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Exploring concrete solutions to Nigeria’s failing roads

Ilasha, Oshodi-Apapa road, Lagos PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN KUTI

Ilasha, Oshodi-Apapa road, Lagos PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN KUTI

Most Nigerian roads, especially those owned by the Federal Government are in deplorable state. While poor maintenance culture may be attributed to the many failing road constructions, experts believe that the use of concrete in road construction offers a more sustainable solution. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.

In road-building discourses, warm-mixed asphalt has been gaining attention as a lower cost and more sustainable alternative to traditional hot-mixed asphalt.

However, a recent study concludes that though warm-mixed asphalt may be cheaper than hot-mixed asphalt , concrete remains the most cost-effective road material on the basis of both initial and life-cycle costs.

To this end, cement manufacturers are exploring opportunities in the nation’s existing infrastructure as a means of achieving optimal utilisation of the commodity.

Aware that government remains the largest consumer of cement in the country with an estimated 50 percent of total consumption, cement manufacturers are unveiling solutions on the use of concrete for road construction.

For instance, combined cement capacity in Nigeria presently is inching towards 60 million tones with supply outweighing local demand, thus necessitating the need for expansion in other sub-Saharan African nations.

According to Agusto & Co, total demand for cement was estimated at 21 million tonnes in 2014, with the two major players (Dangote Cement Plc and Lafarge Africa Plc) accounting for over 90 per cent of total cement sales.

Compared with a yearly cement production of about 60 million metric tonnes, which is expected to increase with various ongoing expansion projects, stakeholders believe Nigeria’s per capita consumption of the commodity remains relatively low compared to Asian and European countries.

The credit rating and risk managing agency noted that Nigeria’s huge market size, high urbanisation rate of 3.5 per cent, low per capital cement consumption of 125kg and estimated housing deficit of 17 million are key drivers of growth for the Nigerian cement industry in the medium term.

Similarly, the frequency of road and bridge reconstruction as well as rehabilitation of social infrastructure emphasises government’s need to enhance the patronage of the construction industry. This also widens the demand-supply gap, which currently exists if utilisation of the commodity does not increase in comparison with the expansion projects.

According to a former Chief Executive Officer of Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Kabir Abdullahi, “Around 50-60 per cent of roads in Nigeria are in bad shape.”

Although Nigeria is a major oil-producing nation, its road network has been starved of investment and is in extremely poor condition.

This situation has also exacerbated the country’s serious road safety problem and these factors have combined to deliver a major impact on Nigeria’s economic development.

With a total road network of some 200,000km (including many un-surfaced rural roads) Nigeria’s economy relies heavily on road transport.

For instance, experts at LafargeHolcim believe that If Nigeria and other African countries adopt new solutions for road constructions; it can save at least $2.5 billion yearly on failed road projects.

Furthermore, a report by a transport infrastructure expert at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), notes that within the next 15 years the value of trade in Africa could reach US$250 billion if a $32 billion investment is made to integrate Africa’s road infrastructure.

According to experts at LafargeHolcim, out of about $40 billion expended on road constructions yearly in the African continent, between 0.1 to 0.2 per cent GDP savings can be realised yearly on right raid design.

Manager, Road Project, LafargeHolcim, Lyon, Paris, Eugen Florescu, while unveiling the company’s Road Integrated Offer solution at a stakeholders’ engagement explained that adoption of the integrated solution helps Nigeria and other African countries to address failing road projects.

Florescu added that the solution speeds up country development, enhances wiser public allocations consumption, helps government to participate in a more efficient and dynamic road industry.

He expressed worry on the adoption of same models used by developed countries for road construction in the 1960 by developing countries today.

“Our solution seeks to aid road performance through involvement in projects from ideation stage to avoid supply errors which may also lead to dramatic delays and penalties. A more efficient supply management will help to tackle classical scheme of multiple suppliers and loss of responsibilities while value is created by reducing costs and risks”.

Head, Product Development, Lafarge Africa Plc, Femi Yusuff emphasized on the need to ensure the appropriateness of solutions deployed for road constructions to avoid recurrence of failed projects.

According to him, factors like the durability of the material should be examined and certified to ensure adequate long term performance.
He noted that an appropriate stabilizer content to maintain PH level at 12.4 ensures that the cementation reaction proceeds normally.

“A suitable durability test to identify the potential of the material to degrade in adverse conditions is necessary as all roads constructed with the durability methods have proved that the method is effective by withstanding aggressive environment and long lifespan”, he added.

All these can only happen with the support of a positive legislation.

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Habitat, Hon. Obinna Chidoka on his part expressed the legislative chamber’s readiness to support legislations to promote sustainable construction practice.

According to him, avoidable incidents like the collapse of building and road failures need to be addressed through legislations to ensure that practices that pose threat to human lives are sanctioned.

Recall that the Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, CMAN had canvassed the use of concrete in road pavements in view of its durability and cost-effectiveness.

Indeed, poor maintenance culture has often been adduced as the major reason for the collapse of Nigeria’s 195,400 kilometers of roads infrastructure.

Chairman of Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria CMAN, Joseph Makoju, bemoaned the decay in the nation’s roads infrastructure and the absence of a viable rail system.

He observed that all road constructions in Nigeria have been done with asphalt or plain laterite for rural roads because cement was relatively scarce and expensive. But with the installed capacity of local cement companies increasing from 3,000 metric tonnes per annum in 2003 to 28mtpa, the country has moved from the previous position of the world’s leading importer of the product in 2006, to a position of self-sufficiency.

Noting that the lack of maintenance culture played a key role in the deterioration of Nigeria’s roads infrastructure, Makoju said it was imperative to look for an alternative surfacing material which when compared will asphalt, will require minimal maintenance.

Cement demand is closely linked to the overall economic growth, particularly the housing and infrastructure sector. With the federal government providing a boost to the infrastructure and various housing projects coming up in urban as well as rural areas, the cement sector has enough scope for development in the future.

The weakness in the international crude oil prices and other commodities should help bring costs under control and improve profitability of the sector. If inflation comes under control, a likely lowering of interest rates would be a big positive for the cement sector.

Despite the current challenges that dent the growth of the industry, the long-term drivers for growth remain intact. Higher government spending on infrastructure, robust growth in rural housing and rising per capita incomes are likely to augur well for the cement sector.



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