By YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE
It is evident that there is increased public investment, leading to accelerated infrastructure development, particularly of roads, under the Kaduna State Urban Renewal Project. This is in response to increasing pressure on existing urban infrastructure as a result of rising population, rapid urbanization, and need for private sector investment drive. The urban renewal projects with components that include, roads, mass transit, housing and improved land use, street lights, parks and recreational centres, markets and neighborhood centres, and waste management, commenced in June 2019.
The important role of road infrastructure in promoting inclusive and sustained growth, job creation, poverty reduction and improving revenue cannot be overemphasized. Roads, according to the Kaduna State Roads Agency (KADRA) Law, 2017, mean state trunk roads, urban roads, rural roads and new roads, excluding federal trunk roads traversing the State. Kaduna State has a total of 2,133.59km of roads, out of which only 49.20% (1,049.72km) are in good state, 22.09% (471.25km) are in fair state and 28.71% (612.63km) are in poor condition. Also, the state has a total of 3,110.43km of local government roads, out of which only 3.35% (104.20km) are paved roads (SD road), while 96.65% (3,006.23km) are earth roads.
A total of N8.09 trillion (N245 billion annually) will be required to address the roads renovation, construction and expansion envisaged in the state during the planned period, according to the Kaduna Infrastructure Master Plan (KADIMP, 2018-2050). As the state government continues to deliver on and scale-up road infrastructure particularly the urban renewal projects, there is the urgent need to turn the searchlight on the level of community engagement and ownership. This will consequently ensure equitable distribution of the road projects, value for money, and accountability for quality assurance.
Currently according to news reports, 7 new roads are ongoing and 14 existing roads are either being dualized or upgraded in the Kaduna city center at a cost of about 45.9 billion naira. Similarly in Zaria, 3 roads are said to have been completed with 8 others ongoing as of 2020. Also in Kafanchan, 3 roads are slated for dualization and 18 others are to be expanded with an advance payment of 3 billion already made out of the 12.8 billion budgeted. Aside these roads under the urban renewal projects, there are others being constructed across the state. However, it is worrisome that there are largely little or no robust community engagements or monitoring regarding these projects being executed.
So far the engagements seem to be largely one-off visits to traditional rulers and exclusive meetings to discuss removal of properties or compensation with owners in the affected areas. There is no gainsaying the fact that to ensure quality service delivery, value for money and sustainability – increased transparency and community engagement starting from the procurement process, implementation tracking and social audit of the projects is indispensable. This is more so due to the high public budgetary spending involved; not to forget the huge loans collected, to be repaid by the residents of the state even after the exit of this administration.
For instance, in the 2019 and 2020 approved budget breakdown under the Kaduna Roads Agency (KADRA) officially requested by the Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED), the urban renewal projects (road component in Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun and Igabi) got an allocation of about 41.7 billion naira. Similarly, according to the 2020 Kaduna State Fourth Quarter Budget Performance report, 18.5 billion naira was budgeted for KADRA as capital expenditure, about 16.9 billion naira was said to be released, a 91.6% performance. This is higher than the performances in most of the individual Ministries, Departments & Agencies in the Education and Health sectors, which shows priority given to roads.
It is only logical that when huge public funds are being expended on critical areas like roads, there needs to be measures taken to ensure vertical accountability – which allows for citizens and their associations play direct role in holding the government accountable. Equally important is transparency, which should ensure information released by the government on the projects is relevant, accessible, timely and accurate. Despite the recent launch of the e-procurement portal, there is still public non-availability of procurement details on the urban renewal projects, in line with the open contracting data standard (OCDS).
Already, efforts by civil society to get this procurement details have not been fruitful, with most of the requests unattended to. Similarly, initiatives by communities to engage key MDAs on the urban renewal projects have largely been ignored, as evident in the multi-stakeholders’ engagement on Kafanchan urban renewal projects (road component) organized by CDC Champions and community based groups, despite official invitations. As a global sub-national champion of the principles of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), with commitments to open contracting and citizen’s engagement, this is a source of concern.
It is imperative that beyond the beautification and modernization of urban centers that the roads construction has to offer, the government needs to do more on increasing public awareness on the direct and indirect impact on the state’s economy and residents, especially communities directly affected. This will enable ownership and go a long way in dispelling rumors being circulated that the roads are largely creating access to strategically located private investments said to be owned by exclusive vested interests in high places. Therefore, access to information by communities on ongoing roads projects needs to be stepped up. Also, the Citizen’s Feedback app should be made more user-friendly with timely response enhanced to enable the community take ownership of monitoring the road projects.
In conclusion, it is recommended that the state government should review the implementation strategy of the Local Government Development Plans (2017-2019). It provides a pragmatic community engagement framework that should be updated to reflect state’s priority and replicated in executing the urban renewal projects, particularly roads. The Community and Social Development Agency in line with its statutory mandate and the Community Engagement policy being developed, should urgently be deployed to strengthen community participation and involvement in the entire ongoing projects. This will ensure ownership, encourage oversight and enhance timely feedback to the government by the communities in the state leading to sustainability.