The minister of power works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday in Abuja flagged off the 9th steering committee and experts meeting on the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Programme, saying the highway would enhance rapid sub-regional integration and communication among other benefits.
In his address at the Transcorp Hilton venue of the 3-day meeting, Fashola named other benefits of the highway to include improvement in socio- economic activities among the West African countries, creation of employment opportunities and reduction in social vices.
He added that rapid integration would enable the sub-region keep abreast with other fast growing economies, such as Asia and South America.
The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway is a 1,008 kilometre highway that will traverse five countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo and Nigeria and will provide access to vibrant sea ports which account for about 90 per cent exports and 60 per cent imports across the sub-region.
According to the details released at the event, approximately 558 kilometres of the highway will run through Ghana, approximately 135 kilometres will run through Benin Republic, approximately 180 kilometres through Cote D’Ivoire, approximately 57 kilometres through Togo, and approximately 78 Kilometres through Nigeria.
“With the development of this Corridor, we will enhance rapid integration that already exists in other economic blocs in other parts of the world,” Hakeem Bello, special adviser on communications to the minister quoted him as saying.
The five ECOWAS countries involved in the project are Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Benin Republic and Togo.
According to Fashola, the project “will improve socio- economic activities among the West African countries and it will lead to rapid integration, creation of employment opportunities and reduce social vices among our population.”
he said the project “testifies to the strong bond among the African countries with common goals and aspirations to develop our sub-region both in terms of standard of living for our people and the level of communication between our countries”.
Commending the ECOWAS heads of state and governments for their vision leading to the development of the project, Fashola described the meeting of the steering committee and experts on the project as “crucial to the success of meeting the development of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor project”.
The minister told the committee, “when this Corridor is finished, very few people will see the work that you do; very few people will know how many hours you have spent preparing, planning, working and ultimately implementing the project. But I see that work, I acknowledge it and I appreciate it”.
As you are well aware, road development drives economic growth which the West African sub-region must pursue to keep abreast with the fast growing economies in Asia and South America with a view to reducing the migration of our youths and also keeping our precious human capital on the continent”, he said.
Expressing the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian government to the realisation of the project as a means to enhance trade and communication, Fashola expressed happiness that Nigeria has now signed the financing agreement, which was one of the outstanding issues.
The minister, who also acknowledged the support of the minister of finance in signing the financing agreement, noted that the global ease of doing business report which was published recently acknowledged that Nigeria made “some inspiring progress”.
Earlier in her remarks, the ECOWAS commissioner for infrastructure, Antoinette G. Weeks, said the meeting of the steering committee and experts on the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development would finalize the documents for the various aspects of the project including, according to her, consultancy services in financing and road safety, as well as the review of the various technical studies culminating in the award of the contracts.
The commissioner thanked Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, and the government for hosting the three day event and specifically expressed appreciation to Fashola, as well as the permanent secretary in the ministry of power, works and housing, for the ground works and preparations leading to the present meeting.