Having good roads is key to the economic development of any nation. It is even more so in 3rd world countries like Nigeria where the bulk of both human and goods’ movement are done by road. Unfortunately, the pace of road development across the country witnessed an unprecedented slide between 1983 and 2010. National road network linking the states of the federation became death traps. The last 27 years have been harrowing.
Travelling from one part of the country to another by road became a nightmare and road accidents occasioned by bad roads became a daily occurrence in our dear country. Thousands of lives are lost yearly to this challenge. Subsequent governments after the Buhari/Idiagbon regime simply sat back, leaving the nation bleeding. They were confronted with situations requiring swift and far-reaching reforms especially in the areas of policy, management and financing of roads infrastructure in the country but they failed to respond positively. Many will easily recall how the then works minister, Tony Anenih spent over N350 billion on federal roads during his tenure with little to show for it. His god father, Olusegun Obasanjo was livid when he could not drive smoothly to his chicken farm in Ota, Ogun State.
But suddenly, things are changing on federal roads across the country. There is a pleasant massive rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of major arterial highways across the nation. This has reduced travel times between most origins and destinations on these arterial routes. Nigerians that travelled to their various states during the last holidays will easily testify to these. No doubt, improved driving surfaces, devoid of potholes will greatly reduce the cost of maintaining our vehicles. Many federal roads are now looking good. We are not there yet, but things are shaping up. The Jonathan administration started the revolution in 2011; unfortunately, his opponents seem not to be seeing this. This writer was pleasantly surprised by these sweet changes on the roads when I drove to Abuja from Lagos in December last year. Let’s start from the Lagos to Sagamu axis. Rehabilitation jobs which started last year have greatly eased the trauma from Lagos to Sagamu. Travel time has gone down considerably. Then, to the Sagamu-Benin axis. This section is divided into Ogun, Ondo and Edo state axis. As at December, the only section of the road with bad surfaces was the Ogun stretch, which, incidentally, used to be the best of the three.
The contractor assigned to this section is yet to move to site. Construction workers were seen on the Ajibatele-Ore stretch, which has improved considerably.
The Ore-Benin stretch has the best surface. Here, it was smooth sailing. In fact, those who travel on the Sagamu-Benin road regularly believe travel time would be cut to about three hours from Lagos to Benin by the time other sections of the road wear the same face as the Ore-Benin section.
As I continued the journey to Abuja, at the Benin to Auchi section, contractors were seen on ground carrying out preliminary works, preparatory to the dualisation of the road. In another 24 months, the drive to Auchi from Benin will be on a dualised road. Communities on this stretch are already enjoying a new life. The most exciting part of the journey to Abuja was the Auchi-Okene-Lokoja-Abaji axis. The dualisation is like 60 per cent ready. The last lap – Lokoja-Abaji-Abuja is like 80 per cent ready. In fact, the contractor handling this axis has promised to deliver this road in four months time. With the way things are going, towards the end of 2015, one should be able to hit Abuja from Lagos in about seven hours; on a smooth road too.
There are so many other key road projects that are on going. They include the reconstruction of Abakaliki-Mbok Road (Ogoja Junction); dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri Road; rehabilitation of Apapa-Oshodi Expressway; construction of Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue with its approach roads to link Loko in Nasarawa State and Oweto in Benue State and dualization of Suleija-Minna Road.
The “Operation Safe Passage” launched by the Federal Ministry of Works in 2012 has greatly helped to improve federal roads. It has led to the repair of the failed sections of federal highways. This is visible on roads like Ilorin to Jebba, Lafia to Makurdi, Aliade to Oturkpo/9th Mile, Enugu to Port Harcourt, Kano to Katsina and Odukpani to Itu. The Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road is also looking good. Officials of the federal Road maintenance agency have been on this road in the last one year, closing pot holes and repairing failed sections of the road. Those driving into Abuja from Kano and Kaduna are now very happy.
Now, let’s talk about the roads that have been completed in the last three years of the Jonathan administration. So far, 32 road projects have been completed across the country with many more nearing completions. Section I of the dualization of the Ibadan-Ilorin Road (Ibadan – Oyo) has been completed. Vom-Manchok Road in Plateau State has been completed. The others completed are the repair of the Third Mainland Bridge expansion Joints in Lagos; dualization of Onitsha-Owerri Road (Section I) and Onitsha Eastern Bypass, in Anambra State; rehabilitation of Uba-Mbalala Road; rehabilitation of Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto Road (section II: Gusau-Talata Mafara); rehabilitation of Obiozara-Uburu-Ishiagu Road and completion of the access road to Kaduna Refinery.
Others successfully completed are the construction/rehabilitation of Gbogan-Iwo Road in Oyo State; rehabilitation of Owerri-Aba Road in Imo/Abia State; rehabilitation of Katsina-Daura Road in Katsina State; rehabilitation/construction of Ijebu Igbo-Ajegunle-Araromi-Ife-Sekona Road (Section II) in Ogun State; reinstatement of collapsed section of Gombe-Potiskum Road in Gombe State; rehabilitation with Spur from Onitsha-Owerri Road to Okija-Ihembosi-Afor-Ukpor-Ebenator-Ezenifite in Anambra State and construction of Jalingo-Kuna Lau Road (Section 11) in Taraba State.
The list of completed roads also include the 15km Interstate road from Aiyegunle-Akoko-Edo (Ondo/Edo states); rehabilitation of the access roads to Warri Refinery in Delta State; dualization of access road to Onne Port in Rivers State; construction of Gombe-Bypass in Gombe State; rehabilitation of Odo Oba-Takie-Gambari-Otte in Oyo/Kwara states and reinstatement of collapsed section of Wukari-Mutum Biyu Road in Taraba State.
Also successfully rehabilitated are the old Oyo-Ogbomoso Road in Oyo State; Omuo-Ifaki Road in Ekiti State rehabilitation/reconstruction of Lafenwa Bridge in Abeokuta; rehabilitation of Gombe-Numan-Yola Road (section II: Numan-Gombe) in Adamawa/Gombe states and rehabilitation of Otta–Owode Road in Ogun State.
A highly elated Mike Onolememen, Minister of Works remarked last year: “A paradigm shift became inevitable in the development of roads infrastructure in our country, judging by the recent experiences of the near collapse of roads infrastructure in Nigeria. We needed to reclaim the National Road Network from its dilapidated state and elevate it to an enviable state where it could once again help to promote national economic growth and prosperity. About two years on, Nigerian roads are no longer described as death-traps due to the marked improvement in the condition of the roads as a result of the unprecedented and massive rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of major arterial highways under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan.”