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Re: Bad roads and our government

By Helen Ovbiagele
IF there’s one thing that we’re agreed upon in  this country, it’s the bad state of our roads, particularly down south in the Mangrove and Rain Forest areas, where rainfalls wreak havoc on our already ill-constructed and ill- maintained roads, throughout the year.

One could sense anguish, rage, disappointment, helplessness behind each reaction to our write-up on the state of our roads.

It is said, ‘Accident Will Happen’, which could mean that misfortune is part of the human life,  but here in Nigeria, instead of reducing incidents which could bring mishaps, it appears we’re hellbent on encouraging such incidents.

That’s the only explanation I can get for our successive rulers’ irresponsible attitude about the hellish state of our roads.  Apart from the loss of human lives daily, there’s also the loss of revenue for farmers and business people who rely on good roads for their means of livelihood.  Bad roads lead to heavily damaged vehicles, so, transporters would normally increase their fares, and the farmers and traders just have to  pass on the cost to the consumers down the line, in order to survive in the business.

This leads to inflation and depression in the land.  Farm products rot away either on the farms or by the roadside as many small-scale farmers cannot afford the cost of transportation, which in many cases would be higher than what the products would sell for, in the market.

Prices of foodstuff

Prices of foodstuff have become a nightmare.  This season, one small plantain is selling for one hundred naira, an orange for fifty naira, a small tuber of yam for 300 naira, etc.  As for tomatoes and onions, they’ve become so costly that most stews contain more pepper than tomatoes, exposing people with sensitive stomach to frequent heartburns.
Traders will tell you it’s the cost of transportation that has pushed up the prices of foodstuffs, while transporters will blame the bad roads for high fares.

What’s the government doing to check all this?   Nothing. ‘Sister, when you look at the condition of our roads, one would pray for all roads to be made state government roads with matching revenue allocation for their maintenance.  Travelling from Lagos to Abuja by road through Osun/Ondo axis is hellish.  Thanks.  Layi.’ ‘Madam Helen, our roads were best during the military regime. Period.

I don’t know how they did it, but federal roads were well-maintained and I used to enjoy travelling from Abuja to Lagos by road.   The Benin/Lagos road was one smooth experience which made motoring pleasurable.  These bunch of fellows who say they’re practising democracy are not addressing national issues, but struggling for contracts and power.  Bring back the military, is what I say.  Forget about what the western world thinks of military rule.  They don’t live here, so they don’t understand the intricacy of governance here.  Dr. M, Ibadan.’

‘I know we heap blame on the federal government for the bad state of our major roads, but what about state roads within the various states?   I live in Benin City, and I must say that roads there are the worst I’ve seen in my travels all over the country.  I say they’re the worst because Benin City has been a state capital for more than forty-five years, and yet,  you still find roads in the centre of the city which are not motorable, and have been taken over by bush.

Residents then turn such a road into a refuse dump; exposing the area to an epidemic.  Incredible in this day and age.  Aren’t there councillors, assembly house members, reps and senators in Edo State?  Don’t they move about their areas of operation to see the state of things?  Of what use are they to us? Mr. Onaiwu, Oredo LG.’ ‘Madam, did you read of the armed robbery report on the Benin/Shagamu road the other week, when a trailer ran over about 18 passengers from a luxury bus, who had been asked by robbers to lie flat on the main road?

Wasted lives!   If that road had been in good form, the driver of the luxury bus would have been able to run  away with its passengers in spite of the log of wood on the road.  Before then it was reported that on the same road, the rain had washed away a bridge and passengers were stranded there.

How long will the government continue to stand by, doing nothing concrete about our roads?’ ‘Mrs. Helen, let’s be truthful; all the three tiers of government in this country have failed the people.   We have death-traps as roads?   Tell me in what area they have put the people first and improved the quality of life.  I see non-performance, whichever way I turn.  It’s sad’   Rola, Lagos.’

‘I must commend media houses for all they have been doing to sensitize the government to the true conditions of our roads.  Apart from articles, I’ve seen pictures of the horrible state of many roads in the papers.   I have this feeling that those in a position to act on the matter, don’t read the papers.  But then, if the Ministers of Transport and that of Works at both federal and state levels don’t read the papers, what about their information and press officers?

Shouldn’t they draw their  bosses’ attention to this area of their portfolio?  Democracy doesn’t suit us at all.  If it were the army, no contractor would go and do shoddy work and get paid.  He wouldn’t dare.  He would perform, or risk being locked up.  Democracy in Nigeria means irresponsibility and lack of accountability.’

‘My wife returned home very late from work one night, hysterical at the sight of a trailer which had its two  containers upturned onto several vehicles when it got stuck in a gigantic pothole, trapping and crushing some passengers.  It happened at Mile Two on the Apapa/Oshodi expressway, on the bad portion of the service lane.

That portion is always filled with water during the rainy season, and the potholes have deepened these past years.  Every year, the story is the same.  FERMA which is responsible for maintaining federal roads goes there to patch up the road with sand.  This is washed away and the potholes become death-traps.  It’s by the grace of God that there are still people alive in this country.  Our government continues to fail us.

We need a saviour.   Emma, Ejigbo, Lagos.’
‘There seems to be this feeling that all the bad roads are to be found in the southern parts of Nigeria.  This is very wrong.  The Kaduna/Abuja road continues to record many accidents, so also is the Lokoja /Abuja road. All over the north, there are bad roads.  I’m sure the media in the north is aware of this, yet this is not brought out in their papers.  Highlighting the situation would get the government to act.

It would help too if media researches whose duty it is to maintain what roads, so that members of parliament would take up the fight.   Like you, Madam, I was astonished to read that the law makers slashed the vote for Education and Health in order to fund road repairs.  Why that late hour remedy?

Are they saying they’re unaware of the state of our roads in the federation?   If they travel by air, surely they must have relatives who travel by land and who can tell them how traumatic the experience is at any given time.  Thanks.   Halima, Zaria.’


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