Communities as well as motorists along the 375km Kano-Abuja expressway are in a jubilant mood as they count the economic impact of the new six lanes reconstruction works on the Kano-Kaduna-Abuja highway. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja), ABDULGAFAR OLADIMEJI (Kano), ALIYU YUSUF (Zaria) and ISAIAH BENJAMIN (Kaduna) reports

The 375km Kano-Zaria-Kaduna-Abuja highway is arguably Nigeria’s busiest road after the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Judging by the corridor it passes which is the Northwest and the population density of what is now called the 3Ks of Kano, Kaduna and Katsina with a combined projected population of over 20 million people, the reconstruction of the vital road has been viewed as a gateway to development of the Northwest.

The highway is also a gateway to Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Kebbi States including some states in the Northeast with gales of economic opportunities hitherto hindered by several years of neglect.

The inhabitants of the five local government areas that stretched through the Kano State side of the expressway as well as commuters have expressed delight amidst jubilation, over federal government flagging off the project.

The reconstruction works of the expressway is costing the federal government the sum of N155.4 billion and remains one of the most important infrastructural works being carried out by the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government in the region.

Many had given up on the possibility of any reconstruction going by years of neglect which has in turn inflicted on the people untold hard and misery.

The residents of Kumbotso, Garum Mallam, Kura, Kiru, Bebeji local government areas of Kano State while speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend recently, described the expressway as a death trap, saying the reconstruction works will save lives, boost economic activities and smoothing traffic flows.

The communities that align these routes that swerve past these local councils are agrarian in nature, they engage in seasonal and perennial farming.

Our Correspondent who spoke to some of the residents gathered that, the road is of economic, political, and social importance not only to them but the entire region of the Northwest.

Political party secretariats and campaign offices of political office seekers are dominant along the express road.

The road side is also used as venues for religious and social gatherings by the residents of the affected five local government areas. This explains the enthusiasm of the communities when the news broke that Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, the construction firm awarded the job had mobilised equipment to site.

Our checks reveal that, on Kumbotso LGA axis of the road is inhabited by rice plants as well as prominent bottling companies. On completion, the road is expected to provide smooth traffic flow and easy conveyance of goods from the companies to other parts of the state and outside Kano.

It is expected that heavy duty trucks conveying raw material to the factories will travel at ease.

Kura LGA is home to rice farming in Kano State, travelers in hundreds stop over daily, to purchase rice from road side rice seller who in their hundreds display their produce along the expressway. This scenario though of economic importance, has in the contrary led to loss of lives and properties.

A resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity said “Every day, you find out that on the express road around Kura, we record minimum of two road accidents and at least one life loss in every two days.

“Most dangerously, is somewhere close to the central area of the expressway where trading is high, people get knocked down by over speeding vehicles every day, and it will interest you to know that some of these accidents are caused by vehicles that are parked indiscriminately by the roadside, due to the high trading activities. People stop to buy rice, onions and tomatoes. If the road is completed more people can stop to buy produce, accidents caused by over takings which is also regular between trucks and smaller vehicles will be curbed,” the source said.

Kwanar Gafan is a village along the expressway synonymous with trading on agricultural produces and social activities. The traders are anticipating increase in trading activities, envisaging that motorists from other parts of the North West and East, traveling to or back from the Southern part, who usually avoid the road due to its bad state will now ply the road, culminating into increase in traffic and sales patronage by travelers.

Dakatsalle is also a small town on the expressway, it is renowned as a stopover for heavy truck drivers conveying divergent goods from the Southern parts of Nigeria to Kano and parts of the North West states and North East.

The area though a notorious hub for criminal activities, Dakatsalle is a beehive of commercial activities, it is gathered that the expansion of the road will attract more developments in terms of infrastructure boom in local trading and expansion in social services, such as cinema houses, hotels and social joints.

Although, observers warn that, most of the local farmers in preserving their farm produces use the side of the express road to sun dry may be denied the space when the road is completed.

A senior government official in Kura LGA, who does not want his name on print said “The reconstruction is a blessing, but we fear for the farmers drying the farm produces on the road side, I hope the expansion will not lead to many more farmers rushing to the expressway to sun dry their produce only to be exposed to the danger of road accidents and we end up having more people losing their lives.”

On the Makarfi and Zaria LGAs side in Kaduna State, hawkers, road users on Sokoto, Zaria road fly-over praised the federal government for the commencement of the road project.

Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Zaria, Tukur Isa, a fruit seller at the fly over described the project as laudable initiative that would impacted on the lives of the citizenry.

He observed that expanding the road to six lanes is to their advantage considering the number of motorists that will patronise them which will in turn boost socio economic activities in the area.

Alhaji Hamisu Abubakar a resident of Tashar Yari in Makarfi LGA was happy with the federal government for embarking on the long awaited project.

He observed that the project has direct impact on the people especially those who have petty business on the highway in Tashar Yari, Kano, Zaria and Kaduna.

According to him, the initiative would ease transportation, and also bring succour to road users around the northern parts of the country “Commuters, transporters of goods around Kano, Kaduna suffer a lot over the poor condition of our road which has led to the loss of several lives,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammad Abdu of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Sabon Gari local government area, expressed delight on the development, saying that it is part of good governance of the APC led administration.

He said that the expansion and reconstruction of the road would improve safety and welfare of road users, adding that it would also reduce gross traffic violation.

Meanwhile, Alhaji Nuhu Aminu, special assistant to the chairman, of Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in Zaria said the growing insecurity on the highways which he attributed to poor condition of the road would become a story of the past.

He observed that the arm bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers along the highways took advantage of poor condition of the road to conduct their nefarious act.

According to him, security agencies find it difficult to deploy their officers to some vulnerable areas due to poor condition of the road.

He stressed that government at this point deserved kudos as it works towards improving the welfare of commuters as well as business people along the highway of Abuja.

Mixed reaction trails project in Kaduna

The reconstruction works has been greeted with various controversies in Kaduna especially among the political class. While some commended the federal government’s decision to embark on the reconstruction apparently, to ease traffic and reduce to the barest minimum road accidents, others are of the view that the construction is only for political gains in view of the 2019 general elections.

Others also feel starting the road reconstruction from Kano may also be a reward system to the Kano State government where President Muhammad Buhari had one of the highest votes in the 2015 presidential elections.

Some of the local governments benefiting from the road reconstruction in Kaduna State coming from Kano State are Makarfi, Kudan, Sabon Gari, Zaria, Igabi, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun, Kachia (Kateri, Doka, Rijana) Kagarko (Jere, Tafa) local government areas.

Some of the residents of villages within those local governments that the roads will pass through also expressed mixed feelings on the road construction.

Mallam Dogara Jatua of Doka village in Kachia local government told LEADERSHIP Weekend that, “As good as the road construction may be, my fears is that it might lead to an increase in road accidents as most vehicles particularly the commercial drivers may end up over speeding in view of the good roads.”

Alhaji Mohammed Jaafaru of the Kaduna bye pass road averred that he could swear that the construction is simply politically motivated to deceive electorates, “or else, why should the government start it from Kano instead of starting from Abuja through Kaduna,” he queried.

Mrs Florence Akwamtu on her part, said “The road construction if the government will live up to its words will help in no small measure to improve on the economy of the areas the road will pass through, stressing that business activities will be boosted if eventually the road get constructed as approved.”

On the security aspect, some are of the view that if the road is eventually constructed and adequate security is not put in place, it might lead to an increase in arm robbery attack, as the robbers will have alternative road to drive through in perpetrating their activities.

Niger communities are delighted over the project but want their markets preserved.

Communities in Tafa and Suleja LGAs on the Abuja-Kaduna axis of the road expressed delight over the development saying it will boost the economy of the LGAs going by its proximity to Abuja, the federal capital city.

Speaking to our Correspondent in Sabon Wuse and Suleja respectively, the residents said the news of the reconstruction and expansion of the busy federal road has led to a surge in property acquisition in the areas especially, those located along the expressway.

Malam Ali Pate, a property manager, said that there is heightened anticipation of property boom in the Suleja axis of the road as more individuals and corporate organisations are buying land and property for business purposes.

“We are delighted with the current development as more business opportunities are unfolding. We also expect more investors to come to this areas to invest their monies and you know the implication of that-more jobs, less crime and better living conditions,” he said.

But not everyone is happy over the development as some residents and traders fear their local markets located along the expressway will be affected by the expansion.

They said all powers lies in the hands of the government, they pleaded that some of the markets should be preserved by relocating them to favourable places along the road.

LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that some markets along the road are notorious to traffic on market days. One of such is the Madalla market on the fringes of the border of Niger State and the FCT.

Meanwhile, authorities of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) have succeeded in instilling sanity on the Zuba axis of the highway in Gwgwalada area council. The FCDA recently freed the road of manmade traffic causing factors as it has cleared all illegal motor parks, traders notorious for causing traffic on the road.

Recall the federal government recently flagged off the reconstruction of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano expressway, at a cost of N155.4 billion

Speaking during the flag off ceremony at Ciromawa in Garun Malam LGA of Kano State, minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola said the Federal Executive Council gave approval for reconstruction of the expressway based on its importance as the major road linking the North and South of the country.

He said reconstruction of the 375.4km expressway was awarded to Julius Berger with a completion period of 36 months.

The minister said the project would be executed simultaneously in three phases saying, there will be no reason to stop work for lack of funds as President Muhammadu Buhari had assured that works will not stop until it is completed.