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Nigeria must formulate new approach to road maintenance

The current flooding that has taken over most parts of the country has not only led to the loss of lives and property, but also…

The current flooding that has taken over most parts of the country has not only led to the loss of lives and property, but also exposed the country’s poor road network. In many areas, roads were washed away while bridges collapsed. Many of them were a result of long years of lack of maintenance.  

The flooding of Lokoja, is a clear example of the situation.  Following the flood, which took over roads in the area, vehicular movement between the North and the South was brought to a halt. Motorists were advised to take alternative routes; among which is the Bida-Mokwa road. However, the situation only got worse because of the bad state of the road, which had not seen any serious maintenance for more than 10 years.

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This resulted in scarcity of petroleum and gas in the northern part of the country. 

Nigeria has a 195km road network out of which  65,000km is unpaved. Of the paved ones, 35,000km belong to the federal government and 30,000 is under the various state governments.  

However, what is common to all this, is the lack of maintenance over the years, which led to the deterioration of many of the roads.  Aside from the recent flood, there have been reports of robbery attacks on bad portions of roads as criminals take advantage of the fact that drivers  cannot move fast in such areas.

At the meeting of the National Council of Works and Housing held in Kano in August, the minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said records from previous budgets showed that the last time Nigeria budgeted over N200 billion in a year for roads was in 2002.  

“As far as status reports go, the federal government budgeted N18.132 billion in 2015 and the Ministry of Works got N13 billion for all roads and highways in 2015, although it has contracts for 206 roads, covering over 6,000km with a contract price of over N2 trillion,’’ he said. 

We commend the federal government’s effort of rising to the occasion to improve the situation since 2015. According to the minister, the budgetary allocation and releases to the ministry greatly improved since then.  He said of the more than N1.5 trillion budgeted between 2015 and 2021 for roads more than N964.8 billion was released.  

The federal government also introduced other alternative sources of funding outside budgetary allocations. These include; Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, SUKUK fund, Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (RITCS) multi-lateral loans/grants and collaboration with other government agencies such as the North East-Development Commission. This enabled it to bring in more than 3,000 kilometres of roads under rehabilitation or reconstruction. Among such projects is the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and many others. 

However, we note that there are still many critical roads under rehabilitation or seeking attention. Among these are the Kano-Zaria-Abuja road, Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway and the Kano-Maiduguri expressway. These are critical to the economic fortunes of the nation. Many of them have been under reconstruction for years yet there is little hope that they will be completed before the end of this administration.  

We, therefore, call on the government to redouble effort to ensure their completion within the time left. It is pertinent that the present administration firms up all agreements to do with the work on these roads to ensure that the next administration does not start afresh.  Government should further intensify supervision to ensure that contractors keep to deadline. 

We also call on contractors handling the various projects to speed up work, especially since there has been an improvement in security along some of the corridors, which had been used as a reason for the delay in work. 

State governments also must wake up to their responsibility of ensuring adequate maintenance of their roads. These roads are vital to the economy of the states and the nation as they serve as a link for the transportation of agricultural products within and outside the states. 

We believe it will be worthwhile if both federal and state governments come together to bring up a policy on road maintenance in the country. It is apparent the situation is this bad because many vital roads across the country were left unattended to for decades.  Now is the time to change the narrative. No economy can grow without good roads and governments at all levels must rise to the occasion.


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