By Aare Afe Babalola
IT is common knowledge that Nigerian roads are generally either in a state of disrepair, poorly maintained or altogether untarred. With Nigeria boasting of the largest road network in Africa, it is not surprising that only about 60,000km out of its estimated 195,000km or road network is paved.
Majority of the nation’s road network was constructed between the 80s and 90s, with a larger portion of them currently deteriorated because of poor maintenance. Even when the existing roads are constructed or supposedly maintained, it soon falls into disrepair due to the use of low-quality materials. Despite huge budgetary allocations been committed annually to infrastructural development projects, much yet remains to be seen on how the condition of the roads justifies their fiscal allocation.
The Nigerian road network is majorly classified into three. First is Trunk Road “A” which encompasses the framework of the national road grid and cuts across regional boundaries. The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, is responsible for financing, constructing, and maintaining this class of roads. Second is the Trunk Road “B” which connects the major cities within states.
They are financed, constructed, and maintained by the state governments. Third, Trunk Road “C” falls under the category of roads constructed and maintained by local government authorities in Nigeria, and they are usually untarred.
Though the Trunk Road “A” falls under the exclusive purview of the Federal Government and, by that fact alone, is well deserving of being kept in pristine condition, it will be observed that they are veritable tools for bandits and kidnappers who take due advantage of the several potholes and poor surface conditions which forces commuters to slow down. In addition, commuting on any of the trunk roads is usually characterised by unduly protracted hold-ups caused by several factors including repair works or accidents resulting from bad roads.
Poor roads continue to be one of the causative factors for road accidents in Nigeria. According to the Quarter 2-2020 Road Transport Data report published by the National Bureau of Statistics in conjunction with the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, 2,080 road crashes, many attributable to the bad conditions of the roads, occurred in Quarter 2-2020. While a total number of 5,353 Nigerians got injured in the road traffic accidents recorded, a total of 855 were killed. The total number of vehicles involved in accidents in Quarter 2-2020 was 3,334.
Recently, members of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, threatened industrial action over poor roads in Nigeria which constantly causes tanker accidents and the resultant life and economic losses. The National President of the Union reportedly stated that:
“We wish to urgently draw the attention of the Federal Government to the harrowing experiences of the owners of petroleum trucks in the country. The only means of moving petroleum products across the country is by roads, using the trucks. We can confidently tell you that this means of distribution is presently endangered and require urgent Federal Government stimulus intervention fund to prevent it from total collapse.
“We are shocked at the lackadaisical attitude of local, states and Federal governments to the issues of addressing the degenerating state of Nigeria roads before the coming of the current raining season despite all our warnings for them to make necessary construction, repairs and maintenance of all our roads, which are now in a parlous state and becoming practically impassable.”
Though the strike was subsequently called off due to some intervention by the Federal Government, one cannot but agree with the motive behind NUPENG’s intended strike. There is no doubt that road usage accounts for the great percentage of transportation which means that the deplorable condition of the roads which cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles are forced to ply together is bound to engender occasional crashes.
Practically every Nigerian and every sector of the Nigerian economy relies on one form of transportation or the other, with road being the most utilised means. This, therefore, connotes that a good road network where commuters arrive at their destination without any delay occurring from bad roads, or where goods are safely and timeously transported from one location to the other is bound to foster economic progress.
No doubt, good road infrastructure affects the flexibility and mobility of workforce from one point to the other, and it is indeed central to good governance and public welfare. Undoubtedly, a seamless road network and infrastructure lowers production costs and raises productivity particularly especially in the agricultural sector where the transportation of crops from the farm to the consumers is a major factor in the production chain.
Even in the industrial sector, a good road transportation network is required to bridge the gap between the place of production to the point of final consumption. Research has shown that there is a strong and positive relationship between road transportation and economic growth in Nigeria. It has equally been demonstrated that transportation infrastructure can improve the well-being of the citizens in Nigeria.
Road transportation contributes to Gross Domestic Product in any country and impacts its economic growth when goods and services are being able to be transported to the end user. This implies that a good transportation system is a powerful tool in bolstering productivity and effective distribution of goods and services and, at the long run, increase the economic growth in country.
However, against the backdrop of the nation’s deplorable transportation network, a study by the National Planning Commission, NPC, in 2018 concluded that the Nigeria’s current transport infrastructure is not aligned with the country’s aspiration to become one of the world’s 20 largest economies.
As earlier noted, Nigeria’s national road network is an estimated 195,000km. Out of this, federal roads are estimated to be about 35,000 km, state roads 17,000km, and local government roads taking a whopping estimated 140,000 km. Nonetheless, a greater percentage of these road networks are either unpaved or unpliable.
Having considered the fact that good road infrastructure is analogous to economic growth, improvements in transportation system will have positive ripple effect on the nation’s GDP.
Conclusion: Certainly, more needs to be done about fostering a good road network in Nigeria for the reasons already identified above. With the current level of maintenance, it is very difficult to retain good quality road infrastructure, and thus the consequent steady deterioration which is largely commonplace.
In addition to ensuring adequate maintenance, the government needs to adopt more preventive maintenance measures, including but not limited to reverting to the use of rails and waterways particularly to reduce burdens on our roads which has now become the nation’s primary channel of transportation.
For instance, the use of well-secured pipelines should be exploited for the transportation of petroleum products and reduce the contact of tankers with other road users.