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Kano flyovers between needs and wants

Following his return to the Kano state Government House in 2011 after an 8-year interruption, former Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso embarked on massive construction of flyovers in Kano metropolis ushering in an era in the state’s pursuit of infrastructural development befitting its tumbin giwa slogan.

As the construction took shape adding features of a standard modern metropolis to the city, Kanawa got more excited. On a lighter note, the flyovers trigged the Zazzagawa-Kanawa rivalry jokes with the former jokingly mocking the latter for finally having a flyover, which Zaria, albeit a local government, already had.

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Anyway, consequently the then Kano state Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso’s popularity surged, which apparently inspired his successor, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to follow suit completing the uncompleted and initiating more with the recently awarded contract being the Kofar Mata flyover that costs more than15 billion naira.

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This trend is unfolding in the context of a wider trend in, particularly, northern Nigeria where many governors are effectively squandering the already meager resources of their respective poor states in the construction of huge, resource-draining yet needless and white elephant structures. There are many such structures, completed, uncompleted and abandoned, in many states in the region. For instance, the white elephant airports in Dutse, Gombe, Birnin Kebbi, Damaturu and the multi-billion naira Kwankwasiyya, Bandirawo and Amana cities in Kano are certainly some of them.

Interestingly, going by some governors’ apparent insistence on embarking on such projects at the expense of desperately needed projects and services in their respective states, one cannot help but suspect that they are actually primarily motivated by the sheer amount of kickbacks they receive in one go, whereas it perhaps takes several contracts over a period of time to make similar amounts.

Anyway, Kanawa’s flyover excitement now appears to be increasingly dissipating, not only because they have grown too familiar with flyovers in the metropolis, but because many of them are now lamenting that, in the first place, flyover construction isn’t an urgent priority at the moment in a metropolis where mere tap water is practically unavailable while public schools and hospital across the state remain poorly equipped and poorly staffed especially quality-wise, which explain the state’s miserable and indeed disgraceful condition particularly in terms of healthcare and education services; the persistent deterioration of which continues to undermine the already deteriorating social stability in the state.

However, the Ganduje administration, like its predecessor, cites the persistent traffic congestion at some locations in the metropolis as the challenge warranting the construction of the flyovers.

Though this argument is correct in theory, it isn’t necessarily always so in reality, at least in Kano’s peculiar traffic context. Because despite the fact that Kano metropolitan road network is way below what it’s supposed to be in terms of size, quantity and quality, yet its perceived inadequacy isn’t responsible for the traffic congestion, after all. Instead the actual causes of the congestion are: One, rampant road and pavement encroachment; two, indiscriminate constructions along the roads; and three, a lack of traffic discipline, which have collectively squeezed the breadths of the roads thereby rendering them too narrow to allow for hassle-free flow of traffic.

Amid the prevailing culture of impunity, roadside shop and property owners have taken over pedestrian pavements in the metropolis. Shop owners have extended their shops at the expense of the portions of the pavements in front of their respective shops while property owners have equally erected fences around the portions of the pavements in front of their respective premises thereby annexing the pavements.

This is in addition to the indiscriminate construction of shops and other business structures on virtually every empty space along the roads and also within and around the already overcrowded marketplaces in the metropolis. Likewise, overflowing garbage at the indiscriminately created garbage-dumping grounds (Bololi) across the metropolis also occupy considerable spaces on the roads.

Besides, street vendors also display their merchandise on the roads occupying spaces amounting to up to 50% or even more of the breadths of the roads at some locations forcing pedestrians and vehicles to use the remaining spaces of the roads. Equally, vehicles, including trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, are indiscriminately and indeed recklessly parked partially on the roads.

Now, certainly without a serious commitment to tackle this chaos, no amount of flyovers can end the persistent traffic congestion in the metropolis.

The Kano government along with the metropolitan local governments should therefore embark on the strict enforcement of traffic rules and relevant development control regulations in the metropolis to reclaim the encroached pavements by removing the extensions and all other illegal structures erected on them.

Also the portions of the roads occupied by street vendors should equally be reclaimed. Likewise, wholesales marketplaces e.g. Singer marketplace and all warehouses should be relocated outside the central business area in the metropolis. Similarly, all heavy-duty and other haulage trucks should be permanently banned from the central business area of the metropolis, among other measures.

Yet, it’s noteworthy that the success of these measures depends on the government’s seriousness and commitment to sustain their enforcement. Of course, this isn’t easy, for it takes a leader morally sound enough to resist the temptation to make huge amounts of money from bribes and kickbacks in return for allocating public places to some few beneficiaries for the construction of shops and other business structures. Such a leader should also be courageous enough to resist being blackmailed into compromising while reclaiming the already encroached pavements, roads and other public places in the metropolis.

Now, the bottom line is that I am not against the idea of constructing flyovers in Kano, in fact I look forward to seeing networks of state-of-the-art, double and multi-deck flyovers in Kano metropolis as in, say, Hong Kong, Dubai, New York and other  world-class cities. However, I only want to see that materializing according to the order of priority appropriate to Kano’s particular socio-economic circumstances.

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