The Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP 2) is a six-year World Bank project that focuses on the rehabilitation of rural roads and associated capacity building of institutions mandated to provide and maintain rural transport infrastructure. The project commenced in February 2014 and operates in six states: Adamawa, Enugu, Niger, Osun, Imo and Cross-River.
The objectives of the project include increasing the share of the population with access to an all-season road, increasing the share of the total classified roads in good and fair condition and increasing the number of roads receiving adequate levels of maintenance. There is no doubt that the programme has greatly assisted in transforming the rural settings, creating access and expanding frontiers in areas hitherto inaccessible.
In Niger State, which has the highest landmass in Nigeria and equally a higher number of hard-to-reach communities, the programme has become the fulcrum that drives the state government’s rural transformation policies, aimed at creating economic and social equality among the urban, semi-urban and their most rural counterparts.
The past two phases of the tripartite programme focus on rehabilitation of rural roads, community-based road maintenance and annual mechanised maintenance and project management, as well as strengthening state and federal roads, policy and regulatory framework.
According to the coordinating office, a total of N9billion has been spent cumulatively within the first and second phases of the programme. This is aside the N6billion approved by the state government for surface dressing of 230 kilometres of the rural roads earlier constructed under.
At the flag-off of the surface dressing of the Izom-Abuchi-Suleja road recently, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who was represented by the commissioner for agriculture, Zakeri Jikantoro at the event, spoke on the reasons why the state government has to go out of its way to release extra funds to aid the programme, saying the move was to ensure that the quality of the rural roads were upgraded to withstand the volume of traffic.
According to the governor, the traffic on the roads was unprecedented and beyond what the earthen roads could withstand; hence the urgent steps to upgrade the roads.
This intervention was in addition to 169km of rural roads that were also rehabilitated under the Spot Improvement and Annual Mechanised Maintenance Intervention of the World Bank and the French Development Agency (AFD).
Notably, six roads earmarked for surface dressing have the potential for high volume of traffic and are spread across the three geo-political zones of the state.
According to the commissioner for agriculture, the benefits of the programme include the construction and rehabilitation of 176km roads in the first phase and 403 in the second phase of the project. He added that the programme had greatly assisted in the economic empowerment of rural dwellers by enhancing the movement of farm produce to markets.
As a result of the successful implementation of RAMP projects, there has been growth in agriculture in the state. The government is, therefore, urged to continue supporting the programme to enable more communities benefit.
The project has so far empowered local capacities through community-based rural roads maintenance model, which entails the engagement of rural people along the corridors of roads rehabilitated, thereby creating employment opportunities in the state.
The project also intends to institutionalise rural roads maintenance activities, management and funding as part of its deliverables, and making it last beyond the implementation period of 2020.
Participating states are benefitting from a donor fund of USD60million.
Again, it is notable that the successful implementation of the project has changed the political dynamics in the rural areas of the state and increased people’s confidence in government.
Mohammed wrote from Minna, Niger State.