For years, the clamour for good roads in the country received little or no attention. As a result, the roads became death traps, where hundreds of Nigerians met their untimely, but abrupt deaths daily. Accusations and counter-accusations keep flying back and forth and the unending game of buck-passing keeps taking different dimensions. However, the current minister of works, Mike Onolememen, disclosed that funding was the only reason responsible for the deplorable state of the roads JULIET ALOHAN, OMOTOLA OLORUNTOBI and IJEOMA EKWOWUSI write on how dependable the promises of a new minister would be. . .

The deplorable state of Nigerian roads has being a major source of concern for the populace who wonder when the situation would change, especially when compared with the way roads outside the country are constructed with the citizenry in mind and interlocked to last long.

In an attempt to find the way forward, many Nigerians, frustrated by the situation, have argued that the greed of contractors, who were meant to rehabilitate roads was to blame for the state of the roads. While most opine that in an effort to maximise profit the contractors often chose to use sub-standard material for the construction of roads, others argue that only foreign or seasoned contractors should be awarded road construction contracts in the interest of road users.

But new minister of works, Arch. Mike Onolememen,has said inadequate funding was the reason for the multiplication of the death traps, called roads, across the country, and reiterated the need for the federal government to reconsider its priorities during budgetary allocations, as good road network across the country would only be attained through appropriate funding.

A situation in which poor funding resulted in contracts being awarded to quacks, who were only interested in filling their pockets and as a result delivered poorly, was not encouraging. He said rather than repeat the circle of road construction on a yearly basis, the situation could be taken care of if sufficient funds would be voted for road construction, with the contracts awarded to competent companies with the right experience and technology to deliver the job.

With regards to the Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road, the minister who, disclosed that poor funding was the only reason the road was yet to be completed said, “This road took off in 2006/2007. In 2008, no budgetary allocation was made for it. That was where the problem started. Beyond that, in 2009 and 2010, there was meager budgetary allocation to the road. That made it possible for the kind of progress that was envisaged at the commencement of the project.”
With adequate funding, competent and experienced contractors could be contracted to construct roads that would meet the need and desire of Nigerians.
Expressing his concern over the development, the minister said, “We are concerned about this road, because it is the major economic artery in this country, as it links the south to the Northern part of the country. This road connects people in the South-east, South-west, South-south and other parts of the North to the central portion of the country. Most of the economic goods come into the country through this road. We are very determined to bring it into completion.”
It is worthy to note that the federal ministry of works is charged with the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the federal highways while the 36 state ministries of works and transport were supposed to be responsible for the state roads, even as the local government works departments had a similar responsibility to cater for roads within their locality.

Recently, the Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, paid a visit to the minister, and he complained about the deplorable state of the roads in his state. The minister, in turn, assured him that the federal government would not shy away from its responsibility of rehabilitating federal roads in the state, because the zone was the heart of commerce in the nation. The situation was no different in other parts of the country.

“We are aware that some of our infrastructure in the South-east have been severely impacted, as a result of severe ecological problems in that region. We do know that we have a number of commitments in the south-east and as part of the transformation agenda of the president, we’ll be able to provide good and motorable roads in all parts of the country,” the minister assured.

However, what is worrisome to most Nigerians is the fulfillment of these promises. How much longer would it take for the roads to be fixed,seeing as the nation had lost an irredeemable amount of resources from these mishaps.
An Abuja-based engineer, Tunde Adigun, said the urge by contractors to cut corners was responsible for the poor state of the roads.

“The problem with most of our roads is that the supervisors or contractors keep cutting corners. To build a standard road, the first thing that needs to be carried out is the feasibility study of the proposed place, to know whether it is water-logged or a firm ground. After the feasibility study, the result will determine the design stage, that is, what type of design the road requires.

“Next is the clearing of the site to ascertain where and at what level to set up the bridge(s), bearing in mind that a road is adjudged ‘standard’ if its formation level is good. Other factors are good compaction and a solid stone-base. The application of asphalt is the last process and it requires standard application.
“If all these steps are meticulously adhered to, the product will be durable and long-lasting, rather than become faulty within a short time.”

This buttressed the observations of the minister in which he alludeed that the neccessary steps in achieving good roads across the nation have been hindered by poor funding. If reputable construction companies are engaged and properly funded, the result would be durable and long lasting roads,in contrast to when inexperienced contractors are engaged, only for them to cut corners and enrich their pockets with whatever money disbursed to them.
A student, Modupe Adeniyi, who just returned from Ghana on an excursion, said the quality of Nigerian roads stand no chance of being compared with the ones in Ghana.
“The roads in Nigeria are bad and it really is a pathetic thing that many people lose their lives every day, because of the bad roads. When I was in Ghana, we plied the Kwame Nkrumah road which I learnt was constructed about 45 years ago and it was very strong. We were told that they dug the ground to about five to eight feet before road construction commenced,” she said.

Meanwhile, a recent publication by the ministry noted that, “A well developed road infrastructure is a way to attain the national economic growth plans that would lead to an improved movement of goods and services, increase regional trade and integration, re-establish credibility and consistency in government, and enhance national security and socio-political life.”

Furthermore, as a way to ensure that the roads in the country would be maintained, the minister, during his recent visit to Lagos, reinstated the government’s commitment to the public private partnership (PPP) arrangements as obtained in other parts of the world.

However, Engr. Abdulbari Abdulmalik, a registered member of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), had advised that the government needed to go aggressive on public private partnership, and maintained that with that in place, “we can be sure of having motorable roads in the country.
“I feel government should hands off road construction. They should employ the public private partnership approach; we should go back to the era of having two gates on major roads in the country where people would pay at some point. With that, we would be able to maintain the roads from the sum collected from the road-users,” he said.

Another expert who did not want to be mentioned, said roads must be constructed with drainages and culverts to ensure durability and stressed the need for the federal government to urgently conclude the railways rehabilitation. He noted,also, that this would go a long way to reduce the strain on the roads, as heavy duty goods would be transported by rail.

In the mean, experts have said that beside inadequate resources, abuse and overload of trucks and trailers on highways were among major challenges which affected the existing road network in the country and urged the ministry to expedite action on the planned installation if weigh bridges along federal highways and existing toll plazas in a bid to reduce the problem of rapid collapse of roads while the nation awaited a permanent solution to the challenge.