Permit me to institute an end-of-year Hall of Shame for all the representatives from the southern parts of the country in the National Assembly. I would like to state clearly that I am fully persuaded that we have indulged them for more than two and half years and it is time to blame them for poor representation and absence of strategic development agenda in their constituencies. I mean members of the National Assembly from Lagos/South West, South East and South South geo-political zones.
Specifically, we need to ask all of them some hard questions on why they have all shirked their responsibility to the people in respect of the most strategic economic routes (roads) in Nigeria Dr. Christopher Kolade spoke about in 2009.
There has been a dereliction of economic duty to the people of Nigeria by neglecting and ignoring the Apapa-Oshodi-Lagos-Ibadan/Shagamu-Ore-Benin-Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressways.
It is not a time to blame the president and the any political party for this gross dereliction of responsibility. It is a time to blame the current and past federal legislators from the southern parts of Nigeria. They have been part of change management since May 29, 1999. They have been talking about constituency projects. They have been accusing others and investigating various public service infractions. No, it is not a time to blame the north and indeed the Fulani political operatives for our woes.
This is a time to ask questions about their stewardship and poor representation. I don’t care about current poor attention to the Apapa Ports Roads through a convoluted arrangement with Dangote Group. It is haphazard.
In 2009, when the then President Yar’adua began the 257 billion worth of 10-lane roads expansion from the Abuja city centre to the Abuja airport road and Madala, a boundary between Abuja and Niger state, Dr. Christopher Kolade, an iconic figure did a contextual analysis of the economics of the very important but misdirected projects in Abuja. He did not mean that the projects should be stopped. Dr. Kolade only drew the attention of political leaders in the county then to the fact that Apapa, Lagos Ports Roads to Port Harcourt, the economic capital of South South should have been considered too.
The policy and management guru had noted that priority attention should have been given too to the terrible conditions of the roads to the two Apapa Ports he then called critical “economic routes”.
He was ignored and even abused for his “bad verses”. Yet, the Apapa Ports are critical federal assets and the roads from Apapa to Port Harcourt are federal roads. Every week, national newspapers give terrible pictorial and graphic reports of the implications of the gridlocks on the roads.
Now Lagos, the economic capital of West Africa, which Lagos state government says it is developing as a mega city, is complicated. It has become an embarrassment in traffic management, no thanks to Apapa Ports terrible ancient roads fuel tanker drivers have to ply to convey imported fuel to consumers.
Here is the thing; it is not enough to blame the president alone for the poor state of budget implementation and critical infrastructure in the country.
In a democracy, there are processes and various actors have their roles carved out for them in the course of delivering development and projects implementation. We do not have to go to school of politicsto learn that the most significant arm of government in any democracy is the legislature. It has enormous powers, especially in our constitution to make and unmake any democracy. The power of the purse in not in the executive: it rests squarely in the legislature, according to our constitution.
The power of the budgeting and implementation; the power of monetary and fiscal policies arm-chair analysts always joke about are not only with the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. The power of the National Assembly to deliver development and service to the people is enormous in a democracy that works.
The New York Times reported yesterday, for instance, that President Donald Trump who had hitherto not recorded any significant legislative success since assumption of office signed tremendous tax cut, the biggest 30 years. It is being reported as the most significant overhaul of the American tax system in three decades.
The defiant Trump could not have signed even an “executive order” to do that. He signed what the Congress had approved. That is part of the enormous power of the legislature in a functional democracy.
The legislators know about their enormous powers in the constitution. Forget about the ignorant boasters, the president and his National Economic Council power brokers cannot spend a dime from the earmarked $1 billion to fight insurgency anywhere until the National Assembly approves it! That is what the organic law of the federation provides.
So, in a democracy that works, good legislators work for their constituencies. That is their major political duty to the people they represent. They should be and are passionate about constituency projects they always lobby the executive arm to include in the budget details. They most times use the political party platforms including the party caucuses in the legislature to settle most of these (constituency) projects.
In the same vein, they sit down with the ministers concerned to work out details of proposals and discipline of execution. They always work hard to ensure that contractors perform on time. They always perform this quiet operation too by lobbying the finance minister and their own appropriation committees’ presiding officers. This is part of the most critical assignment of legislators: representation.
Law making and oversight functions they always tell us about their job are only prominent but those functions are not as significant as representation in a working democracy.
As I had noted on this page before in an article titled, “Hello, Do you know your representatives?”,history shows us that tumultuous times bring change, but we have been told that our change variant is a gradual process”. Even as we wait for the dividends, we can interrogate some of the institutions that are designed by law to help the change process.
As Professor Ben Nwabueze, an expert on this discipline once noted, the Legislature is the distinctive mark of a country’s sovereignty, the index of its status as a state and the source of much of the power exercised by the executive in the administration of government.
And so, whether parliamentary or presidential, the organ of government that captures the mind most as epitomizing the concept is the legislature. For that is the place where the public sees democracy in action, in the form of debates, and consideration of motions, resolutions and bills. The closest politician to the voter is the representative of his constituency in the legislature.
The Hall of Shame for Legislators!
The story began in the last administration when on July 9, 2013 it was reported that the federal government had awardeda whopping N167billion worth of Lagos- Ibadan Expressway contracts.
The then Works Minister, Mike Onolememen who announced the details said the federal government had awarded the N167 billion contracts to Messrs Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Limited.
According to the minister, the two construction firms that emerged the preferred bidders for Section 1 (Lagos- Shagamu Interchange) and Section 11 (Shagamu Interchange – Ibadan) were to deliver the roads in 48 months.
The minister gave some background: “The government had earlier entered into concession agreement with Messrs Bi-Courtney in 2009 to develop the section between Ojota old plaza in Lagos and old toll plaza in Ibadan, a distance of approximately 105 kilometres under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for enhanced quality of service to all users of the highway in tandem with international standards”.
He had added, “four years later, no real progress was recorded while the road users wallowed in hardship and constantly at risk of accident on the road.
The critical project is also a major artery that connects Lagos, major Nigerian sea ports, to other states of the federation and forms not only a part of the Trans-Saharan Highway that links Lagos on the Atlantic Ocean to Algiers on the Mediterranean Sea but also part of the Trans-African Highway, linking the Atlantic City of Lagos to the Indian Ocean city of Mombassa in East Africa through Cameroon and Central Africa.
Onolememen, an architect, had then said that the federal government had made tremendous progress in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Benin-Ore-Shagamu Expressway, which on full completion, would further reinforce the socio-economic benefits to be harnessed from the Lagos-Ibadan road reconstruction. Sadly, this was not true as the only progress made was from Ore to Benin where the minister hails from. But from Shagamu to Ore, the most critical part was not touched before the last administration left office in May 2015.
Specifically, the strategic Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and all the related routes to Port Harcourt have again become election-time projects. And we are on the march again for 2019. Last week, it was reported that federal government was considering the possibility of increasing the scope of work to N300 billion. The story broke last week Wednesday December 21 after a marathon meeting of the federal executive council at which N377 billion worth of contracts for other road projects was also approved.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway component of the meeting was not discussed by any of the ministers that spoke to State House reporters. The SSA Media to the President, Malam Garba Shehu only announced the N300 billion deal in a statement as an addendum after the FEC briefing, which excluded the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway abandoned projects. This is critical. It means the Works, Power and Housing Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has been successfully arm-twisted by the federal legislators to keep quiet about the critical road projects Minister Onolememen promised would be completed in 48 months since 2013.
The projects – from Apapa through Shagamu to Port Harcourt will reduce economic losses associated with accidents and congestion, curtail travel times and strengthen the south-west, south-east and south-south regional economy, the nation’s economy and national productivity.
That is why we need to ask specifically what all the representatives from the south have been doing in the last 18 years about the most important economic routes Dr. Kolade identified since 2009. We, the people should ask them this Yuletide period if they come home. Democracy is about the people. And most of the people need good roads more than the airports the power elite and our representatives use to fly over all the bad routes from Apapa to Port Harcourt.
That is why we should induct all the southern representatives at the National Assembly, past and present into a Hall of Shame for neglecting the(ir) most important constituency projects in the country: the Apapa- Lagos-Ibadan Expressway- Shagamu-Ore- Benin- Enugu Port Harcourt….They should accept the award by responding to this citation (article).