Adejoh Idoko Momoh: How Bad Must our Roads Get?

From allegations of over speeding, to driving without a license and travelling without seat belts on, the Federal Road Safety Corps has fallen short in addressing the real circumstances surrounding the death of Junior Labour Minister, James Ocholi.

In not addressing the shoddy state of the road and naming it as the primary cause of the accident, the Road Safety has put to waste an opportunity to focus attention on an issue we have ignored for too long. In truth, the Abuja-Kaduna highway is nothing short of an issue that affects the economic wellbeing of our nation and the safety of our citizens.

From Minister James Ocholi, to Brig Gen Solomon Giwa Amu and my personal friend and #BringBackOurGirls activist, Mubaraka Sani, that road has claimed too many lives.  Beyond this, it is almost impossible to even quantify the commercial and economic losses incurred on that road considering that it is a major entryway to Northern Nigeria.

From the Lagos Ibadan expressway in the South West to the East West road in the South South and the Abuja Kaduna route in Nigeria’s North, the menace of bad roads is a common thread that affects every region of Nigeria.

Estimates put Nigeria’s total road network at some 193,200km; 34,000km of the total figure is under Federal control and appropriately labeled Trunk A roads while a majority 159,200km is under the control of the State and Local Governments. They are labeled trunk B and C roads.

There has been a lot of controversy and disagreement surrounding roads classification and whose responsibility it is to build and maintain them, this controversy arises mainly due to the cutbacks, price inflation and endemic corruption inherent in the process.

However, the one consistent thing with these roads is that no matter whose control they fall under, they are in various stages of dilapidation and therefore in dire need of significant repairs.

Fixing Nigerian roads will take guts, the kind of mind-blowing courage that actually gets things done and super Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola demonstrated this kind of resolve in Lagos State when he restructured revenue generation and infrastructure provision to the extent that the state minimally relied on Federal Allocations.

It is the collective hope that he approaches the state of our roads with this same zeal. The President clearly demonstrated this hope when he appointed the man as Minister of Power, Works and Housing.

Unfortunately, most policy decisions the Minister has announced sound like the kind of posturing that only aims to preserve a status quo, as opposed to really serving the benefits of the people he swore to protect.

The Minister must be bold in his approach to road construction and maintenance: he must consider concessions, toll fees or public private arrangements, all methods that worked exceedingly in Lagos State.

Or some Corporate Social Responsibility from construction giants like Julius Berger, PW, Mothercat, Gilmor, and all who benefit large scale construction contracts from the Government. This can also extend to companies like Dangote, Honeywell, all companies that move heavy merchandise on our roads.

Most importantly, a robust transportation road map must be developed; one that is complete with plans to expand on our road network, maintain it appropriately, as well as relieve the pressure on our roads by significantly developing and upgrading other aspects of transportation.

The role of citizens must also not be understated, we must say to institutions like the Ministry of Works, State Governments, the Road Safety Corps and the quite inefficient Federal Roads Maintenance Agency that it is time to take responsibility for their many failures. They must stop treating the symptoms and be courageous about drastic solutions.

Doing anything less demonstrates a lack of interest in boldly addressing and fixing the economic and human losses suffered on our highways.