The poor state of our national road network has become an open sore commentary on the poor governance architecture of the country.
Indeed, there is no further evidence of this than that being witnessed by commuters as they make trips across the length and breadth of the nation. From Maiduguri to Lagos and from Jos to Umuahia, the story is almost about the same; potholes, death-traps and gullies are the order of the day. We may have never had it this bad.
Though the evidence of this national disgrace is just too compelling to gloss over, even more troubling is the reality that nothing is actually considered to be shocking any more in our system. Little wonder then that our development planners and policy makers are yet to understand the imperative of right prioritizing. And since they are inured to constructive criticism and analysis of the right fit of policy actions to take, they find it difficult to relate to alternative narratives. This then is why they seem to lose sight of the pure elementary economics fact that no nation can develop beyond the state of her infrastructure.
Governments all over the world exist to create conducive atmosphere for their citizens to earn a living through doing legitimate businesses. It is the prevalence of this state of affairs that elicits progress in the material condition of individuals and the state, thus increasing a nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP. Such existential ennui is hardly fostered under a climate of poor infrastructure as poor road networks becomes a denuding factor in all facets of the economic life of a nation: from manufacturing to agriculture to health and the services sector.
No nation has ever developed with poor transport infrastructure, which includes roads and urban transportation (which spans other sub-sectors). A top-notch transport sector is critical for any nation’s success. In particular, transport infrastructure plays a critical enabler role, increasing the impact of nearly all other sectors of the economy.
This newspaper is persuaded that Nigeria’s current road infrastructure is not aligned with the country’s aspiration to become one of the world’s 20 largest economies. Increased maintenance and capacity expansion are needed to improve the current state of Nigeria’s infrastructure.
A focus on linking the various road networks so as to strengthen the intermodal transport of goods and passengers, would improve the safety, convenience, travel time and cost of Nigerian transportation and reduce carbon/particulate emissions, in addition to acting as a sturdy agent of economic growth.
It is worrisome that our leaders at various levels are yet to realize or rather have chosen to play the ostrich as regards the fact that adequate road infrastructure is central to Nigeria’s economic growth; and we make bold to add that it is at the core of good governance and public welfare. Simply put, any improvement in road infrastructure positively impacts the nation’s GDP.
A peep into the statistical outlay would point us to what clearly is ‘the heart of the matter’ Nigeria has a national road network of about 200,000kms. Of this total, federal roads make up 18 per cent (about 35,000kms), State roads 15 per cent (about 17,000kms), and local government roads 67 per cent (about 150,000km), with most local government roads being unpaved.
Overall, this road sector accounts for about 90 per cent of all freight and passenger movements in the country. And although the federal road network constitutes just about 18 per cent of the total national network, it accounts for about 70 per cent of the national vehicular and freight traffic.
Now, to the really sore points. As at 2018, an estimated 60 per cent of the federal road network was in poor condition (in need of rehabilitation); 30 per cent was said to be in fair condition (requiring periodic maintenance); and only 10 per cent could be adjudged as being in good condition (requiring only routine maintenance).
In the case of state roads, 78 per cent was said to be in poor condition, with an even more staggering 87 per cent of local government roads also considered to be in poor condition.
In Lagos state, which was hitherto said to be a model of infrastructural development in the country, the story has changed lately as the megacity’s road infrastructure has become most deplorable. Just two weeks ago, Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu met with contractors and asked them to start working on bad roads without any delay.
The governor is said to have also ordered massive construction on dilapidated highways and carriages within the state starting from Monday, October 14, 2019.
While appreciating efforts being taken at different levels to address the crisis of roads in the country, this newspaper however calls on the managers of our lives at the federal, state and local government levels to come to grips with the fact that it is simply in everyone’s interest that the roads are in good shape, countrywide.
Clearly, part of the challenge is in finding the funds to do the job. Another is in ensuring that allotted funds do actually deliver value for money. While all of these would not be resolved, this paper believes that the first place to begin is to review the extant policy environment to ensure it is more result-oriented. For one, states and local governments that are responsible for 82 per cent of the nation’s roads need more allotments from the federation account. This raises issues of revisiting the extant revenue allocation models and the imperative of instituting the practice of fiscal federalism. Second, it is also critical that better Public Private Partnership, PPP models should be introduced in order to guarantee project delivery, sustainability and maintenance. No serious nation toys with her road infrastructure as it is a veritable peg upon which a lot of economic development rests.