WITH heavy rains back on almost on daily basis, the true nature of our roads has reared their ugly faces. with the coming of heavy downpour, citizens of Nigeria have woken up to a sad reality, that most of the federal roads all over the country, if not all, are in a deplorable state.
A journey to Abeokuta from Lagos, passing through Iyana Ipaja, Abulegba, Ota is perilous. It will take a whole day, what ordinarily would have been less than two hours. Indeed, it is extremely sad times for motorists and other road users on the Sango end and even entire stretch of Abeokuta Road. The federal road has degenerated beyond comprehension, especially with the rainy season now in full swing. suffering on the roads has continued to drag Nigerians back in their bid for better living conditions.
The situation is the same all over the nation. Few days ago, travellers along Akure-Ondo Road were trapped for days due to the deplorable state of the road. The road which has been completely washed away by the recent rainfalls thereby leaving it in state of complete disrepair, a situation that has left commuters plying the roads in pains and anguish. A member of the House of Representatives, representing Idanre/Ifedore constituency, Hon. Festus Akingbaso, had to come to the rescue of road users. He has commenced the repair of the Owena axis of the Akure/ Ondo road after it was cut-off after heavy rainfall.
In February 2023 when I lost my father-in-law in Okpella; the industrial hub of Edo State, it was hell going through Benin-Okene Road. In fact, I had to park my car in Benin and put everyone with me in public transport because it is believed that commercial transporters know how to meander through the potholes or take alternative routes through the villages.
Even when the rains hadn’t come, it was tough going through the road. The stories coming from Benin-Okene Road now are horrible. This is a high-density commercial road connecting South-South, and South-East to Northern Nigeria. The volume of traffic along this road is high. One of the highest in the country. Other federal roads in Edo State and especially within the state capital, Benin, are in serious deplorable situation. A trip to Sapele from Benin will leave one in tears. When it rains in Benin, sometimes your vehicle can only move if it has amphibious features.
President Bola Tinubu on Thursday, 14th September, 2023 met with Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara and other stakeholders from the oil-rich state. Among their many requests was the condition of East-West Road. A road that has been abandoned by previous governments. Even President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t see the need to give urgent attention that the deplorable state of the road demands. If you have experienced pains, stress and fear on federal roads around the nation, the situation in East-West Road is horrible and highly regrettable. In fact, it is a nightmare. Any repair work going on in Port Harcourt Refinery without repairs on East-West Road is an exercise in futility. According to governor Fubara. “It is a federal road but it is my people who suffer the pains of its deplorable state.” Some people are of the opinion that Rivers State government and other states along that corridor can render some remedial assistance on the road to alleviate the plight of road users.
The state of roads in the South-East, where there’s no federal presence for years, can best be imagined. According to the new Minister of Works, Engr. David Umahi, Anambra and Ebonyi are competing for the worst in terms of poor federal road projects in the country. The state of Enugu-Onitsha Expressway is very bad. So many bad spots which have caused vehicles to fall and other sundry hiccups on the expressway. There is nowhere in Eastern Nigeria that one can find an accessible federal road.
Most contractors and consultants, knowing that politicians are very corrupt, lower the standards at site. Roads that were designed to last at least twenty-five years, starts dilapidating after five years or even less. Politicians that have collected their kickbacks lack moral courage to question contractors when they notice shoddy work. The implications is that in few years, all the roads that have been constructed and the ones awaiting attention all becomes the same. Some of the roads built by Ibrahim Babangida military regime are still okay, the ones built by politicians about five, eight years ago have all gone bad. Democracy becomes meaningless if it lacks capacity to deliver good life to citizens. For how long will Nigerians continue to bear the brunt of mis-governance, cluelessness and insensitivity of the ruling elite.
In Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the governor, promised to do some remedial work on the Lagos-Abeokuta Road before the 2023 elections. The terrible old tollgate stretch that was abandoned for close to a year was fixed in a matter of weeks. The rehabilitation work extended through the Sango Motor Park, Joju Bus Stop, Con Oil Junction, to Ijako Market, where the work stopped abruptly. Since his re-election, he has carried on as if the road no longer matters. He is probably expecting all road users to come and prostrate before him like his local government stooges.
In Edo state, Governor Obaseki has refused to follow the good example of Adams Oshiomhole, who argued that though the road might be a federal road, but it is the people of Edo State who use them. Oshiomhole, in his time, fixed the bad road and applied for a refund from the federal government.
The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), has also completely neglected its statutory responsibility. One is lost as to why government will set up an agency, employ people to do nothing and they draw salaries every month. If FERMA is up and doing, we won’t be where we are now.
It is a shame! This government has turned car owners to pedestrians. A government that was in a hurry to remove petroleum subsidy without looking at the state of our roads cannot convince me that it is a progressive government. The value of the life that citizens live is determined to a large extent by the quality of infrastructure in the environment. Road transportation contributes to Gross Domestic Product in Nigeria. It has a great impact on economic growth. This implies that transportation system can increase productivity and effective distribution at the long run increase the economic growth in country.
Comrade Amechi, a trade unionist and pro-democracy activist, writes from Lagos.