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Rehabilitating Lagos-Kano highway: A national priority

Nigeria’s spending has been increasing exponentially, yet its effectiveness is constantly in dispute, whether in hard infrastructure, power, education, or any area of public involvement.…

Nigeria’s spending has been increasing exponentially, yet its effectiveness is constantly in dispute, whether in hard infrastructure, power, education, or any area of public involvement. Yet the Tinubu administration has the technical ability to communicate and use information efficiently and, with it, the ability to coordinate decentralised efforts. This makes it easier for ideas of developing communities, states, geopolitical zones and regions to be widely explored.

Given the state of the economy, the socioeconomic conditions and the resource constraints facing the country, it is important to consider critical investments that can improve the economic welfare of the northern part of the country. A major challenge is to bring the North’s economic activities up to the level of that of the South. The policies that will work to generate growth in the North are the same as those that will generate growth across the whole economy. This is why the North is not demanding a N15 trillion road project like the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway. Nor proposing projects that will isolate the region.

The proposition is to rehabilitate a major route that runs like a lifeline from the busy city of Lagos to the northern metropolis of Kano. The road caters majority of travellers who commute between the states of the South West and the North. The Lagos-Kano motorway, approximately 1,000 kilometres, is more than just a road; it is an economic corridor that connects the four geopolitical zones, including the federal capital city, and facilitates trade and movement of people. Yet, its current state leaves much to be desired, and it is here that the potential for transformative national development lies.

This major road sees an average daily traffic of 40,000 vehicles between Lagos and Ibadan and from Abuja to Kano. Of this, heavy vehicles comprise one in every five, according to USAID report, which shows the importance of the transportation of agricultural produce and livestock from the North, and manufactured goods and imports from the South. The road’s functionality is critical for economic activities, directly impacting logistics costs and supply chain reliability across the country.

Presently, the condition of the highway varies dramatically along its length, with significant stretches, notably from Ibadan to Kaduna, suffering from poor maintenance. These sections are single-carriageways, which are overburdened by the road traffic. They lack emergency lanes and are prone to frequent traffic jams caused by broken-down vehicles. Travelling this route can take 20 hours, while a flight—considered out-of-the-way to the vast population—is just 90 minutes away.

The economic implications of the dilapidation of this highway cannot be overstated. Likewise, the inefficiency is not just a matter of inconvenience; it is a significant economic bottleneck that impacts the whole country, not just one region or geopolitical zone.

Given these stakes, the proposal to dualise this highway is both timely and essential. Dualisation—transforming the road into a dual carriageway—would drastically reduce congestion, cut travel times, and enhance safety. Such improvements would not only make the movement of goods more efficient but would also act as a stimulus for economic growth in the northern regions.

Safety is another critical concern. The current state of the highway poses a significant risk of accidents, a danger compounded by the high volume of heavy vehicles. By expanding and upgrading this route, we can expect a reduction in traffic-related fatalities and injuries, contributing to broader social benefits, including reduced healthcare costs and loss of life—according to the World Bank, the average life expectancy of a Nigerian is 52 years.

Despite the clear benefits, its viability and the general acceptance by the public, it is surprising that the idea of making this project a reality is not taken seriously. This project is not like the dredging of River Niger, which becomes divisive whenever it is considered. Similarly, the Lagos-Kano railway—an alternative transport link—is a distant prospect in completion, which makes the need for road improvements a more immediate solution to transportation inefficiencies.

It is clear that the proposed dualisation of the Lagos-Kano highway is not one of those white-elephant projects but a necessary venture for the majority of Nigerian travellers. Unlike the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, a project with a staggering tag of N4 billion per kilometre, the Nigerians are not demanding a road vanity project. Instead, they seek a feasible and functional improvement of a motorway that links the movement of goods and people in a safe and cost-efficient manner. It is an idea that roots itself in economic wisdom and an essential need for travellers.

The National Assembly must, therefore, treat the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Kano highway as a priority. This is not merely a matter of infrastructural investment but a coordination of economic activity in the country and regional development. By mobilising support for this project, lawmakers would not only be addressing an immediate logistical need but also investing in long-term economic stability. The success of this project will work to generate growth across the whole country. 


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