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Economic activities dim as federal roads turn death traps, kidnappers’ stronghold

By Godwin Ofulue (Assistant News Editor), Gbenga Akinfenwa (Lagos), Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure), Ahmad Muhammad (Kano), Anietie Akpan (Calabar), Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh (Uyo), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Abel Abogonye (Lafia) and Michael Egbejule (Benin City)
08 October 2021   |   3:06 am
Motorists and commuters in regions of the country have cried out over the deplorable state of federal roads, which, according to them, has made journeys a harrowing experience.

Sango road

• Owo/Ifon/Benin federal road caves in
• Rivers residents decry the state of East-West road
• Traders visiting Kano from Cameroon, Chad face a harrowing experience
• Oron, Eket travellers resort to water transportation
• LG boss laments the loss of lives, goods, resources
• FG agencies blame paucity of funds
• Imo appeals to FG to refund billions of naira spent on federal roads

Motorists and commuters in regions of the country have cried out over the deplorable state of federal roads, which, according to them, has made journeys a harrowing experience.

They also complained of a lull in economic and business activities caused by the deplorable roads, even as they stressed that bad roads provide safe havens for kidnappers and other criminals to carry out attacks on travellers.

The development has defied pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle challenges on the 35,000 kilometres federal roads through an Executive Order No. 007 on Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, signed on January 25, 2019.

Bad portion of the Calabar-Itu Road

Federal roads represent about 17 per cent of the national road network of 200,000 kilometres. They are strategic routes that carry 70 per cent of road traffic in the country and connect major cities in the six geopolitical zones of the country.

Road transport has become a major enabler in the Nigerian economy as it accounts for 95 per cent of all freight and passenger movement in the country, making it a strategic economic tool for economic growth and prosperity.
The Federal Government had introduced Executive Order No. 007 as a public-private partnership (PPP) intervention to enable the Federal Government to leverage the private sector capital and efficiency for the construction, repair and maintenance of critical road infrastructure in key economic areas.
The idea is open to any Nigerian company (other than sole corporations), acting on its own or in collaboration with other Nigerian companies, and institutional investors wishing to construct or repair any road identified and designated by the government as an “eligible road” under the scheme.

Participants are entitled to utilise the total cost (Project Cost) incurred in the construction or refurbishment of an eligible road as a tax credit against future Companies Income Tax (CIT) liability until full cost recovery is achieved. As an incentive, participants will be granted a single non-taxable uplift. The uplift will be a percentage of the project cost, and the percentage to be applied is Monetary Policy Rate plus 2 per cent on Project Cost. The uplift will be included in the total tax credit available to each participant.

A portion of the Federal Road Nasarawa

The objective of the scheme is to enable the government to leverage private sector funding for the construction or repair of eligible road infrastructure projects in Nigeria; increase focus on the development of eligible road infrastructure projects in a manner that will generate value for money through the PPP intervention and guarantee participants timely and full recovery of funds provided for construction or repair of eligible road projects in the manner prescribed in the Executive Order.

DESPITE that working order, the current state of federal roads in Ogun State is pitiful and embarrassing.

Over the years, the roads have degenerated as commuters gnash their teeth on a daily basis, as there are no signs of sustainable intervention on highways that have become decrepit.
Few of the roads are Ijebu Ode-Epe road; Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway; Papalanto-Sagamu-Benin Expressway; Sango-Oju Ore-Idiroko road and Ikorodu-Ogijo-Sagamu road, among others. But the most prominent of the bad roads is the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway.
From Brewery Bus Stop Abeokuta, through Itori, Ewekoro, Papalanto, Arigbajo, Ifo, Conoil, Joju Bus Stop, Sango garage, Temidire to Dalemo, among others, the road is in a perpetual state of disrepair. The ugliness shows in bold relief during heavy rains.
Though the project was initially awarded to Julius Berger Plc in 1999, it suffered several setbacks over the years, due to what government claims as to the paucity of funds. But on May 14, 2018, the project was re-launched by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, at the cost of N22. 387b, with a mobilisation fee of N3.5b.

Ore-Benin Road, Ondo State

The Director, Federal Highways, South West, Olalekan Busari, who flagged-off the rehabilitation project, told journalists then: “The project was divided into two sections, the first section, which starts from Ile Zik, in Lagos State, spans about 20km, while the second section, which falls within Ogun State is 60km.
“It is a complete rehabilitation of the entire road this time around, and it is awarded at the cost of N22.387b, and for a contract period of two and a half years, which we hope the contractor will deliver,” he said.
But three years after that acclaimed re-launch, motorists, pedestrians, and other road users are worried by the protracted delay in the project, even as the road has gone from bad to worse in the last few months.
They are worried that despite re-awarding the contract, nothing substantial is happening.
Aside from the bad state of the road, another headache of commuters is the slow pace of work on the axis.

Nekede-Ihiagwa Federal Road, Owerri West Council of Imo State

When The Guardian visited the area last Sunday, it was observed that aside the Owode-Iyana Ilogbo stretch, a section of the Ijako tipper axis, Sango tollgate to Amje (ongoing), a section of the Killington through Salolo, Adura, Casso to Meiran axis and a section of the Obadeyi to Ahmadiyya axis, others have been left to degenerate.
Areas like Sango Motor Park, Joju junction, Ilepa and beyond – all in Ogun State, which is yet to be touched, have become an eyesore. These areas are dotted with craters of different shapes and sizes.
Currently, the areas under rehabilitation — Sango tollgate to Amje, Lagos; Sona to Ijako market and Meiran to Ahmadiyya, Lagos, are causing more pain to road users. The tollgate seems to be the worst hit for now.
A trip between Sango Motor Park and Kollington bus stop, which shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, now takes up to two and a half hours, due to the traffic situation caused by the ongoing construction.
To make the matter worse, motorists who navigate through the ILO Awela road to connect Osi-Ota to connect Command in Lagos State have been cut off due to the construction work.
While some commuter buses and private car owners have abandoned the route, the few who risk navigating through the axis have had tales of woes to tell, as precious hours are wasted on the stretch, on daily basis, just as transport fare has been jerked up.
Some motorists who could not endure the perennial traffic logjam are now taking the Bible College-Abule-Iroko-Ajegunle road, while commuters now alight at the Shoprite/Gateway Hotel bus stop to trek to Amje bus stop to beat the traffic gridlock.
It is the same scenario at the Meiran-Ahmadiyya stretch as the popular Ijaiye bus stop is always chaotic, due to the impatience of the yellow buses. But for alternative routes in Ajala and Ahmadiyya bus stops, the situation would have become worse than the tollgate’s scenario.
Also, at the Sona bus stop to Ijako market, the traffic build has added to the agony of road users who spend hours due to the slow pace of work on the axis.
A banker, Toluwani James, who is left with no choice but to endure the hardship, said passing through the area during peak hours is always a terrible experience.
“Before now, I usually navigate through the ILO Awela road to link Abule-Egba, but since the section of road was closed from the tollgate end, it’s been hell. Now, I trek through the tollgate to Alakuko to get bus. I can’t drive through the area for now.”
A commuter bus driver, Ajala Obembe, said the contractors are not sensitive enough to know the plight of the road users. “There is a way they should have done it to make life easier for the people. Whenever it rains, we are always stranded because the traffic will be static. They need to speed up the work to ease our pain.”
The Federal Controller of Works for Lagos State, Kayode Popoola, told The Guardian that the rate of failure on the sections is the cause of the slow pace of work because the road cannot be fixed within one or two months.
A resident of the town, Barrister Ayo Abraham, described the current state of Sango roads as a big shame to the current and the immediate past administrations in the state.

A SECTION of the Owo/Ifon-Benin road in Ondo State, a federal road, which used to be the fastest route between Ondo and Edo states and the gateway to the eastern part of the country, is in deplorable condition, crying for urgent attention.

Residents of the area say frequent use of the road by heavy-duty vehicles compounded the bad state of the road.

Mrs Doyin Orisamolade, a motorist, voiced out her frustration, saying, “We don’t have a government in Ondo State, we don’t have a government in Nigeria; see the condition of this road now, how much is it going to cost them to fix? Ore-Benin road is not good and heavy trucks have now damaged the only road we have.”

A commuter, Mr. Toyin Maito, said: “The government says it wants to fight insecurity and when you have a road that is as bad as this one, how would you fight insecurity? When you stay at one point for a long time due to the bad road, hoodlums take advantage of it to attack. We call on the government to help us to fix the road.”
Another commuter, Ibrahim Mohammed, described the road as a “deathtrap.”

According to him, most commercial drivers are no more willing to ply the road.

Acting Federal Controller of Works in Ondo State, Olajide Hussein, who spoke with journalists on the condition of the road, attributed the problem to the poor culture of the people, accusing them of disposing of wastes by the roadside, thereby causing damage to the road.

IN KANO, strategic federal highways leading into the state are becoming death traps to commuters, despite the ongoing reconstruction works along some of the roads linking the city to other states and neighbouring countries. 

Kano, being a gateway and commercial city centre, is having an increase in traffic as some travellers going to the Northeast opt to go through the state due to insecurity on other routes. 

Kaduna Abuja/Kano road, which is under reconstruction, is about 375 kilometres. But from the Kano section of the road, motorists battle with potholes, especially in Unguwa Uku, Kwanar Dawaki and Karfih.

The road, which forms part of a critical West African road network linking the South and the North, has taken the lives of many following closures of one lane by the construction company.

On the Maiduguri road, which links Kano to Northeastern states, Chad and Cameroon, motorists have continued to suffer due to potholes, especially from Wudil to Gaya town, causing numerous accidents.
Traders coming to Kano from Northeast, Cameroon and Chad find it difficult to go back to their respective states due to heavy traffic along the road, which has been washed away by the flood, especially at this time of heavy downpour in the north. 

Another death trap for travellers and commuters in Kano is Tudun Wada/ Doguwa to Unguwar Bawa in Kaduna State, tearing many families apart.

The worst part is Zaria to Bagauda, Tiga, Round, through Tudun Wada Doguwa Local Government Area in Kano South. 

Some commercial and private drivers interviewed by The Guardian said they are forced to take longer roots to access Southern Kaduna, Plateau State, as well as Enugu and Benue, states, respectively.

Hamisu Umar, a commercial driver plying the road said that, apart from armed robbers who used the dilapidated nature of the road to have a field day to unleash terror on innocent passengers, their vehicles develop series of mechanical issues any time they ply the road.

The Kano-Daura Federal highway, which links Kano to President Buhari’s hometown to Niger republic, Libya and Algeria, is another headache for motorists and commuters who find it difficult to operate within designated lanes, thereby causing multiple accidents. They try to avoid potholes but end up causing accidents.

The Kano State Controller, Federal Ministry of Works, Yahaya Ali, explained that there are 25 ongoing reconstruction and rehabilitation projects being undertaken by the Federal Government aimed at addressing problems associated with bad roads across the state.

He said some of the projects are currently at various stages of completion out of which six are major dualisation contracts comprising Kano-Katsina road, Kano Kaduna-Abuja road, Kano-Maiduguri-Shuwarin road, Kano-Gwarzo-Daiyi road and Kano western bypass.

NASARAWA State, situated in the heart of the middle belt, has a fair share of bad federal roads. The state shares boundary to the south with Benue; East with Taraba, North with Plateau, North-West with Kaduna, West with Abuja, and Southwest with Kogi State.

The Trunk A road that links the southern parts of the country to the north, runs through Lafia, the state capital through Sanga Local Government of Kaduna to the Plateau State.

Also, Nasarawa State connects the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja through Keffi/Akwanga in Nasarawa to Jos through Kaduna State. The roads were constructed 47 years ago and lack proper maintenance like most roads in the country.

With the increased number of heavy trucks transporting humans and goods from the south to the north and vice versa, the roads have deteriorated in the face of the poor maintenance culture of the country.

Some roads from Makurdi to Lafia are best described as nightmares and death traps. Akwanga/Jos road has led to the death of many road users.
The Federal Government had in 2016 awarded the dualisation of Keffi-Makurdi road to a Chinese company. What is the state of this project?

A motorist, Arigu James, blamed the bad state of roads on pressure by heavy-duty trucks, while a commercial driver, Musa Abdullahi, blamed Federal Government for failing to maintain the roads, particularly the Abuja/Keffi highway, dualised by the Obasanjo administration.

THE CONTRACT for dualisation of East-West Road, a 338km road from Warri to Oron through Kaima and Ahoada, Port Harcourt to Ogoni and Eket Township was awarded in 2006 in four sections to four different contractors under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Findings show that Sections I and II, covering Warri to Kaima and Onne Port junction to Eket, have been completed but Section IIIA, covering Port Harcourt/Eleme junction to Onne Port junction was abandoned.

Though the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in a memo sighted by The Guardian claimed the Onne section was not part of the initial contract awarded in 2006 because the section was in good condition then, having been dualised earlier; another source, however, told The Guardian the said section was awarded in 2006 and had already gulped over N40 billion.

The contract for upgrading Section IIIA was re-awarded on December 1, 2014, to Messrs RCC (Nig) Limited with reference No MNDA/PROC/CAP/14/89/23 under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to upgrade and expand the road from a dual carriageway to a three-lane carriageway. Contractors waited to be mobilised but after Jonathan lost the election in 2015, the project was delayed and the road has deteriorated.

The Eleme-Onne road leads to two seaports, refineries, Petrochemical, NAFCON, Onne oil and gas free zone that houses over 200 oil and gas companies, among others operating within the axis.

The section is very busy with heavy-duty trucks plying it daily. The people have, in the past years, suffered serious nightmares on the road. Several lives have also been lost, residents and road users often sleep on the road. There are no alternative routes.

The neglect forced youths in Ogoni land to stage a protest tagged the ‘mother protest’ on Monday, July 26 as they blocked the Eleme-Onne road for seven days.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed the project is still awaiting approval of its latest design to accommodate additional flyovers and bridges.

Further probe into the prolonged delay revealed funding challenges, despite the fact that President Muhammadu got the sovereign wealth investment fund and created the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund (PIDF) with the task to fund, execute and complete the Abuja-Kano road, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Second Niger Bridge and the East-West road. 

Akpabio, who hails from the Niger Delta, is said not to be pleased about the planned introduction of tollgate fees on the East-West road as part of strategies to recover the proposed money from SWF.

The Guardian gathered that sequel to this, the minister had requested that his ministry be allowed to source for the fund and cater for the East-West road project.

Stakeholders, however, condemned Akpabio’s proposal, stating that the Ministry of Niger Delta is not adequately funded and that the idea would deprive the region of the opportunity for speedy completion of the road

The Guardian recalls that two years ago, senators and members of the House of Representatives from the region staged a protest on the road and raised motions in their chambers and included it in the budget of the federation but nothing was done.

Chairman of Eleme Local Council, Ollor said: “A lot of persons have died. Business owners have lost goods and resources, containers and trucks have collapsed.”

BENIN-SAPELE ROAD connecting Edo State to Delta State has become a nightmare with many failed portions. Motorists and commuters face hectic times, particularly during the rainy season.

Failed portions of the road account for woes commuters face as there is no day passes without vehicles breaking down along the route.

A motorist, Emma Akpan, described the state of the road as pathetic and a death trap for travellers.

He called on relevant agencies to expedite work on the road, which is almost swept away by heavy flooding.

“From Benin Kingsquare to Sapele by-pass on the Benin Sapele road, we cannot pass the road because of bad portions. We have been suffering on this road and nobody is talking about fixing the road for years now.

“The Edo State Government would say it’s Federal Government road, Federal Government would promise to fix the road but would not match its words with actions. That is how it got this bad,” he said.

On the Benin-Auchi highway, the road, which is being dualised and reconstructed for over a decade, has remained a nightmare to motorists as several portions of the road have failed.

While the Benin Ekpoma-Auchi dualisation work is moving at snail speed, motorists have not enjoyed the benefits of the multibillion naira project, despite being heavily funded by the Federal Government with support from SUKUK.

Findings by The Guardian revealed the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi dualisation work has three construction firms handling the project and presently on-site from the Benin Ehor Axis to Ekpoma and Auchi sections.

The Guardian gathered that RCC, Mother cat and Dantata & Sawoe construction firms have remained on site, though work on the federal highway is yet to reach appreciable levels.

The Federal Controller of Works and Housing in Edo, Razaq Aransiola, attributed the slow pace of work on federal roads in the state to a lack of funds.

Aransiola had appeared before the Edo State House of Assembly to brief the Legislature on the state of federal roads in the state.

THE situation along Calabar-Itu federal highway is equally harrowing. Motorists and commuters spend hours getting to Calabar or Uyo. Trailers, trucks are the worst hit as they find it difficult to meander through the dangerous and numerous potholes on the about 100km highway. 
Broken down trucks and few cars are common sights on the road that calls for urgent attention of Julius Berger, the contractor mobilised by the Federal Government. 

A commercial bus driver, who simply gave his name as Johnson, said: “It is hell driving or travelling on this road. Between Calabar and Itu, there is no section that is good. Some drivers have abandoned this route for other routes. We visit mechanics almost every two days. This is not good. Some passengers going to Oron or Eket now prefer to go by water, using speedboats and we as commercial drivers are losing. Most taxis have withdrawn and I will advise any motorist with a low ground clearance not to attempt driving along Calabar-Itu road, it is a disaster.
“We beg contractors and government to hasten up the work. We know they will use the rainy season as an excuse for the slow pace but may have been in it for two years.

A passenger, Mr. Okon Friday, said he prefers a speedboat even though it is expensive because you are certain of getting to your destination on time.

He said: “I prefer the water route which takes about 30 minutes or less to Oron instead of the stress on Calabar-Itu highway. It is expensive, we pay N2, 500 to Oron from Calabar instead of N1,000. It is better and even safer because passengers are given life jackets and security checks are mounted at different points on the waterways.”
One of the site supervisors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Contract was awarded since last year but we were mobilised to site in May this year after compensations were paid to affected persons. For now, we are doing earthwork and piling. The rain too is slowing us down but we are working.”
To a former Deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Uwem Udoma, the solution is for Governor Udom Emmanuel to lead a delegation to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to present to him the poor state of the road and to explore the option of Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme by collaborating with AKIPOC, Mobil, CCECE and other major construction companies operating in the state towards fixing the roads.
Udoma said such a visit has become imperative as the poor state of the road affects Akwa Ibom people irrespective of a political party.

He recalled that the Calabar-Itu highway was initially designed in 1975 by the Murtala Muhammed regime as a dual carriageway but was changed in 1976 to a single carriageway by the then Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, after the death of Gen Muhammed.

“From then till now, the road is about 40 years old and has outlived its usefulness and therefore needs urgent redesigning, remodelling and reconstruction for the benefit of Akwa Ibom people,” he said.

He said it is a thing of shame that both PDP and APC failed to fix the roads in 16 years and six years they have both been in power respectively.

An angry respondent told The Guardian: “Every time you people (journalists) will come to ask about our reaction concerning the bad state of this road, yet nothing is done after that. The level at which this road is now, the repair is beyond the state government. What we are saying is that the Federal Government should come to our aid. Besides, this road is a federal road.”

IN Imo State, federal roads became so bad that the state government took up the challenge to fix, with the hope of getting a refund from the Federal Government.

But only recently, the state cried out that the Federal Government was yet to refund billions of naira it expended on federal roads, 15 years after.

The Commissioner of works, Ralph Nwosu, who spoke with The Guardian, noted that the state government had spent so much on Owerri-Orlu; Owerri-Okigwe; Owerri-Port Harcourt, Owerrinta federal roads.

The Owerri-Port Harcourt dual carriageway, awarded by the Federal Government over five years ago, is yet to be completed. Imo and River state commuters and motorists complain of terrible experiences on the road. After waiting in vain for Federal Government, the state government decided to fix some of the roads.

On the amount the Federal Government owes the state, Nwosu said: “I cannot say the exact amount now, but they are in billions of naira. We wrote them, but they said no, that these roads were done without their approvals. We have left that in abeyance”

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