Nigerian Roads, Roads To Death

In recent times, academics and practical people have made their contribution to the state of the Nigerian road. However, this note is not a blueprint for utopia, and is not equally an academic treatise. The contribution of the academic is obvious. His sources he claimed are documented and can always be checked. The experience of the practical person though not always worn on his sleeve, but is none the less real and practical. This write-up aroused that only purposeful and realistic planning can lay the solid foundation for sustained economic greatness of the Nigerian roads which will form the base for the coming generation to build upon. Any thing out side will FAIL. There is urgent need to preach breakage from past wastefulness, negligence, deceit and bad policy as regard the road network in the country.

The performance of the Nigerian roads sector has not been satisfactory despite its enormous potentials for growth and development. Perhaps the most serious issue is that the poor transport facilities and infrastructure have severely delayed economic development and has contributed negatively to all attempts to alleviate poverty in the country. Nigeria is still considered poor with a low per capita income with a high proportion of the population poor vulnerable despite modest economic growth in the last political dispensation. The provision of roads and transportation facilities are fundamentally important to the development of Nigeria as well as the well-being of its inhabitants. Nigerian roads need urgent attentions, considering that an average of 50 people die everyday by road accidents, as claimed by a recent survey. In 1914 the total road network in Nigeria is 3,200 km in length, 66,000km by 1960, and now the entire roads in the country are just a bit less that 200,000km of Federal, State and local road of which only just about 50,000km are paved. The Nigerian Inland Waterways and Railways are ineffective, hence the heavy reliance of the nation's economy on road transportation. Only 80% of federal roads in Nigeria are partially paved, disallowing proper coverage of the nation's over 900,000km2 landmass. Technically, over N200 billion will be required to construct and maintain the balance of 20%. In recognition of this, will the country attain stable and structured road network? Traffic movement has grown in urban areas of Nigeria over the decades, and further growth has been predicted.


Road transportation in Nigeria controls over 95% of all surface transportation with a total asset base of over Three Trillion Naira. In my recent research, over 80% of Nigerian road network are under state level estimated to be over 160,000km. However, insensitivity has marred rural roads, perpetuated by roads engineers, professionals, users, and politician at state and national level. They have never considered the important roles rural life and rural economy played in ensuring a more tranquil country and economy. With all the foregoing highway reforms, propaganda and campaign, we have to ensure that the future we build is the one we want, not the one we could have avoided by unnecessarily adopting collated reforms of other developing country. Over 80% of urban roads evolved from rural road that were taken over and turned into federal highways.

In the 1997 estimate by the World Bank, Number of motor vehicles per 1,000 people is 12. Hence, a derivative estimate shows that over 15 millions Nigerian owns motor vehicles with a projected population of over 150,000,000 people. The traffic volume and number of which about 44% are passenger cars, 20% are buses and 30% lorries and vans, 1% road tractors and 5% motorcycles. Considering president Obasanjo's inaugural address of May 1999: "… Transport is the lifeline of the economy and social interactions. An inefficient transport system implies stagnation in all sectors. Our priorities in this sector will be the design and implementing a new policy on road maintenance …" The Federal Ministry of Works is charged with the responsibility for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the Federal Highways. The 36 State Ministries of Works and Transport have similar responsibility for the State roads while the 774 Local Government Works Departments have the responsibilities for Local Government roads. Simply put, they might have failed. The works and the workings of the Works ministry are no longer workable. No, this is not a Film Review! It is though, a comment upon the manner in which our roads are gravely deteriorating and the fruitless efforts been implemented to address the problems. From 1999 to 2003, the government committed over N360 billion, have only a very scanty result in road maintenance and construction to show for it. This has greatly contradicted the fake-vision of the president based on the above inaugural address for road maintenance.

Maintenance of roads, instead of building new roads should get priority. In addition, a large number of roads are made without proper construction method and suffer from sub-standard construction work. It is only in Nigeria that a road contractor finishes 10 km of roads in 3 days. Within a short period, the quality of such roads rapidly deteriorates. The above is justified considering the fact that of the over 33,000km of Federal Highways in Nigeria, only less that 9000km of roads and bridge projects covering the six geo-political zone is been completed or on-going from may 1999 to 2006. The negative approach to acceptable standards in road maintenance policies is Nigeria's major problem. Maintenance is the provision of means to preserve the value of existing assets against depreciation, while rehabilitation is the refurbishment of an asset after near or total collapse. In Nigeria, from time immemorial, roads that are supposed to be maintained are merely redecorated, while roads that are supposed to be rehabilitated were just overlaid with some asphaltic material. It is difficult differentiating between rehabilitation and maintenance of roads in the Nigerian context. For example, the budget of 2002 provides only N5.1 billion Naira for maintenance works compared to the 38.6 billion Naira provided for rehabilitation. This only shows the extent of our understanding in differentiating between rehabilitation and maintenance. The professional consultants and consulting firms employed by the Ministry are not helping matter. It is only in Nigeria that the consultant is viewed as a mechanism for creating drawings. It does not matter what is on the drawings, whether they are right or wrong, or if design can be constructed. As long as there are computer drawings, the paperwork to say that there are drawings, together with the paperwork saying that the paperwork relating to the drawings, together with the drawings has been issued to the contractor, then everything is fine; and a road is given birth to!

The solution: firstly, with a 23,000km of Federal roads network, a workable and common sense scenario is the tasking of about 60 small-size specialized company to maintain about 400km of Federal Roads each. This will only involve just two contractors per states. The major investment needs for establishing such a maintenance company and for the total cost per year for the company is less than 160,000,000.000 naira. This includes all necessary equipments, machineries, depreciation, materials and personnel cost. This can be sourced locally while the primary responsibility of the government in this regards will be ensuring an easy loan agreement for maintenance companies with a reduced interest rate. What is the best transportation system adaptable to the Nigeria's context? Professionally and with all sense of sincerity, the Federal Government should immediately develop an extensive and realistic Road Sector Policy with a view to achieving improved efficiency in the sector. Key aspects of this Policy must deliberately relate to the funding of the sector and, in particular, to the need to move towards full recovery of costs from road users for the continuous rehabilitation and maintenance of the road network. The maintenance of roads should be a continuous activity, carried out routinely and in quick response to the inevitable tear-and-wear situations without frequent recourse to long bureaucratic tendering procedures in the Federal Ministry of Works.

Public and private officials have critical decisions to make regarding the management of our highway resources at their disposal. Hence, the implementation of any economic management and maintenance strategy needs consideration for proper decision making. When a nation succeeds in the economic empowerment of her citizens, someone once made a courageous decision and many nations has perished due to lack of optimum decision-making. Decision making bodies in the Nigerian roads sectors uses the squeaky wheel approach in maintaining and rehabilitating our highways. Projects are selected for rehabilitation because they have created the greatest attention. We are only interested in design and construction, neglecting the normal simple international procedures of planning, design, construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation (PDCMR).  The above only explains the competence and functioning professional integrities of the decision makers(e.g. the Federal Ministry of Works) in providing efficient and near-safe road for us despite limited budget at thier disposal, however they deserve more help and encouragement from the government.


Rowland Adewumi

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