State Of Nigeria’s Roads
As a result of poor leadership and woeful planning, there is no alternative either. The railway system is dysfunctional while the air transport sector is an arena of inefficiency and a cesspool of corruption. With an estimated 193,200km of roads in the country and the Federal Government in charge of about 34,000km, leaving the rest to the states and local governments, unfortunately, no tier of government can be said to have acquitted itself creditably on matters of roads construction and maintenance. 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. It is high time governments at all levels treated road infrastructure as a priority to enhance economic development and also see it as a national security tool.
Since 1999, a whopping N1.4 trillion ($8.5 billion) has reportedly been spent on road construction or maintenance with very little evidence of the money spent. The system is rotten and merely serves as a veritable platform for corruption.
In the 2015 budget, the Federal Government supposedly slashed the Works Ministry’s budget from N100 billion to N11 billion, which many criticized as a minus for roads maintenance. But even at that, N11 billion could have made a difference if the fund was utilised judiciously. With no functional railway system, roads are the only means of movement of people and goods, meaning that the nation’s economy is grounded with such bad roads as Nigeria has. Some of the worst highways include the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Shagamu-Ore, Onitsha-Enugu–Port Harcourt road, Ikorodu-Shagamu road, Okene-Lokoja-Abuja and Rijau -Kontagora road in Niger State. With a few exceptions, indeed, virtually all the highways in the country are in terrible state. Not to mention the majority of Trunk B roads that have not received any attention.
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. 55 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 June 2014 alone, Nigeria reportedly earned N44.655 trillion. Add this to another N2.5 trillion reportedly earned by Nigeria in the past three months. It is pertinent to ask what premium government places on roads as economic assets that should aid national productivity!
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, the Nigerian authorities are guilty. The building of concrete roads with cement, especially, in the southern states where erosion is rife has been canvassed by experts as a solution to the poor durability of asphalt roads. But it seems corruption and a certain insensitivity to the economic well-being of Nigeria prevent those in power from heeding this call. Such corruption, of course, explains a situation in which roads in Nigeria are built at prohibitive costs. Whereas, the World Bank’s benchmark for building a kilometre of road is N238 million, the same one-kilometre is built for about N1 billion in Nigeria.
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 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 in-coming Minister of Works or Roads has his or her job well cut out. Enough of this shame and pain.