as a pride to the African continent, adding that Nigeria has supported and would continue to fund its completion.
“The Nigerian government has currently upgraded the section of the trans-Saharan road within its borders. Special funding consideration has been committed to the reconstruction works of the sections of the tran-Saharan roads from Lagos to Ibadan and Kaduna to Kano.
“Other sections of the route from Ibadan to Ilorin, Ilorin to Jeba, Jeba to Mokwa and Mokwa to Kaduna have either been dualised or rehabilitated to ensure more efficient flow of traffic, especially for heavy goods vehicles that transverse this route which sustains the economic activities that support millions of Nigerians and our neighbours across our borders.
“It would continue to receive the desired attention so that it facilitates not only economic activities but also regional and continental integration,” he said.
In his address, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said 80 per cent of the 9,895 kilometres trans-Saharan highway, which transverses six African countries had been asphalted.
The countries include Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Algeria, Tunisia and Niger.
Fashola said no effort would be spared to complete the remaining 20 per cent of the highway, which is earth road.
The road, he stated, serves 37 regions in Africa, connects 74 urban centres and 60 million people across six countries who are members of the TRLC.
According to Fashola, the road would encourage the integration of the region as well as open up limitless opportunities to the countries.
“It is very useful for every African to be aware of the existence of a trans-African highway plan which seeks to connect the whole of Africa right from Cape Town up to Tunisia, either by driving through the East African border, or the West African border or through the centre of Africa. There is a coast to coast connectivity from the West to the East of Africa to the Northeast of Africa to the Northwest of Africa, and the South-west of Africa to East Africa.
“A total of nine highways at different stages of connection are meant to achieve this connectivity and it is important for Nigerians to understand that three of these Highways pass through the territory of Nigeria out of those nine.
“The first is the Lagos-Dakar highway, which passes through Seme border, and there to Dakar, Senegal. The second is the Lagos-Mumbasa, which links us through Yaounde in Cameroon. The third and the one about which we are gathered today is the Lagos-Algiers highway which is the object of this meeting.
“That road covers over 9,000km and 80 per cent of that road is now asphalted. It is important to contextualize that in what we all read about as the trans-Saharan trade road. This was the road of Camels and Horses. So how much Africa has progressed now is that with the partnership of all of the men sitting here and all of the experts, 80 per cent of the roads used to be travelled by the camels and horses are now motorable and I think that is progress,” Fashola added.
Noting that the impact was huge, he urged Nigerians to understand that they are part of a large urban network of opportunities, adding: “If you appreciate that the roads of horses and camels are now the road of vehicles and trucks, you can imagine the opportunities that lie ahead as we converge here.”
In attendance at the meeting of TRLC expected to last for three days in Abuja are ministers and representatives of the six counties as well as the Secretary General of the TRLC, Mr Ayadi Mohammed.