Twelve years ago, in his Year 2010 budget presentation to the Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday, 3 November 2009, as Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, had said, in part,
“… while a lot of work has been done in our attempt to bridge the infrastructure gap and a lot of projects, too numerous to mention will be completed before the end of this year and in the first and subsequent quarters of next year such as schools, health facilities, roads, water supply facilities and so much more.
We believe that we are now at the most challenging phase of our journey to a bright and rewarding future.
“For too long, we seem to have evolved survival strategies for dealing with chaotic and unplanned living that we now seem afraid to approach orderly living predicated on law and order. We are at the point where we must build the most enduring infrastructure. This is the infrastructure of the mind.
This is the infrastructure that empowers people to seek new levels of excellence that demands new attitudes that commits to greater ideals. We recognise that while the build ings, schools and roads can be easily pulled down and rebuilt, the human mind is the most difficult to rebuild, although it is the most enduring.”
A rigorous enforcement of the law and multi-dimensional public awareness campaigns followed that declaration and characterised the rest of the administration.
Six years into his assignment as a minister responsible for the renewal and expansion of our country’s infrastructure, he had repeatedly stated a fact: there is no state in the country where the Federal Government is not building or rehabilitating a road or bridge or house, or to use a phrase he had used while governing Lagos State, doing “infrastructure catchup” with population growth. Progress has certainly been made.
By 21 June 2021, when he made a presentation titled, “The Politics of Economy and the Economy of Politics: Infrastructure Development; the Progressive Way” at the first APC Youth Conference in Abuja, infrastructure deliverables had shot to 895 ongoing Highway and Bridge projects, internal road rehabilitation in 43 federal tertiary institutions, construction of new Federal Secretariats in six states and rehabilitation/maintenance of 24 Federal Secretariats across the country, construction of housing estates under the National Housing Programme in 34 states, rehabilitation of 41 bridges, scheduled maintenance of 5,461.88Km of roads and 8,000KM of Highway maintenance by FERMA, all across the nation while Government established the first ever National Building Maintenance Policy for the country, leading to the creation of the Department of Federal Public Asset Maintenance (FPAM) with the Ministry.
Earlier in an interview published in African Business of 6 April 2021, Fashola told the magazine’s Publisher Omar Ben Yedder: “The point to make here is that the outline of the infrastructure commitments of this government are very clear now.
The wheels are also turning and what people should expect to see is more developments on the ease of doing business. Infrastructure is very important too for enabling and achieving that. We’re refurbishing public infrastructure highways, and we are beginning to build our maintenance economy because it is a very important economy that really has not taken off.
This is where we will be, this will be a decade of infrastructure renewal and expansion. It will be an exciting space to play.” Fashola turns 58 today, and the theme of the Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) Gabfest (held yearly in the last five years to commemorate his birthday by discussing the role of the youth in Nigeria’s future) is “Arrive Alive: Building a road towards better driving culture.”
From verifiable data by traffic management authorities, it is becoming clear that with better road infrastructure, motorists now overspeed and are becoming generally less compliant with road safety rules and regulations.
In a recent submission to the Federal Executive Council, Fashola had noted: “Consistently over the years and this data is available, the impact of bad roads and accidents was less than 2%.
As big as that may be, it is less than 2%. (Whereas) overspeeding, loss of control, wrongful overtaking cumulate to over 70%.” This is huge. Continued online: www. newtelegraphonline.com • Mr Hakeem Bello, FNGE, is Special Adviser, Communications to the Hon. Minister