The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Monday, said 80 per cent of 9, 895km trans-Saharan Highway, which passes through six African countries have been asphalted.
The countries are Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad.
Speaking at the 70th session of the Trans-Saharan Road Liaison Committee (TRLC) in Abuja, Fashola said the remaining 20 per cent which is earth road would be finished as soon as possible.
In attendance were representatives of all the counties as well as the Secretary General of the TRLC, Mr Ayadi Mohammed.
The Minister said the road serves 37 regions in Africa, connects 74 urban centres and sixty million people across six countries who are members of the Committee.
The road he said, would encourage the integration of the region as well as open up limitless opportunities to the countries.
According to him, “It is very useful for every African to be aware of the existence of a trans-African highway plan which seeks to connect the whole of Africa right from Cape Town up to Tunisia, either by driving through the East African border, or the West African border or through the centre of Africa. There is a coast to coast connectivity from the West to the East of Africa to the Northeast of Africa to the Northwest of Africa, and the Southwest of Africa to East Africa.
“A total of nine Highways at different stages of connection are meant to achieve this connectivity and it is important for Nigerians to understand that three of these Highways pass through the territory of Nigeria out of those nine.
“The first is the Lagos-Dakar Highway, which passes through Seme border, and there to Dakar, Senegal. The second is the Lagos-Mumbasa, which links us through Yaounde in Cameroon. The third and the one about which we are gathered today is the Lagos-Algiers-Highway, which is the object of this meeting.
“That road covers over 9000km and 80 percent of that road is now asphalted. It is important to contextualize that in what we all read about as the trans-Saharan trade road. This was the road of Camels and Horses. So how much Africa has progressed now is that with the partnership of all of the men sitting here and all of the experts, 80 percent of the roads used to be traveled by the camels and horses are now motorable and I think that is progress.
“That is how big the impact is. That is what I want Nigerians to understand that we are part of a large urban network of opportunities. If you appreciate that the roads of horses and camels are now the road of vehicles and trucks , you can imagine the opportunities that lie ahead as we converge here”.
He added further that, “the entire 1, 131 km which passes through Nigeria is in different stages of development. We are expanding section from Lagos to Sagamu on the Lagos-Ibadan axis of this route and this is because it is the most busy section of the road. It carries averagely 4, 000 vehicles a day, out of which about 5, 000 are trucks. We are also working on the Abuja-Kano highway, which is another very busy section that carries a similar vehicular traffic and we are at different stages of progress along all these highways.
“With the recent signing by the President of the African continental free trade area, shows clearly that we are on the right track. We are now ready to harness the opportunities that our investment in this road offers. We are ready to integrate into the big African family of which we are being a major player. We are ready to integrate culturally as well. More importantly we are committed to ensuring we do so very safely for all of the people who use that road. The FEC just last week approved that Nigeria should ratify and domesticate the African Road Safety Charter which was adopted at the ordinary session African Union Commission in January 2016 in Addis Ababa. This means a commitment to more safety, more humanitarian issues, more life saving capacities, prevention of road traffic accidents on this highway”.
Director Highways Planning and Development, Mr Chukwunike Uzo, said the aim of the trans-Saharan road liaison committee, whose membership comprises the six countries, when it was formed in 1966 was to establish a road link across the six countries to encourage growth, socio economic activities, development, cooperation and trade.
“The entire stretch of the road is 9, 895km. In Algeria the length of the sub Saharan in 3, 320km, in Mali it is 2180km, in Niger it is 1985km, in Tunisia it is 699km, in Nigeria it is 1131km and in Chad it is 570km,” he broke down.
He said the highway links two major arterial roads in Nigeria which are A1 and A2.
“In Nigeria the road links two major arterial roads in the country. Our route A1 which starts from the port in Lagos to Ibadan to Ilorin, to Jeba, Mokwa, then at Mokwa it tees off to Kaduna and links the Kaduna-Kano road that terminates in Congoland. The A1 starts from Lagos and ends at Sokoto and the border at Ilela. For the A2 it starts from the port in Warri and goes through Benin-Auchi, up to Abuja, Kano to Congoland.
“Like I said it links two major arterial roads, A1 and A2 and these two routes form one of the core priories established by the Federal Government. We are upgrading sections of the road. For Lagos Ibadan for instance, we are expanding the section from Lagos to Sagamu to two lanes of three, that is six lanes, then Sagamu to Ibadan we are reconstructing the existing dual carriage way. So likewise other sections. These two routes, A1 and A2 carry the heaviest traffic volumes we have on our federal road network,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, said his administration’s mandate when he took over the mantle of leadership in 2015 was to introduce changes geared towards sustainable and quality infrastructural development to drive economic development and job creation.
“Our commitment is to increase Nigeria’s road infrastructure in order to ease the cost and time of doing business and improve our economic competitiveness as an envisaged under our economic recovery growth plan. In view of this our administration shares the aspiration of the trans Saharan road liaison committee aimed at encouraging member countries development the sections of trans Saharan roads within their respective territories,” Buhari said.
The President, described the road as a pride to the African continent, saying Nigeria has supported and would continue to support its existence.
“The Nigerian government has currently upgraded the section of the trans Saharan road within its borders. Special funding consideration has been committed to the reconstruction works of the sections of the tran Saharan roads from Lagos to Ibadan and Kaduna to Kano. Other sections of the route from Ibadan to Ilorin, Ilorin to Jeba, Jeba to Mokwa and Mokwa to Kaduna have either been dualized or rehabilitated to ensure more efficient flow of traffic especially for heavy goods vehicles that traverse this route which sustains the economy of activities that supports millions of Nigerians and our neighbours across our borders. It would continue to receive the desired attention so that it facilitates not only economic activities but also regional and continental integration”, he said.