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Bad roads, development and safety of life

By Guardian Nigeria
30 July 2008   |   8:27 pm
  THE state of Nigeria's highways and the security of people and materials moved along them give cause for concern. The nature of deficiency and the extent of deterioration of these roads include, among others, unfilled pot-holes, flooded segments due to poor drainage, gutters and erosion damage and overgrown shrubs that block the view of motorists. The consequences range from accidents (some fatal), damage to vehicles (some irreparable), the loss of goods, traffic hold-ups and loss of man-hours in traffic hold-up. This also leads to a decline in the gross domestic product with a shrinking job market even as the contaminating effect of a deleterious global economy due to the on-going global financial meltdown takes its toll. This is not to mention the untold frustration caused by long hours spent in traffic hold-up and the consequent rise in blood pressure of sufferers, in some cases bringing about sudden death.

The cumulative effect on a declining economy and the consequent accentuation of poverty cannot be ignored as it lowers the pace of economic growth and development. The ’ember’ months of the year predictably witness a heightened escalation of all this as we are now experiencing this month. The case of infrastructural decay all over the county should worry all well-meaning Nigerians. Like many developmental issues which successive federal and state governments across the country ignored, this is one problem our governments should not wish away.

New initiatives are needed to address challenges in infrastructural development and the President has to be dynamic in his approach. The President must know by now that the hierarchy of officials connected with road contracts in the past 10 years have been negligent. Given the entrenched interests in this sub-sector, until the cabal is identified and sanctioned, it is obvious that no quick-fix or any approach can succeed.

Infrastructure development provides a framework containing all other development variables, making them to grow and blossom. This is why the government must single out infrastructure as a major priority and focus developmental effort on it in relative terms. But infrastructure has multi-dimensional components as it includes physical and social elements; all people, organisations, institutions, and businesses however named operate within the framework of physical and social infrastructure. Roads, rail, water and electricity supply are physical infrastructures constituting a prerequisite for development.

The transportation infrastructure, especially the network of roads, constitutes the basic development arteries through which, like human arteries and blood, development must pass round and round in a circulatory pattern. With respect to our roads, especially the intercity and urban roads, in contrast to the rule of development, the neglect is total as can be seen from the attitude of government, federal, state and local. Why for example will any government ignore the repair or reconstruction of a road artery such as the Gwagwalada-Lokoja and by extension the Benin City end of it.

This is a road that links the north and eastern parts of Nigeria on which hundreds of people and billions of naira worth of business are transported daily. There is the Lagos-Benin road and by extension the Onitsha-Oran end of it which has not received sufficient attention. The Ibadan-Ilorin road is also begging for completion, a major road that links the South-West and North Central zone and by extension the North as a whole. In general, the major road arteries that link different parts of the country and the country with the rest of the world present an eye-sore that is better seen than imagined.

The Oshodi-Badagry Express that links the country with the rest of the West African sub-region is punctuated regularly by potholes, large and small, some of which are capable of causing major accidents. The Agege motor road in Lagos is no different even after the improvement occasioned by the Lagos State government’s intervention. Obviously, this is just one of the reasons why many observers refer to Nigeria as a failed state. A review of road construction efforts in the country reveals long tales of woe all amounting to corruption and mismanagement of funds.

The maintenance of roads in Nigeria must improve or else our development objectives will remain a mirage The governments, federal and state, each should spell out a policy that will conveniently bring private sector operators into a programme of rescue operation in a Public-Private partnership that should also encourage foreign investment. Already, the Federal Government has launched a road concessioning scheme that accommodates private sector participation. But it should ensure close monitoring and insist on such standards that will serve the interest of the people of Nigeria, in order to prevent a repeat of the mistakes that were made in the past.