Abandoned Federal Roads Haunt Obasanjo, Jonathan
■ How 2 ex-presidents missed death on highways they left unfixed
■ It’s law of karma chasing after them- Balarabe Musa, Tsav, others
BY ADE ALADE, TUNDE THOMAS AND VINCENT KALU
They were both democratic heads of state for over 13 years and for the period, they approved billions of naira to fix some federal highways across Nigeria. Some of them include the Abuja-Lokoja-Benin, Port Harcourt-Eket, Kano-Maiduguri, Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Sagamu-Benin, and the Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageways. Unfortunately, the roads are today in bad shape because they have been abandoned for several years. More intriguing is the fact that the two former leaders, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and former President Goodluck Jonathan have in the past four weeks narrowly escaped death on one of the roads they failed to fix as Nigerian leaders: Lagos-Ibadan-Benin highways.
While Obasanjo had his encounter on the deadly busy road last Saturday, Nigerians were kept in the dark on the experience of Jonathan who also narrowly missed death on the same road four weeks earlier.
Reliving how he survived the accident, Obasanjo had in a statement signed by one of his aides, Vitalis Ortese admitted the incident was caused by a burst tyre. “The office also wishes to confirm, that on Saturday, October 24, 2015, Obasanjo was indeed involved in an accident on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, after Sagamu roundabout, while he was on his way to join in the celebrations of the 80th birthday anniversary of Chief Adebutu in Tinubu Methodist Church, Lagos.
“The vehicle, he was travelling in suffered a burst left tyre at the rear and swerved several times but did not hit any curb or any car in front or behind until it did a 180-degree turn and faced where it was coming from, and he had to change vehicles.
“Obasanjo wishes to convey his deep appreciation to all those, who by way of calls, personal messages and prayers, and indeed members of the general public, who have shown overwhelming concern about his welfare”, the statement had said.
Though his own close shave with death was similar to that of his estranged godfather, Nigerians were, however, not aware that former President Jonathan narrowly missed being killed on the same road on Wednesday, September 23 when he was travelling in company with his wife, Patience, from Lagos to Ikenne, Ogun State, to condole with the Awolowo family over the recent death of Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo.
Saturday Sun gathered that a state government in the South-West had sent some vehicles to pick the former first family from the MMIA, Lagos. On their way to Ikenne, the bullet proof Toyota land cruiser SUV bearing Mr and Mrs Jonathan entered a ditch, exploded and tore into shreds while the vehicle swerved for seconds until it crashed into a roadside quarter which eventually halted the dangerous swerve.
A close associate of the former president, who confirmed the incident to Saturday Sun on the condition of anonymity, said security details escorting the former president moved briskly to move Jonathan and his wife into another vehicle in the convoy and zoomed off before passersby and highway sympathizers would recognise them as the victims of the accident.
“They were visibly shaken as human beings but they tried to put up some courage before getting to Ikenne so that their look would not betray their state of mind”, the source added.
Reacting to the involvement of Jonathan in an accident on his way to Ikenne, his former spokesman, Dr. Rueben Abati, said he was not aware that his former principal was involved in an accident on his way to Ikenne.
He said: “I have never heard about it; I’m just hearing it for the first time. Where did it happen, when and who is the source of the story? I have not heard”.
Findings have shown that over 184 federal road projects have been abandoned across the country due to lack of funding from the Federal Government and the huge debt owed contractors handling them. It was further gathered that the construction contractors are now being owed about N1.76trn on federal road projects while another source put the figure at N600bn.
The President, Federation of Construction Industry, the umbrella body for construction companies, Mr. Solomon Ogunbusola, in a recent interview, confirmed most of federal roads in the six geo-political areas of the country had been abandoned.
A September 2014 figure of abandoned road projects shows that the North-Central Zone had 29 projects with a total length of 1,201.81km and a cost of N294bn; North- East had 26 projects, 1,219.65km long and cost N314bn; North-West had 20 projects, 1,040.22km long and cost N188bn; while the South-East had 45 projects stretching 1,251.4km with a worth of N357bn.
The South-South had 33 ongoing projects, 739.57km long costing N245bn; while the number of ongoing projects in the South- West was put at 31, stretching 1,072.63km at a total cost of N365bn.
During his tenure between 1999 and 2007, Obasanjo made moves to reconstruct the Lagos-Ibadan as well as Lagos-Sagamu-Benin road under Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe as Minister of Works but soon after the project started, it was abandoned until ex-president Jonathan picked the project and re-awarded it under the then Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen.
The contracts for these roads were awarded in July 2006 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration at a cost of N419 billion while most of them were to be completed within five years. But almost 10 years after, most of the roads have been abandoned and in various states of decay due to poor construction and maintenance jobs, heavy human and vehicular traffic, etc.