igeria has the largest road network in West Africa and the second largest south of the Sahara, with roughly 108,000 km of surfaced roads in 1990. While a large proportion of this network remains in very poor condition, only 15 per cent of federal roads in good condition. Out of over 160,000 kilometer of secondary and tertiary roads in Nigeria, with an average registered network of 4,000 kilometers per state, only about 10 to 15 per cent is paved. It is sad to note that rural roads which are statutorily referred to as local government roads, which constitute about 132,000 kilometres (67.7 per cent) of the entire road networks in Nigeria, are the worst hit by this state of disrepair.
The poorly maintained road networks are often cited as one of the major causes for the country's high rate of traffic fatalities. Some paved roads have lost their asphalt surface and have reverted to being gravel roads. Some of the road system is barely usable, especially in high rainfall areas of the south.
In 2004, Nigeria's Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) began to patch some the 32,000-kilometre federal roads network, and in 2005, FERMA initiated a more substantial rehabilitation. Ironically, the tropical rainy season and poor equipment pose challenges to road maintenance in the country of witches and demons, according to the Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo from Enugu State former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which he declared on the Senate floor, Wednesday, January 23, 2013. Possibly the same witches and demons have taken over Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Nigerians should join the Professor to pray to God to grant President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan the power to drive out the demons on the Road Network in Nigeria.
We consider the Professor's Ministerial assignment as timorously approached, blaming the invisible witches and wizards for the power epileptic in Nigeria. Nigerians are awaiting another Minister to blame the gods and goddesses, especially god of iron for the poor road network in the country. God would grant him the wisdom to expel the witches and demons within the PHCN that have been using their 'super-natural' power to keep the masses in perpetual darkness.
Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been in use for over 30 years and motorists and transporters currently (2013) face unpredictable journey times once an incident occurs that leads to the partial or complete blockage of either the northbound or southbound carriageway.
Late President Umar Yar'Adua gave the concession of the reconstruction of the 125km expressway to Bi-Courtney Highway Services in 2009. The 2011 annual report of the ICRC presented to President Goodluck Jonathan alluded to the fact that the implementation of the project was delayed due to the approval for the design of the road, as Clause 6.1 of the concession agreement identified the concessionaire as responsible for the preparation of the preliminary design for the grantor's review and approval. The scope of the work was not fully documented and outline design provided before the concession was awarded. Secondly, the financial model for the cost of the project, as included in the concession agreement, was not based on the necessary studies. Thirdly, an environmental and social impact assessment should have been carried out because of the extent of the refurbishment work, the proposed widening and the effect that tolling was likely to have on the properties and communities along the road. The report added that further traffic data and survey work ought to have taken place to assess the willingness and ability of the road users to pay and potential diversionary effects. Unfortunately, the project could not raise finance from any credible investor, thus making it impossible for the concessionaire to meet the conditions precedent as itemised in Article3.3 of the concession agreement.
The Federal Government terminated the agreement late 2012; and awarded the salvaging of the failed portions of the road to both Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Nigeria Limited. Julius Berger was expected to rehabilitate Section One of the road from Lagos to Shagamu, while RCC was given the mandate to handle Section Two of the road, from Shagamu to Ibadan.
As soon as the Federal Government terminated the agreement it entered into with Bi-Courtney Consortium for the reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, its Chairman Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin, decided to go to court. Nigerians, both dead and alive, would stand as witnesses against the company if it dare go to court.
If Nigerians should start raining curses on the contractors on the Ibadan-Lagos Express Way in Nigeria, especially over the loss of lives and properties on a regular basis, the witches and wizards would definitely support that. Definitely, the curses will be justifiably gyrate from generation to generation. If it is by way of execution in the jungle on the atrocities that the company has cost Nigeria economy on that road the International Court at Hague would approve of it.
The journey from the outskirt of Lagos from the old Toll Gate to Shagamu Junction that ought to take only 30 minutes would sometimes take up to four hours. Some of those caught in such a traffic jam would resolve into the unthinkable when nature sincerely and honestly pressed on them; when traffic of three turned into six lanes with both sides blocked. The time wasted, energy lost, the loss of businesses, wear and tear of vehicles, and humans in an economy that is striving to be among the 20 great economies in the year 2020, is wasted. The company could rot in HELL in the name of witches and wizards. The company never completes 2 Kilos of road in that axis. Vision 20:2020 for Nigeria is already rotting in the grave of progress.
The wishy-washy approach of the Federal Government arrangement in making the only Highway that linked Lagos with the rest of the country ushered in Julius Berger to complete the corridor by Thursday, January 31, 2012. As soon as Julius Berger saw the works of Ghosts, Witches, and Wizards on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway it disappeared.
Lagos-Ibadan Express has become a Christmas wobbly job for each administration, where the contractors would work for a couple of weeks, heighten the tempo of the road users to find out they parked up their equipments from the work site in a hurry and whatever little poor job done will be destroyed before another set of fake Santa show up. Berger was hyped in Dec 2012 to finish the job within certain stipulated time, because of the deceitful policy would not continue the work. What is it going to take for Nigeria leaders to understand that adequate road network would help the country grow, far away from the self-inflicted poverty?
We should realize that good roads are an integral part of the transport system. A country's road network should be efficient in order to maximize economic and social benefits. Good road network plays a significant role in achieving national development and contributing to the overall performance and social functioning of the community. It is acknowledged that roads enhance mobility, taking people out of isolation and therefore poverty.
Road construction requires the creation of a continuous right-of-way, overcoming geographic obstacles and having grades low enough to permit vehicle or foot travel, and may be required to meet standards set by law or official guidelines of the land not by witches and wizards or demons.
We expect old road surfaces, fences, and buildings need to be removed before construction can begin. Processes during earthwork include excavation, removal of material to spoil, filling, compacting, construction and trimming. In other words the process is often begun with the removal of earth and rock by digging or blasting, construction of embankments, bridges and tunnels, and removal of vegetation (this may involve deforestation) and followed by the laying of pavement material.
What the Nigeria contractors do in most cases is to spread earth on the roads without considerations to the environment, the controls of erosion and sediment; with less emphasis on the drainage lines that ought to have been laid with sealed joints in the road easement with runoff coefficients and characteristics adequate for the land zoning and storm water system. A variety of road building equipment is employed in road building.
We believe in Nigeria there are not very clear private roads, meaning that all roads seem to be public, either Federal, State, or Local, unlike in the States where laws distinguish between public roads, which are open to public use, and private roads, which are privately controlled. As Nigeria government continues to confuse itself as to which style of governance to follow, as the witches and wizards have taken over most of their faculty, there are some ambiguity in the United Kingdom between the terms highways and road. While road is defined as "any length of highway or of any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes." This includes footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, and also road and driveways on private land and many car parks. While "the land over which a public right of way exists is known as a highway".
Nigerian leaders should be reminded that the world's oldest known paved road was laid in Egypt some time between 2600 and 2200 BC; while Brick-paved streets were used in India as early as 3000 BC. Ironically, Stone-paved streets, which are still found in some of the Nigeria major roads today 2013, were found in the city of Ur in the Middle East dating back to 4000 BC.
From about 312 BC, the Roman Empire built straight strong stone Roman roads throughout Europe and North Africa, in support of its military campaigns. At its peak, the Roman Empire was connected by 29 major roads moving out from Rome and covering 78,000 kilometers or 52,964 Roman miles of paved roads. In the 8th century AD, many roads were built throughout the Arab Empire. The most sophisticated roads were those in Baghdad, which were paved with tar. Tar was derived from petroleum, accessed from oil fields in the region, through the chemical process of destructive distillation.
What is Nigeria government doing about petroleum bi-products to fix Nigeria roads? Responsible Nigeria government does not have to search too far to find the right and appropriate way of road construction by allowing those with the technology know-how does their job without any backdoor approaches.
Sometimes we wonder what sometimes get to the faculty of some Nigeria leaders whether some of them are under the hex of witches, wizards, or demons. It is unfortunate, when basic needs like solid road network could not be properly constructed for their citizens. While some citizens who have the opportunity to govern, would do grungy works making life a living hell by demanding some compulsory incentive from the contractors. The poor job set death traps for their citizens because Nigerian leaders operate corrupt system which absolutely corrupts an average Nigerian in the performance of their duties.
Are we going to blame 'Oga at the Top' for this poor road network in the country? Alternatively, the 'Ogas' do not know what they are doing; this showing nonchalant attitudes of 'Ogas at the Top'. Ironically the dilapidated express bill board still reads, 'Ibadan-Lagos Express Construction' with the picture of Obasanjo as master planning the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway. What a shameful 'Oga at the top'.
Any administration that failed to provide good road network for its citizens does not deserve respect. When people do not have good means of moving around and their goods within the country, it is a poor report card for whosoever is on the corridor of power, regardless.
Nigerian leaders should be reminded that in the advanced countries, the basic facilities in a rural landscape, in relationship to the development of a road network, in a high-altitude as the infrastructure, has been concentrated along a road or within a distance of two kilometers, to the road. The major human facilities are needed at a few easily accessible points, and the location of other facilities as determined by distance from the road. Drinking water supply by government agencies and an electricity network are developed along the road network. Equally, telecommunication facilities and financial institutions are also established along the road. A road network is the most felt need for socioeconomic development in remote and inaccessible mountains areas that are cut-off from mainstream development.
Reducing the distance between people, markets, services and knowledge, or simply 'getting people connected' is a great part of what economic growth is all about. Although virtual connectivity has become increasingly important today with the emergence of new communication avenues, a good and reliable transport network remains vital. There is a very strong positive correlation between a country's economic development and the quality of its road network.
In a predominately rural economy, like in most part of Nigeria today, 2013, market institutions are important mode of exchange of goods and services, and agricultural produce. Most of the periodic markets are located on road sides or nucleated settlements with a road link. It also showed that the development of markets depended on development of road network. Furthermore, the scheduling of periodic market, as noticed in rural Nigeria, is integrated with their locational spacing, with a closed relationship between market provision, road network and population density.
Even when government decides to get subsidised high quality fertilizer and seeds to rural farmers through the introduction of the Growth Enhancement Support scheme, such would not be transported by using donkeys. If and when the Federal Government decides to "rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria's agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities for Nigeria farmers," and decides to spend a whopping N60b on cell phones for farmers, how would their products be moved from one point to the other.
On the other hand, the customers would not drop from the space to pick up their products and zoom back to the space without making use of those roads. Good road network is needed to get the Federal Government lofty policy in reaching over "1.2million farmers to receive their subsidized fertilizers and seeds via their cell phones; Even to get inputs to farmers directly, resulted in the addition of an estimated 8.1 million metric tonnes of food to the domestic food supply," would require good road network.
Even if the Federal Government decides to construct helipad in rural areas to facilitate the movements of extra, agricultural yields to the market, to cut out delays to road repairs, what about the connecting communities where those products are needed. When the Federal Government decides to install mobile masts to facilitate reception, as those in some urban centers have network reception problems, rural farmers would have to walk some distance, which could be hours, to the nearest towns and cities for an uninterrupted reception, with the crazy cell phone services in Nigeria.
Possibly the poor road network pushed Nigeria to import vegetables to feed its teething population. As the big sized tomatoes, onions, pepper and others at supermarkets and other shops, especially in Abuja and some big cities, are imported and of high breed production. Nigeria depends so much on oil and neglect farming, which is the back bone of most industrialized nations. Unfortunately, Nigeria poor road net work is adding to its frail agricultural development. Nigeria is blessed with the right climate and soil to naturally produce assorted vegetables, without the use of fertilizers.
We just concluded first ever, the Nigeria Private Universities Debate at Babcock University, where the debaters, the Youth, leaders of tomorrow, revealed that with the 70% of Nigeria population in the rural areas, there is enough population to boost Nigeria agricultural production as a way of diverting Urban population to the rural in reaching the vision 20:20/20. Good road network is part of a substantial infrastructure that Nigeria must develop.
However, what the rural people need more than anything else is employment. The agriculture sector continues to be the main provider of jobs, seasonal or otherwise, with manufacturing and service sectors remaining largely urban-centric. However, one particular activity, road building and maintenance, could leave a significant positive impact on poverty situation and productivity growth in rural areas.
The far-reaching benefits of a good road network in a developing country, like Nigeria, hardly need stressing. If the government attaches due priority to road maintenance across the country on a continuous basis, it would ensure substantial employment opportunities for the rural poor and also help boost the rural economy.
It is about time the country weans itself from oil dependence and develops its farm technology or Agribusiness industry. Nigeria is more or less an agrarian society; it could develop its farm base for better economic growth with good road network.
Some concerns on Government responsibilities, if witches and wizards would allow them to think right, is to spend more on roads, even at the expense of other sectors. Should Nigeria invest in rural or urban transport? In which priority zone? In view of the massive financing needs, should alternative funding mechanisms be considered, for example, private sector partnerships for large roads or international corridors; or community driven initiatives for feeder roads? Should users pay for roads? To what extent can other transport modes such as water, air, or rail be alternatives to road transport?
Femi Ajayi is a Professor of Policy, Management & Conflict Resolution; Head, Political Science and Public Administration Department, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State