Youths in Niger State, under the aegis of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), protested the deplorable state of roads in Niger State last week. During the protest, the youths blocked Suleja-Minna highway and Bida-Minna road, causing untold hardship for motorists who plied the difficult roads. Though many roads in Nigeria are in a terrible condition, the situation in Niger State is pitiable and shameful, as most state and federal roads there are not motorable. Worse still, those that motorists have to use unavoidably are so bad that they leave users with sad tales.
The roads affected include Minna – Bida road; Bida – Lapai – Lambata road; Mokwa – Jeba road; Mokwa – Birnin-Gwari – Suleja road; and Mokwa – Jeba road. These are roads that interconnect towns and villages, not only in Niger State, but also in adjoining states like Kwara, Kebbi, Kogi, Kaduna, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Man-hours worth millions of Naira are lost everyday, as motorists waste weeks on some of the roads trying to snake out of Niger State to their destinations. For instance, Minna – Bida journey, which should take an hour, because it is just 83 kilometres, now takes up to seven hours to cover. Also, Bida – Lapai a journey of just 30 minutes now consumes seven hours.
The predicament on some of these roads is aggravated by articulated vehicles travelling from the South to the North. Because most roads are not motorable, these trucks take untarred rural roads. Unfortunately, they get stuck at muddy spots, preventing other vehicles from passing those routes for as long as three weeks or one month. This led to a recent tragedy on Lapai-Agaie road, where one of the articulated vehicles carrying petroleum products was stuck for days and later caught fire due to excessive heat. In the inferno, five persons were reportedly burnt to death, while many other persons sustained various degrees of injuries. Five other vehicles were reportedly burnt in the inferno.
Niger State has been brought to a standstill by these deplorable roads because of the lack of maintenance. Most of these roads have been left to deteriorate for over 20 years because the state and federal governments have shirked from their constitutional responsibility of carrying out constant repairs on them or even reconstructing them. Apparently, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) in Niger State has been asleep. Also, the state of the roads provides evidence of the lack of synergy between Abuja and Minna on road maintenance.
Apart from the lack of maintenance culture, it is clear that the quality of work carried out by contractors may be responsible for the quick collapse of Nigerian roads. Some of the roads in question were constructed, elaborately repaired, under the current democratic dispensation, but because of the poor quality of work carried out initially, they quickly fell apart. Therefore, the current predicament in Niger State, and in many states of Nigeria, was foretold. We call on all tiers of government to take seriously the quality of work carried out by companies awarded contracts to construct or repair our roads. Also, in order to ease the logjam in Niger State, the government should mobilise contractors to the site to enable them to speed up work on these roads. With the needed resources, contractors could work both day and night, or even give out portions of the road as sub-contract to other construction companies, to ensure the roads are repaired with dispatch to ease traffic.
It has become important to reiterate the need to take seriously rail transport in Nigeria. In many parts of the world, the kinds of goods conveyed by road from ports in Lagos to the far North are transported by rail. This idea has been on the table for years, but governments’ action have not matched their words. If they had walked their talk, the number of articulated vehicles on our highways would have reduced by now. It is, therefore, time for northern governors to synergise and make the functioning of dry ports, earmarked for various destinations, a reality.