December 16, 2016by Tope Fasua0

Ok, i just want to humbly and respectfully debate the state of Nigerian roads. Naturally there is progressive depreciation as a result of wear and tear… But also, in Nigeria that rate of depreciation to a point of total collapse, is enhanced by several human factors viz 1. Physical mismanagement of materials and infrastructure 2. Refusal to maintain on a constant basis before things collapse entirely 3. Corruption (certainly a main issue resulting from use of substandard materials and undercutting of contract budgets). 4. Misunderstanding or non-comprehension of how these technological materials react (e.g. making bonfires on the road at night in the name of security, or digging up the tar across for the purpose of speed bumps, and adding cement instead, which soon washes away leaving huge craters)… these among other issues.

I recall that along Ibadan-Ife Road, it is the road built by Premier Awolowo that is still functioning. The one build by ‘modern’ leaders in the name of dualisation, has collapsed presently.

The bottomline is that Nigeria’s interstate roads have never been worse since our history. And we seemed to have lost it entirely due to the transition of the past two years. Even along Abuja-Kaduna Road, there is a patch where Area Boys now stay and hail vehicles claiming they are the ones patching the road… this is among many bad patches along that road that just 7-8 years ago was pretty smooth.

So i made a dash to Ondo State two days ago and returned yesterday. It was a harrowing experience on the road. From Abuja to Lokoja is okay but after that… CRATERS. Some of them could swallow a car. An emergency needs to be declared on the roads because the rains must not meet them this way else many parts of Nigeria will be cut off next year, with debilitating effects on local businesses. Lokoja to Okene is a total mess…. But the guys in Kogi are trying to be proactive. They are patching things up frantically but its probably too little, too late. These are ‘federal’ roads, though i passed the glistening long convoy of the Kogi Governor doing some inspection of ‘recovery’ (i can’t call it maintenance) work at that stretch. I noticed i passed Kogi State Polytechnic where no roads are tarred within the school, not even the entrance – and I wondered why a polytechnic cannot prove its own mettle by getting its students to improve their own environment? Even if they have to use cobble stones, they would make a lot of difference.

Okene town has some very bad craters and of course, that is where one meets serious traffic bottleneck. Obajana junction is now permanently damaged by Dangote trucks. The Edo State strip through Lampese and Ibillo is fairly manageable until you get to ibillo junction. The craters there will swallow a small car easily. If the rains meet that place like that, forget the road entirely. The Ondo State part is terrible… and it is militarized. The police, army and other security agents occupy the areas near the craters, which is like 100 meters apart. Bribery and corruption goes on freely in broad daylight. When you get to those parts, you know you’re in a war zone. As i made to drive past one of the crater zones after being ‘hailed’ by a police officer, one space bus with tinted glasses refused to stop on the other side, leading to gunshots from the police and the beginning of a car chase! Daylight action movie… very enjoyable if you’re lucky to survive stray bullets from drunken force men.

On the way back it was the same, only that along the smooth Lokoja-Abuja road, anytime from 630pm, you would meet more than 20 police/NDLEA/Army/Civil Defense and other checkpoints.

I was just thinking about the business sense of it all. Now that Naira is down, should we not think about encouraging our diaspora people to come home this Christmas? After all a mere $1,000 is close to N500,000! But are these the roads where we want them to put their Ajebota children and say they are on a road trip? And we want those children to love Nigeria and not curse her after that? What about internal tourism? Apart from the danger of kidnappers and robbers, is this not why all the middle class people do is fly up and down, ignoring the economy that is on the ground? Do we know what that Lokoja stop does for the local economy there? Or the fried yam people buy at Ibillo? What about fuel stations and hotels on the ground? And do these roads represent the fate to which we have condemned our struggling masses who are in the majority?

The fact is that the big boys (and big ladies) in Nigeria don’t know anything about what is on ground, and they don’t wanna know. I doubt even if the Minister knows. NOTE THAT THE PICTURES HERE DON’T DO JUSTICE. IT IS DIFFICULT TO CAPTURE THE DEPTH OF THESE CRATERS ON CAMERA. Fashola is overwhelmed with the power Sector. FERMA is simply dead! No plans for these roads… not even this Christmas when vehicular traffic will be frenetic. In times past – truly even under GEJ, they try to do something on these roads close to Christmas. For it seems like the roads are about the only thing to suffering masses want from government… and a bit of electricity. How do you transport Poultry products over these roads, or evacuate your farm produce? The President himself doesn’t know these things exist. If he remembers his experiences since he became president, then good. And the situation is worse.. far far worse. I believe the president should find a way of seeing these routes himself.

What happened to Nigeria’s money these past few years? All the taxes, all the duties and levies… Even now, Crude oil is recovering. Yes, there’ll be another huge deficit (close to 30% next year according to the 2017 budget). With my own mental calculation of our cash flows, it’s shocking that we can no longer fix basic things, and the way things are right now, years of total negligence will result to the total rebuilding of those roads. Patching cannot work for craters. And when we rebuild, we will again reveal that the old era was when things were done right. it’s as if what Yorubas call ‘agbana’ has entered Nigeria’s finances such that we get money, spend it and can’t see what we did… of course apart from glistening luxury cars and mansions for the big men… who are still making themselves comfortable even in these lean moments. Can’t blame them. It’s their luck, right? But it’s depressing.

NOTE AGAIN, THESE PICTURES DON’T CAPTURE THE REALITY. Take care on those roads as you travel for the Yuletide pls.

by Tope Fasua

Tope Kolade Fasua is a Nigerian ex-banker, entrepreneur, economist and writer with 28 years of work, business and policy analysis experience. He is the founder and CEO of Global Analytics Consulting Limited, an international consulting firm with its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, and footprints in the United Kingdom, USA and United Arab Emirates. Fasua has authored numerous columns on newspapers and six books. He currently keeps regular columns on policy analysis issues with Premium Times and Daily Trust newspapers.

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