State Of Nigerian Roads: Pains, Losses To Economy

Fashola

The state of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region and the Apapa/Oshodi express Way, serving as main access road to the two seaports in Lagos state, presents clear examples that government often neglect areas where it generates chunk of its annual revenue. In this special report, fourth of five part focuses on how the dilapidated state of the road infrastructure causes pains and losses to the economy.

Roads Without Necessary Paraphernalia

The long stretch of the Lagos-Badagry Express road, measuring about 67 kilometres, is by no mean an international road that provides access and links to neighouring countries of the Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana and other countries within and outside the member nations of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) and the rest of the continent.

Conversely, too, is the winding, but porous Sango-Ota-Idiroko road that provides access to local and international commerce within and outside the chores of Nigeria through Ogun State.

The important nature of the roads to economic activities in the ECOWAS sub region and to the movement of goods through the land borders cannot be over emphasised as it is imperative and beneficial for commerce in Nigeria and beyond. Regrettably, the bad state of the roads had for a long time become an impediment to movement and cross border deals of goods and services.

Many Nigerians that lived or earn their daily livelihood along the roads go through unexplainable pains driving and travelling the long stretch of the international roads.

International roads, by all paraphernalia, should provide travelling with ease between two countries or as by-pass to link other parts of the neighouring states within any given geographical location. However, this cannot be said of both the Lagos Badagry Express Road and the Sango-Ota-Idiroko road as users of the roads go through the pains crisscrossing across the borders.

 

Lagos/FG intervention

Realising the economic importance of roads providing access with neighouring states within the ECOWAS sub region, travelling along the link roads that connects Nigeria with other adjoining ECOWAS states has of late become an eyesore.

From the link roads in the North east, North West and the South West travelling to connect other ECOWAS member nations has become a journey that may never end.

Agreement between the Yar’adua and Fashola administrations for a joint project between the federal and state government suffered a setback as the FG reneged on the agreement.

 

Lagos State’s Approach

The Lagos State government went ahead to start making preparation to repair the road but was taken to court by the federal government who insisted work shouldn’t be done on its roads.

The issue was eventually resolved and the Lagos State government applied to the World Bank for a loan which was to be disbursed in 3 tranches with the federal government standing as the guarantor. The first tranche was disbursed and work began. When the second tranche was to be disbursed the federal government withdrew from standing as guarantor stating that states were now barred from receiving foreign loans, funds were no longer available to speed up work and the work schedule had to be re-arranged while the government sought other sources of funding for the road. That also informed the reason for CCECC been asked to go beyond just the rails into the road as against Julius Berger which was more expensive.

 

Agonies of users to armed robbers and accidents

Commuters and residents of the area not too long ago had their challenges more worrisome as the Badagry bound carriageway on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, (LBE) was closed to traffic to allow for construction of a pedestrian bridge for the blue line rail project along the axis.

Then Lagos State former Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa disclosed that the move was part of concerted efforts to deliver the first phase of the Blue Line Rail Project, as part of the 10-lane, an expansion road project of the Lagos- Badagry Expressway.

Opeifa explained that the contractor, Messrs China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, (CCECC), would be installing pre-cast beams for the pedestrian bridge to take commuters into the rail station at Mile 2 and across the road.

Avoiding accidents can be difficult at the best of times, but when there are poor road conditions or inclement weather, the skill of drivers and users of these have on several occasions been put to test as many have lost their lives in the process.

For many drivers who consider themselves good drivers, the thought of being involved in a road accident seems almost unbelievable.

Thus, many of the drivers that ply the road told Daily Independent that the fear of getting involved in an accident, whether lone or induced occupy their minds whenever they set out to drive on the roads to and from Nigeria.

A driver, Joseph Fayon, said he had in many instances witnessed bloody armed robbery operations on the international road to Seme where scores of innocent have lost their lives to dare devil armed robbers.

Reminded of the presence of the men of the Nigerian Customs and Immigration on the road on a daily basis, he lamented that both were on the road for different reasons that does not include prevention of armed robbery and other forms of violence.

Another driver, James Tagoe regretted that though many of his colleagues believed it will never happen, contending that their viewpoints are right, but in poor road condition even the most skilled should take care to avoid any possible accident situations.

He said: “First, the road is not a state road. It is a federal road. The Lagos state government should be praised for even making efforts to take over the road.

Driving on the over 60 kilometres of road to Seme border that provides link with other ECOWAS member nations can be frustrating as it seems endless to motorist that do their trade along the busy road.

The journey from Lagos, Nigeria, to Seme in the Republic of Benin that should at most take less than one hour, ideally may last for about four to five hours on a bad day as the potholes in some sections of the road can best be described as trenches where vehicles enter and comes out with fenders and shock absorbers and some other parts suffering serious damage.

Unfortunately, the alternate road constructed by the Lagos State government; Lasu-Isheri road- can only take motorists to Ojo and at most to Igbo Elerin, a few kilometers after Ojo which does not make much difference.

 

Background and need for Trans-African Highway Network

The Trans-African Highway network comprises transcontinental road projects in Africa being developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (ADB), and the African Union in conjunction with regional international communities. Their aim is to promote trade and alleviate poverty in Africa through the highway infrastructure development and the management of road-based trade corridors. The total length of the nine highways in the network is 56,683 km (35,221 mi).

In some documents, the highways are referred to as “Trans-African Corridors” or “Road Corridors” rather than highways. The name Trans-African Highway and its variants are not in wide common usage outside of planning and development circles, and as of 2014 one does not see them signposted as such or labeled on maps, except in Kenya and Uganda, where the Mombasa–Nairobi–Kampala–Fort Portal section (or the Kampala–Kigali feeder road) of the Trans-African Highway 8 is sometimes referred to as the “Trans-Africa Highway”.

Africa has a relatively poor history of international cooperation in road-building. Colonial powers and, later, competing superpowers and regional powers, generally did not encourage road links between their respective spheres except where absolutely necessary, and in newly independent African states, border restrictions were often tightened rather than relaxed as a way of protecting internal trade, as a weapon in border disputes, and to increase the opportunities for official corruption.

Poverty affects development of international highways when scarce financial resources have to be directed towards internal rather than external priorities.

The agencies developing the highway network are influenced by the idea that road infrastructure stimulates trade and so alleviates poverty, as well as benefitting health and education since they allow medical and educational services to be distributed to previously inaccessible areas.

 

Wars and conflicts

As well as preventing progress in road construction, wars and conflicts have led to the destruction of roads and river crossings have prevented maintenance and have often closed vital links. Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola are all in rebuilding phases after war. Wars in the DR Congo set back road infrastructure in that country by decades and cut the principal route between East and West Africa. In recent years, security considerations have restricted road travel in the southern parts of Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt as well as in northern Chad and much of Sudan.

Trans-African highways can only develop in times of peace and stability, and in 2007 the future looks brighter, with the southern Sudan conflict being the only one currently affecting development of the network. Lawlessness rather than war hampers progress in developing highways.

Recently, the activities of insurgents in the North East of Nigeria affected many international link roads to the Cameroons, and the Niger Republic as the Boko Haram during an onslaught with the Nigerian armed forces destroyed a lot of bridges and makeshift roads in order to escape counter attacks and follow up by troops.

 

Challenges of cross border travelling

A Nigerian citizen and student of Kwame Nkruma University of Science and Technology, Ghana, Funmilayo Kehinde, lamented that travelling from Nigeria to Ghana through the Seme route was a tortuous 18-hour journey.

He described the journey between Orile and Badagry as rough, contending that the journey from Seme to Aflao and to Togo as smooth and enjoyable. She commended the effort of the former Lagos State government at fixing several kilometres of the road.

A driver that ply Sango and Seme, Sunday Oloyede, described driving through the Atan-Agbara road to link the Lagos Badagry Expressway, as bad, contending that it does not portray the image of the country well.

Speaking to Daily Independent at his Sango garage, Oloyede urged the Federal Government to brace up to its responsibilities and fix the roads that has become impassable.

“Travelling to Seme through Agbara is bad and it is worse now that the rains are here. Imagine having to carry out repair works on the vehicle on every trip. The truth of the matter is that passengers are already overburdened by rising cost of travelling.

“The economy affects all of us and we have also put ourselves in the place of other road users too, but the truth also remains that someone somehow must pay the pains of sleeping in mechanic workshops every weekend.

Speaking in the same vein, Michael Thomas, a Togolese and a commercial cab driver on the Ota-Idiroko road said apart from lacking all paraphernalia of international roads, he described the Ota-Idiroko too filthy for the status of the country.

He condemned the attitude of the residents, especially along the Sango, Iyana Iyesi and Winners end of the road as carefree and uncaring, adding that the roads people travel on in search of their livelihood too deserve some respect.

Thomas praised the Ogun State government under Senator Ibikunle Amosu for fixing some sections of adjoining roads that provide links with the Ota-Idiroko road.

Speaking further, he praised the founder and Chancellor of the Covenant University for his exemplary demonstration of practical partnership with government through regular maintenance of the road from time to time.

“The church has lived up to expectations as a worthy partner in the state and the federal government. The church had earlier attempted to fix the link road from the old tollgate to the Ota-Idiroko road, but was prevented by the previous administration in the state.

“Living Faith Church recently cleared the roads of wastes during the university convocation ceremony. This is social responsibility. The dirts thrown on this highway constitute a nuisance and an eyesore to the image of this country and to the environment. The Ogun State government on its part should copy the good example of waste management in Lagos State and also rid the highway of the mess that sends wrong impression about the country to foreigners entering the country through Idiroko border,” he stated.

 

Economic loss

One of the biggest casualties of the poor state of the Lagos Badagry Expressway is the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). The LCCI due to the impassable condition of the road had been forced in the last three years to stage its annual trade fair in the heart of the Lagos Island; several kilometres away from the market it is meant to serve.

Apart from giving a death knell to the staging of the international trade fair at the complex that is now partially occupied by motor spare parts dealer, many of the residents who reside in Agbara, Okokomaiko and Badagry and environs work in Apapa, Ikorodu, Ketu and the Island.

They spend several man hours in the traffic daily in other to get to their places of work and return home. Consequently, many have lost their jobs to a problem that was not their own creation on the 48-year-old Lagos-Badagry Expressway.

Another factor that constitute a great nuisance to the image of the country and economic loss on the road is the problem of the numerous checkpoints mounted by policemen, the Nigerian Custom Service and other security agencies.

Apart from being an international route, the road also hosts the Alaba International Market regarded as the biggest electronics market in West Africa, the motor spare parts market, the ASPAMDA, etc.

The road was first built by former Lagos State military administrator, Mobolaji Johnson after many years of neglect. It would be recalled that the Lagos-Badagry dual carriageway was originally constructed in 1974, and was taken over by the Federal Government in 1977 to serve as the Nigerian segment of the West African sub-regional link road to Seme border during the General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.

The Badagry Expressway, that serves as an access road to Nigeria’s neighbouring states in the West African sub-region has long been notorious for traffic jams and is therefore regarded as a commuters’ nightmare.

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