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Travelling on Nigeria’s terrible roads

Given Nigeria’s natural endowments even in the form of impressive topography, from the awe-inspiring flat savannah plains in the North, to the few enduring thick tropical rain forest zones of the South variously dotted with amazing but sometimes ‘’weird-looking ‘’ hills and mountains of shapes and sizes, gullies, rivers all add up to make travelling experience in the country an unforgettable one, even while tourism is still in infancy in the country!

The 672.92 km journey from Lagos to Abuja by road in the morning of August 12, 2016 promised to be interesting and challenging, if not energy sapping, due to the distance. However, love they say conquers all. It was a family reunion of a sort that was not to be missed. Destination —Abuja!

During the intermittent short morning showers, the driver, with a conspicuous ‘’Captain’’ tag on him, courteously acknowledged his passengers and as officially required of him, reeled out his name, the destination, maximum speed limit at 110 km/hr and more. With this, he drove out of their office premises located near the Iyana Ipaja over-head bridge in Lagos, manning and manoeuvring the wheels with some perfected skills, to hit the road.

Sitting next to the driver, as he was adorned in uniform, a grey top and dark trouser with a tie, in his heavily built stature that failed to conceal a short protruding belly, already I could feel an aura of respectability hovering around our revered captain!

The unpredictable nature of Lagos traffic even for us moving against traffic’ and out of town, stared us in the face as we meandered our way through. We eventually crawled out of the city with much relief, and gathered moderate speed for the journey. Our movement to Ore, Ondo State was without hitch with the newly re-worked Ore road.

We met with some construction road works within Edo State which held our movement for some time. It was there that our driver revealed another part of him, as he laughed to scorn the work process of the construction road works, which we observed as the packing of the asphalt on the failed sections (pot-holes-ridden) without excavating that failed section, then followed immediately by a roller compaction! I was quick to point to him that he was not a qualified civil engineer to adjudge the process, and that it was expected that the officials of government with such responsibility would have done the due diligence on proper testing and supervision of the construction work.

Again the driver burst into laughter and in a manner that derides my earlier comment, as he exclaimed, in pidgin, “Oga, leaf dat tin, EFCC go soon carry all of dem.’’ I only chuckled in response, because I believed he was just a clown on the road to stardom. Yet, what I found apparent in his statement was that, the township roads of those towns we travelled through namely; Obadan, Erua, Expoma, Auchi, Iddo Okpella, and Okenne, as later observed, among others, all need urgent and serious road construction works, whether as efforts of Edo and Kogi state governments severally, or that of the Federal Government where a Federal road concept applies.

Such prompt efforts to repair, construct new roads, or expand the existing ones as applicable, will save lots of lives, property and precious man-hour from being wasted with ease of movement guaranteed by adequate and good roads with proper drainages. These observable very bad portions as noticed between Edo and Kogi states, all the way bursting out at Lokoja-Abuja road junction have added in no small measure to the stress experienced on the road, slowing down movement while it was also affirmed to be the hot-bed of some clandestine activities of criminals, save for the efforts of the security personnel on patrol and manning check-points. There is no gain-saying that the area in general deserves urgent government attention.

Then we met with a long queue on the stretch of Lokoja Bridge, perpetuated by a security check-point that looked like an endless trail of trailers and trucks, with most of them observed fully loaded all on a single lane, following each other ‘bumper-to-bumper’ numbering over 30, parked stationary on the bridge!

Though, smaller vehicles were given preference to go through the traffic with little disturbance on the other lane, while these truck were perhaps, isolated for further security checks with the Army personnel on duty, fully operational at their game with their stern looks and arms displayed combat-ready, everybody dutifully complied. The high patriotic zeal of these security personnel displayed day and night is very commendable.

However, it is imperative to point out that the lining up a very large numbers of trucks loaded most times beyond capacity for whatever reason, on a constructed bridge is, in itself, a safety threat! We should know that the bridge technically has a weight-limit, and this should be noted in its usage. Heavy trucks or heavy articulated vehicles should not be left stationary on the bridge.

As we moved further on, I could see and appreciate the common sights of some rocky hills/mountains, sometimes in an undulating manner, some spreading out and forming like a fortification walls around some towns which we passed through. This had taken my thoughts away as we swept along in the journey. Thoughts on how the thick vegetation noticeable in the South thin out magically as one moves into the Savannah belt of the North with its own unique and different type of vegetation, peculiar to the North, welcoming one’s arrival to the Northern part of the country, swayed the better part of me, with the hope that some key elements in government are thinking in the same direction, to fully explore the unimaginably massive potential of this country in the tourism industry!

All these

were still in my thoughts when we hit Abaji on the outskirts of Abuja. In spite of the dark that was gradually and mischievously creeping into an adventurous day, I could not but notice the smoother turf on which we were now moving. Our vehicle’s movement had suddenly changed to a cruise! And the sprawling development observable on both sides of the road was worth contemplating too. As we inched further into Abuja, the development got more detailed and colourfully illuminating, and more sophisticated that I felt I was in a foreign land.

 

  • Awoyemi sent in this piece via   [email protected]