Mr. Frank Nneji is the managing director of ABC Transport Plc. He recently withdrew his luxury bus from plying some parts of the country, citing the poor state of roads in the affected areas. In this interview, Mr. Nneji calls for increased funding for the road sector. Excerpts
LET’S look at the Lagos-Benin highway. Many people get stuck particularly at Ore which appears to be the worst point on that road. What should be the solution to this problem?
Apart from the poor terrain, that road needs expansion. That road is too narrow for the volume of traffic it is carrying. The solution lies in expansion and strengthening of the roads. And for you to strengthen the roads, you probably have to do complete rehabilitation to have good surface. Then you now put in place a proper road management system.
A situation where people will see where there is a holdup and take the other way or one way means that traffic is not being managed. If you build a road, you should also manage the traffic on it.
Roads (not just those in Nigeria) are designed to last for about 30 years. Many of them should have been rehabilitated and reconstructed two times over.
If you are today the Minister of Works and Housing, what approach would you adopt to fix the roads across the country?
I will ask for better funding. Even the roads they said they want to do, where is the money? The provision is inadequate. How much money has been appropriated for roads this year? You know that there is a slogan that never has so much money been put on the roads by the government. How much is this money?Â Â 373 billion Naira! Out of 373 billion Naira, the road to Abuja airport takes 257 billion, that is 68 percent.
The 26 other roads will now share the balance of N116 billion. How do you see that? These are for rehabilitation. Lagos -Ibadan, what is the budget? N82 billion for about 120 kilometres. That is the value of the concession. That will show you that N116 billion is inadequate for 26 roads across the nation. Even though it is for routine maintenance and repair of failed sections, it is still inadequate. You see the political side of it in sharing the allocation. How many vehicles are on Abuja airport road?
That one is glamour; we want to show to the world that we have arrived. And so we have a five-lane road. We should look at the major atrial roads, all those roads that are carrying more than 10,000 average traffic per day, put adequate resources on them, rehabilitate them to a certain extent and concession the roads and hold people responsible. We are ready to pay tolls.
Would you advise the government to treat the issue of roads as an emergency?
It is an emergency becauseÂ ifÂ your economy has to grow at 10 percent for instance, the transportation infrastructure has to grow at the rate of 15 percent. This is the parameter for all developing countries. You have to be ahead because that is the engine that drives economic development; your ability to move people. If you have a good transportation system, it will solve housing problems.
That means people can live in Badagry and come to work on the Island; people can live in Shagamu and come to work on the Island. House rent will drop drastically. You can now move goods and services to areas that donâ€™t have direct access. If you move petroleum products from Lagos to the East, you donâ€™t expect to sell at N65. But if you have the pipelines working, you can achieve that and of course I have said that pipeline is part of transportation.