By Oluyinka Onigbinde
Last week, the internet was awash with the news of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, saying Nigerian roads were not as bad as many people were claiming.
To say the Nigerian roads are not bad as claimed by the Minister of Works reveals the open secret that not just that our ministers lack the understanding of the critical state of things in the country, it also depicts the level of their non-chalant attitude to the plight of the citizens.
And this is absolutely true of a man who spent more hours flying in the air than driving on the road, and a man who lives in the luxury and serene environment of the capital territory, defiling and filing his belly with the king’s portion.
It is sheer wickedness to mock a man with his pain; it is like rubbing salt on an open wound that was exactly what Fashola did to Nigerians at the United Nations-sponsored capacity building programme for the Federal Road Safety Corps.
The deplorable state of roads in Nigeria has certainly become a national shame and an unnecessary embarrassment as there is hardly any part of the country that can boast of motorable roads, be it those roads Trunk A (federal), Trunk B (state) or Trunk C (local government) roads.
As a result of poor leadership and woeful planning, there is no alternative either. No tier of government can be said to have acquitted itself creditably on matters of roads construction and maintenance.
To say the Nigerian roads is a Shadow of death would not be too emphatic as scores of innocent people are killed daily in avoidable accidents on account of the bad roads.
Man-hours are lost in traffic. And the national economy suffers incalculable losses.
Being on Nigerian roads reminds one of a biblical passage that says “though I passed through the valley of shadow of death I shall fear no evil”.
Perhaps taking a look at the state of some federal roads in the country might remind our minister how bad and terrible Nigerians roads are.
Typical examples of bad roads in Nigeria:
The Lagos-Abeokuta expressway
The Sango-Ota area of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway has now become a nightmare to motorists and residents
Recently, a lawmaker representing Ado-Odo/Ota 1 State Constituency at the Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Aina Akinpelu, raised the alarm over the deplorable conditions of Sango- Abeokuta expressway. He stated that many lives have been lost and several property destroyed as a result of bad condition of the road.
Today, for a journey of 30 minutes from Sango to Abeokuta, it will take a minimum of two hours. Most of the vehicles on the road have also become a drain pipe for owners. It is as if the state of the roads linking the revenue centre and highest voters population do not matter to the state government.
Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is a curious metaphor for a failed project. It is a 27.5Km road that was constructed between 1975-1978. It originates from Apapa Port and terminates at Oworonsoki junction. The expressway is a major gateway to Nigeria’s busiest seaports from where the Federal Government rakes billions of naira import and export revenue on regular basis.
But despite its strategic economic importance, the expressway has remained in a messy situation in the last decade
Because of the deplorable and impassable state of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and the unwholesome activities of the truck drivers, many businesses and Apapa residents who can no longer cope with the suffocation of the environment have been forced to relocate at great expense to family income and company bottom line.
In a state that is burdened by housing deficit estimated at three million units, Apapa, which is one of the prime locations in Lagos, is almost a ghost town with many empty homes and abandoned business premises. It is not only that vacancy rate is on daily increase; property values have also declined significantly.
If you are a Nigerian, chances are you know someone who has spent an entire day, at least once, travelling the 140-mile Sagamu-Benin City road, or been killed trying to do so.
Sagamu-Benin, sometimes referred to herein as “The Road,” is the only direct link between the eastern and western parts of Nigeria, and between her political and economic capitals, Abuja and Lagos.
It is also a hungry road: almost every week, vast sums of money are “spent” on it by federal authorities who pretend not to know that federal authorities are “spending” vast sums of money on it.
If you have travelled from anywhere in the Southwest of Nigeria to Abuja through the Lokoja-Okene road in Kogi State, then you will understand that this is a road of death. Not only is this road bad, it is a haven of armed robbers. Thousands of passengers travelling the Lokoja-Okene road to Abuja or to Ondo State have been waylaid by bandits and dispossessed of their goods. The same can be said of the Ilorin-Kabba-Lokoja road and the Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba road among others along that same axis.
The ever-busy Enugu Port Harcourt expressway has always been a death trap for commuters. While road contractors hired to repair and maintain the road had abandoned it due to funds not being released by the government, the roads have fallen into terrible disrepair and become a death-trap for motorists and passengers alike.
To remind our minister that travelling through Nigerian roads, especially, during the rainy season is hellish, vehicles break down; heavy-duty trucks overturn and get stuck in the mud.
Motorists disembark at such horrible spots to push crippled vehicles. The result is traffic gridlock on both sides of what seems like a jungle and loss of many lives.
Fifty-seven years after independence, it is indeed a shame that Nigeria, despite the huge revenue earnings from oil, has yet to develop a good transportation system. Between 2008 and 2017 alone, Nigeria reportedly earned N48.655 trillion.
There are very few African countries with Nigeria’s shameful status with regard to roads. The Lagos-Badagry highway, for example, which links Nigeria with the Republic of Benin, underscores this.
Whereas the Nigerian side of what should be a super highway, linking the whole of West Africa, is dilapidated and impassable, the Republic of Benin portion is not only in good condition, it advertises a certain irresponsibility on the part of Nigeria. In every respect, we have seen that the minister of Power, Works and Housing is guilty.
The structure of road ownership and maintenance has always been a thorny issue. The policy that the three tiers of government have responsibility for roads development and maintenance is in place but flawed in execution. No tier of government consistently maintains its own share of the roads leading to overlapping of duties, conflicts and, eventually, neglect.
This has brought the issue of the flawed federalism Nigeria operates to the fore and for as long as the denial of this error continues so will irresponsibility in governance.
While the debate rages over who should take responsibility for the roads within a state even when they are supposedly federal, the people, as well as the economy, suffer. While many would claim that the job of the Federal Government should be in setting standards, especially, for inter-state highways while the states should have the capacity to bear the responsibility for roads construction and maintenance, the fact is that no tier is doing anything reasonable with the resources at its disposal.
Suffice to say that the Minister of Works or Roads is yet to get a well cut out plan, to this shame and pain would not be an understatement. The government should as a matter of urgency look for possible way out
If the government would expand the railway system, and explore the waterways, roads will be less travelled, and will need less repairs, and Nigerians will not mind paying the contributory fare to maintain the railways.
Government can take the opportunity of laying new railways lines to grow the economy, and create immediate employment opportunities.
When citizens become relatively well off, those who prefer to drive their luxury cars on Fashola’s good roads will have no problem at all
Roads and railways serve the same purposes; they provide the service of transport. Whereas increased use of railway can reduce the stress on roads, the use of automobiles leads to pollution, punishing traffic jams, and fatal accidents.
Also Public Private Partnership, if the government can partner the public on the development of roads, this will help to reduce the death tolls on our roads and make them motorable for luxury and commercial vehicles, just like the Lekki Concession Company.