Kano and the Rise of Bridges: Matters Arising

|Yusuf M. Adamu PhD, MNAL
Department of Geography
Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria


Kano is a struggling metropolis with an estimated population of over 4 million, occupying 499 square kilometers. It is the largest inland port south of the Sahara and one of the largest cities in Africa. A primary migrant Cosmopolis for hundreds of years, Kano remains a major magnet and destination to millions of people. The increasing population and expanding size of the metropolis creates a lot of demands for facilities, infrastructure and services beyond the meagre resources of the government. Because the demand for services is much more than the available resources, governments have to prioritize what to do now, what to do later and even what not to do for a while. If we prioritize, the shortfalls we have in all sectors such as education and health, agriculture and commerce, transportation and environment etcetera will have been better managed. From 1967 when the state was created to date, each government improves upon what it met and also try to address its contemporary challenges. From 1999 to date, (the fourth republic), we have governments we elected, we have five consecutive governments and each of them has its focus, from infrastructural development to human development and sometimes both.

All the democratic governments in Kano from 1999-date had to contend with serious distraction from politicians and other opinion leaders that often derailed them. Unfortunately, almost all the governors from 1999 to date were made to measure their success by showing that his predecessor has not done well. They get confused by political machinations to the extent that they ignore the real needs and wants of the State, wasting a lot of peoples’ resources trying to outshine their predecessors. Our governors are made to see government not as a continuous process but personalized and egocentric process. That, in Kano, has created unpleasant scenarios but also gave rise to the forces of retrogression who are today key decision makers in government or major opinion moulders in the polity. Most people who were once the vanguards of Kano have either become complacent or adopt the siddon-look attitude. It is apparent that no one speaks for Kano. We are left on our own and at the mercy of politicians.

Our resources are limited so, it makes little sense when you see governments using tax-payers money to do non-priority projects. In Kano you see many billboards showing such structures as tax-payers money at work. If State Governments are creative, there are sources such as Africa50 that can help them bridge infrastructure gap. By tapping those resources, state governments can utilize the little they have to improve education and health. States like Kano, Katsina and Zamfara can access funds from Qatar Fund and Saudi Fund to fill our infrastructure gap. The major challenge is that, most state governments lose interest when they realised that they will not receive the money in cash

The Age of Flyovers and Underpasses

Kano enters the flyover age from 2011. In March 2018 after the Kano State Commissioner for Information announced that the State Government will build a four billion naira flay over at the famous Dangi Round About along Zaria Road, I wrote an article which was widely circulated in the social media and was published by the Daily Trust Newspaper. In that article I argued that we don’t need more flyovers because we have enough and there are more important areas that need to be linked up in the rural areas of Kano that are poorly connected. Connecting rural areas will unlock their potentials and facilitate economic development to neutralise rural-urban migration. Recently, the State government came up with another project that will engulf over 15 billion naira. The project is also a flyover. It was really shocking to hear that again. According to Salihu Tanko Yakasai “The N15bn Kofar Mata Flyover will start from Kofar Mata, pass through Kantin Kwari market, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Singer Market and link up with Murtala Mohammed Flyover (Sabon Gari).” The table below gives a breakdown of the cost of each of the projects and its length in metres and kilometers.

Project/LocationAmount (Naira)Length (km and M)Length (Km)Flyover-K/Nassarawa-State Road
(+ Radio Kano flyover) 5,933,520,068.34540m0.54Flyover-Murtala Muhammed Way10,180,245,223.031.76km1.76Underpass, Gadan Kaya1,362,514,273.85330m0.33Underpass, Kabuga867,498,405.28270m0.27Underpass, Panshekara/Madobi Junction 1,125,413,808.25309m0.309Underpass, Kofar Ruwa Roundabout2,391,542,371.69860m0.86Underpass, Dangi Roundabout (Underpass-410m-0.41km-3,032,487,760.81),
Flyover-180m-0.18km-1,466,101,082.25)4,498,584,843.06410m of underpass+180m of flyover=590m0.59Flyover-K/Mata-Singer15,280,639,566.251.9km1.9Total41,639,958,559.756.559

This new development motivates me to research into the new bridges built by Kano State Government from 2011-date. This covers all the flyovers and underpasses completed by the Government of Kano State (2011-2015) and the ones that are started and proposed by the current Government of Kano State. I looked for the length of each structure and the amount spent or budgeted for it and I found a staggering amount of money invested in these structures. My study shows that, between, 2011-2015 Kano State Government constructed and completed Kofar Nasarawa-State road flyover, Gadon Kaya Underpass and Kabuga Underpass. It started the Murtala Muhammed Way Flyover but has not completed it. The current Government constructed the Kofar Ruwa Roundabout underpass and the Panshekara/Madobi underpass. It almost completed the Murtala Muhammed flyover and started the Dangi flyover and underpass and now announced the most ambitious flyover, the Kofar Mata-Singer Flyover. The flyovers and underpasses are constructed according to Kano state government through its Commissioner of Information, Youth and Culture was ‘aimed at reducing carbon emission, minimizing road accidents, beautification of the state capital among others’.And rightly so, the new bridges so far completed have to some extent improved traffic flow and made Kano look ‘modern’, BUT at what cost? As we can see, the total cost is 41,639,958,559.75 naira and the total length is 6.559 kilometers. Is there economic sense spending N41.6bn for 6.6 kilometers by a state struggling to serve its teeming population who are largely poor? What is wrong with us? Let’s reflect on this.

The two underpasses at Katsina and Madobi roads have been completed. We thought we had seen enough but we later heard about another one at Dangi and we cautioned the state government. In my earlier article on Dangi, I suggested that rural roads would have been more economically sensible for Kano State rather than spending 4.4 billion to make Zaria road imposing. In that article I argued “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 underpasses in these years and what we need today is increase linkage of rural areas to boost economic development.” Alas, all those who showed genuine concern were ignored as being politically motivated.

The new 15 billion naira monster at the heart of Kano Central Business District as Yakasai said will be “the biggest infrastructural development in Northern Nigeria by a state Government”. The question we should ask ourselves as citizens is whether this project is worth its salt. We should also ask whether a N15bn flyover is a priority looking at the immense challenges we are facing in other vital sectors such as education and health or even better urban roads. One will also like to ask what justification is there for all the bridges in a state that unfortunately lacks neither an operational urban development master plan nor Transport Master Plan to guide its conceived and pre-conceived projects in Metropolitan Kano. I am aware that a preliminary Strategic Transport Master Plan supported by development partners with the expectation of being developed into full Master Plan to guide the state on its vision and mission in the transport sector is still a work in progress. Are all these huge investments coming from someone who just wakes up in the morning and think we need to have a flyover or underpass in so and so place? As a citizen, I will like to know how such decisions are made.

Presently, what the state is in dire need, is a well regulated and coordinated public transportation system in place not flyovers and underpasses. The state should focus on the provision of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure and invite investors through route licensing to provide buses rather than spending its meager resources on things the private sector can do if the right atmosphere is provided. Unfortunately, in addition to the unwise investment in flyovers, the State Government, we learnt is about to invest over 1 billion Naira for the purchase of buses from Egypt. These buses when brought will only add to our traffic woes because we are yet to have a functional transport infrastructure to support them. Are we going to address the chaotic tricycles or add buses on the routes already crowded? If I am in a position to advise the State Government, I will insist that instead of Kano State investing another 15 billion Naira for the biggest infrastructural development at the heart of our CBD, that amount will have been best invested in transforming normal urban roads. There are many sections of this struggling metropolis including government layouts that are without tarred roads or even good drainage systems. Rainy season will make you hate yourself for flying urban roads in most quarters in Kano because of their terrible conditions. This is in addition to floods that makes the people miserable. The State Government could have invested this money to improve urban roads and drainages making an indelible mark in the hearts of the people. This will have affected millions of people and improve urban accessibility and interaction in addition securing them a strong political score.

What if we invest N15bn in Basic and Secondary Education?

There are always sectors that seriously need the intervention of Kano State Government and one of such is the basic and secondary education sector. The neglect of public schools started long ago and every government simply gives a lip service to it. Most of us as far back as the late 1990s, became concerned about public primary schools which we all attended and just last year, the old boys of my former primary school renovated the school in Nassarawa Local Government. Class rooms were rehabilitated, chairs and desks were provided to pupils and toilets were also rehabilitated. This made the school attractive like a private school and even attracted the representative of Nassarawa Local Government in the State Assembly to rebuild a burnt classroom and our school is today a model public primary school. During the handover ceremony, a government official, while thanking us made a revelation. He explained that the State Basic Education Board is aware of the challenges facing primary schools in the State. He, however, said that a huge amount of money is needed for every child to have a seat and ensure that no classroom takes more than 60 pupils. He gave an estimate of N9 billion or so as what was required.

Since our demand for services and infrastructure is more than the resources we have, the State Government could have done something better with our money. Now that the State Government has N15bn in its coppers, I wonder if that money can be invested in our basic and secondary education. This investment will have a lasting effect on the future of the state and its inhabitants, it will increase access to quality education to the children of the masses and give them almost equal opportunity to actualize their dreams of becoming responsible citizens. It will transform the fortunes of Kano in the next 20-30 years and become the biggest investment in basic and secondary education in Nigeria. The good thing about investing in basic education is that whatever amount the state government invests, the Federal Government through UBEB will invest same amount. So, if Kano State Government invests N9bn, the UBEB will also invest N9bn. That is a whooping N18bn. Just imagine what impact this money will make in basic and secondary education in Kano State.

It is worth reminding us that Kano State used to be a pacesetter in Nigeria even in the education sector. Being aware of its backwardness in modern education, Kano was the first to establish Agency for Mass Education, State Primary Schools Management Board, Science Secondary Schools and many more. Today, Kano is struggling to have a sound public school system. Our primary schools (despite the little that has been done), are in a truly very bad shape. Not only that they are congested and pupils are sitting on bare and dirty floors, the classrooms (where available) are characterized by broken doors and windows in addition to leaky ceilings. We still have thousands out of school children rooming the streets particularly almajirai. With this amount of money and will-power, even the Qur’anic school pupils can be rehabilitated and streamlined. Education is the most important investment in any society will do. It is an investment that doesn’t show in short time, but it ultimately change the fortunes of a people. The picture below (which I sourced online) tells our story today in the age of flyovers. While we fly on flyovers, our children are sitting on the bare floor where classrooms are available or under the tree.

If Kano State government is really serious in improving the transport system, it should pay attention towards the provision of effective and regulated public transport system guided by an urban development master plan, transport master plan and a functional transport policy rather than building more flyovers and underpasses that are not really a priority. Finally, my advice to the citizens of Kano State at all levels is to do whatever possible and implore the State Government to abandon the N15bn K/Mata-Singer flyover and invest that money in the education of our children. All of us who are somebody today, attended a public school and the gift of good public education produced us. The future of our children, I assure us, is not guaranteed until the future of other children is guaranteed. As Fanon said “Every generation, must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it… every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor”. We need Kano people to please start speaking for Kano.

January 22, 2019

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