culled from GUARDIAN, November 26, 2006
The problem of bad roads in the country has become an embarrassing stigma. In many parts of this country, normal interaction has been frustrated by bad roads. Vehicle owners are in distress as their vehicles are not used optimally. Moreover, the very many potholes and detours mean that vehicles keep breaking down so that on many of Nigeria's roads emergency mechanics have sprung up to assist stranded commuters sometimes with disastrous consequences.
The road to Benin is so bad that vehicles using that road invariably retire to a mechanics workshop at the end of every journey. Transporters are hurting and are bewildered that despite their payment of all road taxes to the Federal Government and the various rates to the state and local governments, little is being done to repair the roads upon which their livelihood depends. Armed robbers are a constant threat particularly at night.
It is common for thieves, rapists and other miscreants to ensconce themselves in bad portions of the roads where all vehicles virtually come to a halt. Commuters are in trouble whether in the city of Lagos or on interstate highways as bad roads make it impossible to plan a journey or predict arrival time. Commercial activity is suffering as goods and services are now in short supply leading to price increases in practically all consumer items.
But all this is happening in a country where there are several agencies, including the Federal Ministry of Works responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads. Every state and local government is charged with the responsibility of construction and maintenance of roads.
The federal government at least on paper has voted billions for the rehabilitation of our road network. Previous federal ministers of Works have assured that contracts had been awarded, but nothing concrete ever happens on the ground. It has been suggested that the EFCC should be persuaded to look into what happened to the billions allocated for road works and whilst at it, to investigate similar billions said to have been expended on energy. This matter is important because our country cannot develop with rickety infrastructure and will not succeed in attracting direct foreign investment or tourism when things are this bad.
There is the problem of erosion impacting on the road network. Whole sections of our roads are being washed away by erosion and poorly planned or non-existent drainage system. Additionally there are many bridges without any warning signs and no handrails. Vehicles have been known to plunge into the river with grave consequences.
In the city of Lagos, all the main arteries now have dangerous potholes. It is practically impossible to avoid all of them as quite often one preventive manoeuvre often leads the driver into yet another pothole. There have been accidents and in some cases loss of lives and property. Trailers and tankers are quite vulnerable. Nigerian trailers often do not secure the containers they carry, relying on their weight for stability. As a result of a combination of circumstances, Nigerian roads are littered with overturned trailers, tankers and containers.
Accidents involving trailers often lead to marathon hold-ups. In Lagos a 30-minute journey can easily become a four-hour ordeal. On the notorious Lagos-Benin route an 8-hour journey was once accomplished in 36 hours. A journey from Lagos to Port Harcourt used to be seven and half hours but it may now take one and half days. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway has become a death trap. The Abeokuta road via Sango Ota is a scene of confusion with unplanned road works stalling the flow of traffic. The dualisation of the Onitsha-Owerri road is almost as old as this administration, yet the road is still in process. The Owerri-Aba road is a nightmare made worse by the closure of the Port Harcourt airport. These tales of woe are replicated in other parts of the country.
Transporters are lamenting the loss of revenue. They can only operate skeletal services during the day and cannot operate at night because of the menace of armed robbers. Their revenue is down by 50% and unless the roads are repaired, the transporters may well abandon their trade. Already bad roads have led to a reduction in travel and luxury buses are having difficulty filling their seats. In a country with hardly any railway, a risky air service and now no roads, the citizens of Nigeria feel trapped with nowhere to turn.
It will soon be Christmastime when Nigeria experiences an upsurge in commuter traffic. With the roads being in such poor state it is doubtful whether individuals would be prepared to put themselves through the rigours of a punishing journey merely for the sake of celebrating the yuletide with their kith and kin and friends.
Of recent the Lagos-Benin road has witnessed some poor-boy jobs being done by a construction company to make the road at least passable now that the dry season is here. For a road that breaks down every year due to heavy traffic; for a road that is the main link to Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states, the continuing neglect of this vital artery can no longer be excused. In view of the rather unstable nature of the subsoil between Ore and Benin, consideration should be given to constructing the entire road in concrete as is the case in other countries including Ghana.
The time-honoured idea of road camps should be revived so that deteriorating sections can be quickly repaired. Awarding emergency contracts near Christmas time which also happens to coincide with the end of the financial year, does not seem to be a sustainable way of managing our bad roads. Contracts that are awarded at the end of a year are often abandoned in the New Year with no one bothering to ask questions.
Another problem besetting Nigerian roads is that they are not designed for expansion. As the volume of traffic increases, road construction should be seen to be keeping pace accordingly. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway, for instance, can do with further expansion. Corporate organisations should also assist in managing our roads as part of their social responsibility. For instance, right in front of Ewekoro cement factory, the road is hardly passable.
The lack of maintenance of roads in Nigeria has become a public issue as Nigerians are daily lamenting this failure of leadership. Good roads are a basic component of good governance. Nigerians are routinely being put at risk everyday as a result of the failure of the state to provide adequate amenities for its citizens. All the authorities involved in road construction and maintenance should buckle down and do something to remove this blot on Nigeria 's image.