Nigeria and four other countries have adopted an action plan to speed up the construction of a modern highway running from Lagos, connecting other nations along its route, to Abidjan, in Cote d’Ivoire.
The blueprint will be presented to presidents and heads of government at the forthcoming African Union Summit later this month in Addis Ababa.
Mike Onolememen, Nigerian minister of works who is spearheading the novel initiative says the bid open up the sub region via a modern highway, remains the viable option to real regional integration of the ECOWAS countries.
The action plan was adopted at a recent meeting of ministers of road infrastructure, finance and of justice, from Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivoire.
The ministers agreed that the plan will boost trade and economic activities of the countries along the Abidjan-Lagos corridor and they also adopted a mechanism for the funding of the massive project which has considerable job creation potential in the countries involved.
The blueprint, which seeks to bring to reality, the dreams of heads of government of the continent to speed up integration through cross border travels and make seamless the movement of people and goods across national boundaries.
The agreement reached by the ministers also highlights the procedure to ensure effective operation of the highway.
The blueprint is an offshoot of a study commissioned by ECOWAS in 2006 on regional road transport and transit facilitation programme in the West African region.
In the report of the study financed under the International Development Association (IDA) Grant No PO79749, MessrsRoughton International, the consultant to the project, identified the Abidjan-Lagos corridor as one of those requiring improvement.
The over 1,000 km Abidjan-Lagos corridor is the most important segment of the Trans-West African Highway Network connecting some of the largest and economically dynamic cities like Lagos, Cotonou, Lome, Accra and Abidjan. It also links vibrant seaports, serving all the landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The road, over the years has seen worst days.
Prior to the meeting and the adoption of the blueprints, Onolememen said the Abidjan-Lagos corridor has been beset with problems that have hindered trade and economic growth of the area over the years.
“Sections of the road infrastructure are in poor condition and continue to fall below internationally acceptable standards for a regional corridor”.
He also decried the significant levels of physical and non-tariff barriers, including multiple check points, numerous control posts, long and costly customs procedures and lack of adequate equipment in border posts.
Contrary to ECOWAS stand on free movement and interstate road transport facilitation, Onolememen said cross-border traders and travellers with appropriate documents suffer various degrees of harassment and extortion.
“This need not be so. This is why the leaders of our countries have come together to pool resources and efforts together to improve this corridor that holds the key to unlocking the economic potentials of the region”, said the works minister who is himself an architect