NIGERIA, DEVELOP AND GROW: WHEN YOU TAR A ROAD DISTANCES GET SHORTER

AFRICA PEER REVIEW MECHANISM (II)


The South African Ministry of Transport, has an Agency called the South African National Roads Agency Limited “SANRAL”
This agency is in charge of everything and anything that have to do with roads construction, management thereof, including entering into contracts with private sector investors in roads.


The majority of the highways are tolled, which is a system that guarantees return on investments for private sector investors. This is one of the reasons South Africa has one of the best roads networks in the world. 
The availability of road infrastructure in any economy is vital for the desired economic development, which results in growth, prosperity and everything good for its citizens.


You can only imagine what would happen should there be need for emergency medical services in the absence of good roads networks in any country. Death, and crippling of productive citizens of course, including the rich and the poor.


This brings me to the subject matter.


In 2010, I was invited by the then Nigerian High Commissioner, His Excellency, General M B Marwa on a business trip to the coastal city of Durban, South Africa. Gen. M B Marwa was a one time Governor of Lagos State the commercial nerve center of Nigeria, which happens to be an economic power house on the African continent. Gen Marwa is a multi award winning Harvard graduate with two Masters degrees, amongst others.


His mission to Durban was two pronged, first was to inspect a Waste Management site, where they turn Waste to Wealth. The technology includes generating electricity from waste, recycling of all kinds of wastes from ferrous to nonferrous, and the production of various other products from waste. He had the desire to replicate similar technologies in Nigeria.


The second mission is the subject matter of this piece;  which was to inspect the roads infrastructure from Pretoria to Durban. The roads infrastructure are out of this world; world class i must say as a proudly South African.

 
In his usual style of excellent service delivery to Nigerians, he must have first hand knowledge and information of that which he wants to implement.


The distance between Pretoria, South Africa and Durban South Africa is about 450 kilometers. Which is about the same distance from the city of Onitsha in Anambra State, Nigeria to Lagos State also in Nigeria, but driving to one to the other is takes you the entire day to arrive, that is if you arrive alive. Whereas driving from Pretoria to Durban will take about four and half hours should you own any of the German machines such as, Mercedes Benz,  BMW and Audi. Just be ready for traffic fines should you want to arrive Durban within the above time estimate. 


But should you want to arrive alive, you have to soft pedal to about 6 hours, which will also allow you time to take in the beautiful roads infrastructure and sightseeing along the road. They breath-taking.


The fact of the matter is, whichever choice you make between the above two time options, the bottom line is that, when you tar a road distances get shorter.


Back to our trip to Durban. 


His Excellency, made a decision to travel to Durban by road and to return to Pretoria by flight. Which afforded him the opportunity to take in the beautiful roads networks from Pretoria to Durban. His good intention was to replicate same in Nigeria.


Now the two pronged mission to Durban was achieved by just one single trip. I was invited in my capacity as the Executive Secretary of the High Commissioner’s Advisory Council, which was put together by Gen. Marwa in order enhance service delivery to Nigerians and also to foster good relations between South Africa and Nigeria.

Both countries has a Bi-National Commission which only exist on paper, his intention was to translate the spirit and purports of the Bi-National Agreements in such a way as to benefit the citizens of both countries; to have the agreement trickle down to the man on street. A noble idea which his successors have successively failed to take further, or emulate.


I love driving to Durban because of the beautiful scenery and especially to enjoy the smooth drive in any one of the German machines that I own.
I remember in one of the trips to Durban, sitting next to me at the passenger seat was Dr Ken Madiebo, the first son of Major General Alex Madiebo of the then Biafran Army. He was doing a Masters degree in Public Health Management at Wits University in Johannesburg, I was at the University of Johannesburg studying Law.


Look, you will never understand the beauty of driving a Mercedes Benz until you hit the maximum speedometer on the smooth and beautiful road to Durban or to any part of South Africa for that matter.


At some point on the road, there is a long stretch which allows you to see the distance of about 5 kilometers ahead of you. The temptation to test the capacity of the engine of your German machine is the only thought that readily comes to your mind. It comes as a reflex action because whether you like it or not, your leg will push to the maximum speed without you having to prompt it. But traffic fines will also land in your post box with a speed faster than you had driven. Smile, you are on candid cameras installed on the highways – say cheese!


This is one of the reasons that the President of Nigeria must sign into law the Bills that would enable the Nigerian Ministry of Transport establish similar Agencies to the South African National Roads Agency Limited.

These Bills which have already been passed in the Nigerian Parliament, they are:

  1. Federal Road Authority;
  2. National Road Fund, For Maintenance; and
  3. National Transport Commission – the Regulatory platform for all Transport modes.


The advantages thereof cannot be overemphasized. This will unlock and accelerate economic growth in the country, no doubt. 
It’s time Nigeria took economic development and growth seriously.
I thank  you. 

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