Sunday, April 8, 2018

Observations on the Proposed Dangi Underpass and Flyover in Kano, Nigeria



Transport infrastructure is a major factor in promoting sustainable development because it increases accessibility and creates opportunities for less developed or neglected areas. Urban expansion and growth requires increased accessibility and that is ensured by providing networks that will ease linkages in urban centres. In fact, when roads are provided in an area, development is attracted. Urban centres with more networks tend to develop faster than those with less connectivity. This being the issue, all urban centres of Nigeria try to improve their accessibility and connectivity, thus Lagos and Abuja remain envy to other States including Kano and Ibadan.
A little wonder therefore when Kano State Government initiate the construction of new flyovers and under passes from 2011to date. The current State Government ensures that the bridges that were unfinished by the last government, were completed or being completed. In addition, new ones were built at Kofar Ruwa and Panshekara. From 2011 to date, billions of naira were expended on these giant projects which have beautified the city but also addresses some teething traffic challenges. These bridges also fetch political marks to governors and become their campaign landmarks.
One of the roads that have a series of these bridges is Zaria road. The Gidan Murtala overhead is less than three kilometers to the popularly Gadar Lado (Ado Bayero Bridge) then the Bypass flyover. With the diversion of traffic at the Dangi junction for those going through Zoo road, Zaria road is among the most traffic-jam free roads in Kano metropolis. You hardly see long traffic along Zaria road, for this, we must commend the State and Federal Governments for their foresight because Zaria road could be the most important link road of Kano with many important parts of Nigeria.
Most recently, it was in the news that Kano State Government is building a new bridge at Dangi roundabout, a project that will gulp a whooping 4 billion naira. The new project will connect Zaria/Silver Jubilee and Zoo road in the metropolis. The statement issued by the State Commissioner of Information, Youth and Culture, Malam Muhammad Garba says “the project is also aimed at reducing carbon emission, minimizing road accidents, beautification of the state capital among others’. Although how the project will be funded is not clear, radio adverts seem suggests that IGR from taxes will be the source of funding.
When I heard about this new project, I found it intriguing. The first question one should ask is is there need for this project in Kano at this critical time when we are short of funds. Many critical sectors are facing challenges including education and health. Children still sit on the floor. Existing health facilities are in bad shape. To me, the Dangi project is preposterous. Any observer and student of transportation will tell you that there is no justification for that huge spending in that location. Zaria road is free of traffic and in the next ten years or even more there won’t be need for this kind of project. The reasons given by the Commissioner is absurd. First of all, reducing carbon emission argument is deceptive because, the same State Government has allocated green areas in the State that serve as carbon sink, for example, along BUK road, especially between Kofar Gadon Kaya and Kofar Famfo land has been allocated that will not only increase carbon emission because of the traffic hold up it will create but also destroy 500 year Kano people’s historical monument (remnant of the famous Kano city wall). Several public parks have also been converted to other uses. Cutting all those trees reduces the city’s capacity to reduce the effects of carbon emissions.  The issue of minimizing road accidents and beautification is also misleading. Zaria road has the least road accidents rates (get the records from the Federal Road Safety Commission). This cannot be a justification for spending tax payer’s money on it while there are other priorities even in the metropolis. The talk about beautification is also another misguided priority. We beautify cities with public parks and gardens (in Kano governments destroyed them) not by building flyovers or underpasses.
But this is not the main challenge of this great state of ours that we continue to ignore. Kano State has one of the largest concentrations of population in Nigeria, thus most part of the State is often considered as Closed Settled Zone. Yet, the state has among the least developed Local Governments and one of the reasons is that most of the development projects are concentrated in the centre even by governors who come from rural areas. Kano State has a terrible connectivity especially in rural areas. Rural areas are the engines of economic development because they do not only produce food but also raw materials for industrial development. Rural people remained poor and most of them have to migrate to urban centres adding pressure to already over-stretch infrastructure and services. 
Unlike neighbouring states such as Katsina that have made giant strides in increasing its rural intranets opening up new areas and creating opportunities, Local Governments in Kano State lack such linkages. It may come as a surprise to many to note that most local governments in Kano State are not interconnected or poorly so. For example Sumaila and Warawa LGAs are cul-de-sac, you can’t link up to anywhere from there. So many neigbouring LGAs are not linked until you get out and join another road extending travel time and preventing economic and social interactions. For instance neighbouring LGAs like Sumaila and Doguwa, Ajingi and Gabasawa, Gabasawa and Minjibir, Kunchi and Makoda, Albasu and Gaya, Bichi and Makoda, Rogo and Kiru, Kabo and Kiru and of course Shanono-Tsanyawa, I stand to be corrected. This inhibits development and subjugates the rural people into a permanent cycle of poverty. This long term neglect in favour of the capital makes Kano LGAs less developed for years. One wonders what the members of the Kano State Assembly who are representing these rural areas are doing. Kano LGAs need to be connected and that’s what visionary governments should do rather than spending tax payer’s money on beautifying the metropolis with white elephant projects.
In my opinion which may not matter, this proposed project will be a huge waste of scarce resources, ill-informed and not politically strategic. The ruling APC in Kano will have made more impact when it open up rural areas with this money they will waste beautifying the city. There is no pride in capital cities whose rural areas are neglected. There is no beauty in cities whose rural areas are isolated. There is no gain in cities being opened when rural areas are left inaccessible. Spending 4 billion naira in Dangi underpass and flyover will not yield any economic benefit but boost the ego of some misguided politicians. If Kano State Government invests this huge sum in constructing rural roads in addition to whatever they have done or plan to do, Kano State will be better for it and development will come to Kano State, we can then manage our growing population. We have seen enough flyovers and under passes in these years and what we need today is increase linkage of rural areas to boost economic development. Whether this article will make them change their mind or not I made my point and will henceforth continue to make it. If there are people in Kano, elders in particular, who really love this State and its people, they heard me and they know what to do. Our political leaders must be guided to doing things in the interest of public good. Politics is a dangerous game and politicians are selfish and short sighted.
March 29, 2018  

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Kano, Kano, Nigeria
Dr. Yusuf M. Adamu is a Professor of Medical Geography at the Bayero University Kano. He is a bilingual novelist, a poet, and writes for children. He is interested in photography and run a photo blog (www.hausa.aminus3.com) All the blogs he run are largely for his hobbies and not his academic interests. Hope you enjoy the blogs.