By CHARLES KUMOLU
DESPITE being regarded as an important tool for economic growth, Nigerian highways are dreaded by both the low and mighty. Their death-trap conditions are enough to make people avoid using them, yet they are rarely avoided particularly by the commoners, who ply them daily to various parts of the country.
These highways which are highly needed for movement of goods and services, became deplorable due mainly to the long neglect of Federal roads linking the different states of the federation
The situation became so pathetic that an appalled former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyoku was forced to raise an alarm. ‘’Do our government ministers and leaders who we know often travel and see the condition of roads in other countries never feel embarrassed by the condition of roads in our resource-rich country? Do they not notice the large potholes that litter the roads and even bridges?’’ he asked.
Anyaoku maintained that Nigerian roads are worse than the ones found in war- torn countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He added that they smear the country’s image in the comity of nations and in the perception of investors.
“Such unfavourable image inevitably leads to stymieing the Federal Government’s current effort to develop Nigeria’s tourism. The ripple effect of an unfavourable image for any country in this context can also extend to adverse effects on foreign investment; for investors are inclined to be reluctant to go wherever it is judged that life and property are not safe,” he added.
The retired diplomat was not alone in the anguish about the state of the roads. The present Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, as Minister of Transportation, literally wept while inspecting the Benin-Ore road.
These however, underscored the state of the roads, which had claimed many lives and resulted to stunted economic growth.
The Federal Roads Safety Corps,FRSC, had disclosed in its 2010 statistics, that 472 persons died in 500 road accidents in different parts of the country in December 2010. It also noted that the figure was lower compared to what was recorded in December 2009.
Findings by VanguardFeatures,VF, however showed that the figure had in subsequent years reduced.
‘’Though we are in a country where improvements are hardly noticeable because of the depth of anomalies around us, but with all sense of purpose, we have seen ongoing repairs across Federal roads in Nigeria and that must be appreciated and supported. Its been long we experienced a government being serious on road repairs, ‘’Funsho Adebowale, a civil engineer, told VF.
Supporting Adebowale, Mr. Anthony Okosun in an piece titled: Audacity of Excellence: Success Of Nigeria’s Works Ministry, said: ‘’The total package of construction projects currently being executed by the Nigerian Works Ministry at this time would appear to be one of the largest cache of infrastructural projects ever executed by any Nigerian administration.’’
This improvement did not come from the blues. Investigations showed that the improvement is as a result of ongoing repairs and construction of failed roads across the country.
As a response to ranking of Nigeria as the country with the second highest road traffic accident fatalities among the 193 countries in the world, the Federal Government launched ‘’Operation Safe Passage’’ OSP in 2012.
The OPS, VF gathered was embarked upon by the Ministry in the 4th quarter of 2012. Although ongoing projects could be seen across most Federal roads across the country, there are still questions as to what OSP has so far achieved.
The initiative has led to the recovering of failed portions of Federal roads across the country. From Ilorin to Jebba, Lafia to Makurdi, Aliade to Oturkpo, Oturkpo to 9th Mile, Enugu to Port Harcourt, Kano to Katsina, Lokoja to Okene, Okene to Benin, Lagos to Ibadan, and Odukpani to Itu, work is progressing on Federal roads.
Highlighting these recently at an interactive session in Lagos, an insider in the Presidency, and Special Adviser to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglass, said in 2013, no fewer than 2, 000 kilometres of roads were constructed or rehabilitated by government.
This he said with all sense of fulfilment, remains the highest in a single year by any government.
“Benin-Ore-Shagamu Highway and the Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway are being reconstructed; Kano-Maiduguri and Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja are undergoing dualisation; Oweto Bridge across River Benue is being constructed; Onitsha-Owerri and Vom Manchok roads have been completed; Onitsha-Enugu Road and Lokoja-Benin road are being reconstructed and expanded; construction works have also commenced on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway; the Second Niger Bridge project has been concessioned to Julius Berger/AIM Consortium, and work is progressing on the reconstruction of Mokwa-Bida Road, Akure-Ilesha Road, Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega Road, Enugu-Abakaliki Road, Ogoja-Ikom Road and Vandekiya-Obudu Road, among others,” he noted.
Still presenting what he described as the President’s scorecard, Douglas talked about: ‘’commencement of full scale production of cold asphaltic concrete mix for al year round intervention on road failures all over the country. Others include; introduction of the FERMA/SURE Public works Programme, engaging and training over 6,000 Nigerian youths on road maintenance works thereby creating social safety net and road ownership attitude.’’
Other completed projects are the construction/rehabilitation of Gbogan-Iwo Road in Oyo State; rehabilitation of Owerri-Aba Road in Imo/Abia State; rehabilitation of Katsina-Daura Road in Katsina State; rehabilitation/construction of Ijebu Igbo-Ajegunle-Araromi-Ife-Sekona Road (Section II) in Ogun State; reinstatement of collapsed section of Gombe-Potiskum Road in Gombe State; rehabilitation with Spur from Onitsha-Owerri Road to Okija-Ihembosi-Afor-Ukpor-Ebenator-Ezenifite in Anambra State and construction of Jalingo-Kuna Lau Road (Section 11) in Taraba State.
The list of completed roads also include the 15km Interstate road from Aiyegunle-Akoko-Edo (Ondo/Edo states); rehabilitation of the access roads to Warri Refinery in Delta State; dualisation of access road to Onne Port in Rivers State; construction of Gombe-Bypass in Gombe State; rehabilitation of Odo Oba-Takie-Gambari-Otte in Oyo/Kwara states and reinstatement of the collapsed section of Wukari-Mutum Biyu Road in Taraba State.
Also rehabilitated are the old Oyo-Ogbomoso Road in Oyo State; Omuo-Ifaki Road in Ekiti State, rehabilitation/reconstruction of Lafenwa Bridge in Abeokuta; rehabilitation of Gombe-Numan-Yola Road (section II: Numan-Gombe) in Adamawa/Gombe states and rehabilitation of Otta–Owode Road in Ogun State.
Having given these highlights, a delighted Douglass said the Jonathan administration is not just achieving results in many sectors, he was optimistic that the President will leave Nigeria a much transformed country.