Experts explore use of concrete in road pavement

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By Jude Njoku

Poor maintenance culture has often be adduced as the major reason for the collapse of  Nigeria’s  195,400 kilometers of roads infrastructure. Against this backdrop, construction experts have called for a cost effective solution to road construction and maintenance in the country.

The experts who brainstormed on Exploring cement based option for sustainable road construction in Nigeria organised by the Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, CMAN and Business Day, canvassed the use of concrete in road pavements in view of its durability and cost-effectiveness.

Speaking at the one-day conference, the Chairman of Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria CMAN, Mr. Joseph Makoju, an Engineer, bemoaned the decay in the nation’s roads infrastructure and the absence of a viable rail system.

He observed that all road constructions in Nigeria have been done with asphalt or plain laterite for rural roads because cement was relatively scarce and expensive. But with the installed capacity of local cement companies increasing from 3,000 metric tonnes per annum in 2003 to 28mtpa, the country has moved from the previous position of the world’s leading importer of the product in 2006, to a position of self-sufficiency.

Noting that the lack of maintenance culture played a key role in the deterioration of Nigeria’s roads infrastructure, Makoju said it was imperative to look for  an alternative surfacing material which when compared will asphalt, will require minimal maintenance.

“Benchmarking against international practice, it is worthy to note that about 40 percent of the roads in the developed countries like USA and Germany are made of cement concrete whereas it is only about two percent in emerging economy countries like India and less than 0.1 percent in Nigeria,” he said.

Although the CMAN boss and the Publisher of Business Day Newspapers, Mr Frank Aigbogun admitted that cement manufacturers have an enlightened self interest in promoting the use of cement for concrete roads, they stated that the final decision on what material to apply for roads constructions would be the outcome of a sound technical and commercial appraisal of the available options.

Road being constructed with concrete

The Managing Director of Lafarge WAPCO Cement, Mr. Joe Hudson declared that the Nigerian cement industry is poised to fulfill the demand for rapid infrastructure development.

Describing cement consumption in Nigeria as still low when compared to other developing countries, was however optimistic that the cement demand will continue to increase, due to investment in energy supply, road, water, housing and other infrastructure projects. With a capital investment of about N1.8 trillion, Mr. Hudson said the Nigerian cement industry will be exporting cement to other West African countries by 2015 and rank second to Egypt in cement production.

In its own presentation, titled Sustainable construction; the necessity for concrete pavement alternative in Nigeria CMAN stated that flexible pavements are more economical for lesser volume of traffic whereas rigid pavements are more economical for heavily trafficked roads with heavy axle loads.

In other words, such roads in Nigeria like Lagos – Shagamu – Ore – Benin – Asaba; – Onitsha – Enugu,  Lagos – Ibadan, Ilorin – Abuja – Kaduna – kano; Enugu – Aba – Port Harcourt, etc, need rigid pavements. Also our attitudinal maintenance habit recommends rigid pavement for most of the primary roads in Nigeria.

According to the cement manufacturers, rigid pavements  have a high compressive strength, which tends to distribute the load over a relatively wide area of soil. The organisation listed the advantages of properly constructed rigid pavements to include: low maintenance costs, long life with extreme durability, high value as base for future resurfacing with asphalt and load distribution over a wide area.

Other advantages include ability to be placed directly on poor soils and the fact that it does not get damaged from oil and greases, thus making it suitable for airport aprons. On the negative side, the cement manufacturers listed its long curing period (14days) and high initial costs as the major disadvantages of concrete roads.

Also speaking at the conference, the Director of Technical Services and Product Development, American Concrete Pavement Association, Mr Robert Rodden stated that concrete is everywhere and is used more than any other man-made material in the world. Concrete, according to him is durable and gets stronger with age.

The Senior Vice President, Infrastructure at the Africa Finance Corporation, Mr. Amadou Wadda who x-rayed Financing options for road development, case for greater private sector involvement, declared that Nigeria’s Road Sector has a strong potential to attract significant private sector funding if additional policy reforms are implemented.

He explained that fsources and applicable financing instruments have a strong relationship with the project life cycle, that is stage of development. Mr. Wadda who suggested that the role of public sector should be on policy and strategy formulation not asset operations, explained that fengineering can unlock additional value thereby help attract additional investors.

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