It was a two-day retreat for the staff of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Gombe last month. The Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engr Abubakar D. Aliyu was billed to attend.
After the event, the minister decided to travel on some of the Nigerian roads to see for himself the ongoing reconstruction works being carried out by the federal government. He started by traveling to Numan in Adamawa state, where he inspected the ongoing Gombe – Numan reconstruction road project.
The Minister returned to Gombe and proceeded to Potiskum – all along inspecting the ongoing road projects. The minister also inspected the Potiskum -Azare- Kano road projects.
In Wudil in particular, the minister warned the contractor of the Kano-Shuwari section of the Kano – Maiduguri dualisation project, Dantata and Sawoe. He warned the company to be serious with the projects. He told the contractor that he was appalled that he didn’t witness any substantial development on the project since the last time he visited the site in December.
Earlier on December 26, decked in a brown pants, brown t-shirt, baseball cap, and sneakers, the same minister alighted from his car and said ‘Good morning all. I am glad that you are here on time.’
It was 7:15 am, and it was a Boxing Day which is also a public holiday. Despite the public holiday, Engr Aliyu, was in his office ready to embark on a road supervision running into 900 kilometres, stretching from Abuja- Kaduna -Zaria (including Kaduna Eastern Bye-Pass) – Kano, as well as the Kano- Maiduguri dualisation road project.
On his his return journey, the minister inspected the Potiskum- Gashua (a palliative project) road, Ginin Alkali – Bayameri road, Gashua-Nguru road, and Nguru – Hadejia road.
At exactly, 7:30, the minister, hopped into the awaiting bus, together with a handful of personal staff, some engineers who cut short their holiday to join him on that trip.
The working-holiday availed the minister to personally supervise the ongoing roads projects in the northeast as well as participate in a political activity in Damaturu – a reception organized by the Yobe State Government to honor him and Senate President Ahmed Lawan; and also engage in humanitarian cause by interface with dozens of orphans he is catering for in his YaZara Orphanage in Potiskum.
“As a civil engineer, I have passion for roads. I find it always fascinating to travel by road and interact with all the stakeholders,” the minister said on why he chose to travel those hundreds kilometers bumpy road, instead of flying to Kano to connect to Damaturu.
Engr Ali said by traveling by road, “I would be able to gauge the people’s feelings. I want to feel what Nigerians feel when they travel on our roads.”
He said the unscheduled trip is also an opportunity to “inspect the road projects first hand. I will get the situation report, not the progress report. I will make personal assessment of the projects.”
“Instead of sitting back in the office, signing certificates (evidence of job completion and requirement for payment), I am out here seeing it by myself. By this unscheduled and unofficial visitation, I will see the situation on ground first hand, not through a third party,” the minister said.
The federal government is reconstructing and expanding the Abuja- Kaduna- Zaria – Kano expressway, spanning over 400 kilometers. The N155 billion project is being handled by a German construction giant, Julius Berger.
The dualisation and rehabilitation of the Kano- Maiduguri road is being handled by five construction firms namely – Dantata and Sawoe, Setraco, Mothercat, CGC and CCECC.
The Abuja- Kaduna- Zaria- Kano expressway project was awarded by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017. The road network is the major link between the north and southern part of the country. It is also the superhighway that traverses the northwest and link it with the northeast.
The project involves the renovation and expansion of the existing road, construction of pedestrian bridges, expanding bridges, flyovers, trailer parks, drainages, and electrification.
From Abuja that faithful morning, the minister stopped at Suleja junction were Julius Berger did some substantial work of reconstruction of the road as well as expanding it. The minister trekked for almost a kilometer, inspecting the road which was is being built.
The controller of works in the ministry in charge of Abuja and north central explained to the minister the situation on ground.
Engineer Abdulsalam Kurfi, acting controller of in Kano state, took the minister through the third section of the Abuja- Kano road project, that is Zaria- Kano road. The minister stopped at many intervals inspecting the projects and making observations.
By evening, the minister and his modest entourage arrived Kano city and retired for the night.
The next day being Friday, the minister proceeded with the inspection of the Kano – Maiduguri road dualisation project.
The first section of the road, stretching from Kano – Shuwari, is being handled by Dantata and Sawoe. It is about 40 percent completion. The minister inspected the road and the interchanges and bye-passes in Wudil, Gaya, Takai, among others.
He proceeded to the second section of the road, from Shuwari – Azare which is being handled by Setraco. That section of the road is more than 90 percent completion. The third section which stretches from Azare -Potiskum is almost completed. It is being handled by Mothercat. The fourth section of the road is from Potiskum to Damaturu, which the minister inspected on Saturday morning. The section is being constructed by CGC, a Chinese consortium. The construction works has progressed despite the Boko Haram insurgency.
Engineer Usman Abubakar Majin, a deputy director (northeast) on highways, construction and rehabilitation, took over from his Kano counterpart and explained to the minister the situation on ground.
The minister continued with the roads inspection on Sunday after the political event in Damaturu. By 10am on Sunday, the minister left Potiskum and headed to Gashua, where he inspected the Potiskum- Gashua palliative road project.
The minister inspected Gashua- Garin Alkali – Gashua -Bayameri road before stopping at the palace of the Mai Bade in Gashua.
After the royal visit, Engr Ali continued his inspection tour by touring the Gashua- Nguru road and subsequently, Nguru- Hadejia road. The minister stopped at various sections of the road, making observations.
The minister finally arrived Kano around 6pm and retired for the day. The next morning, the minister returned to Abuja from Kano by road and went straight to the office to continue working.
Mahmoud wrote from Abuja