The state of roads

LAST week, the Senate called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on federal roads, urging the Ministry of Finance to release adequate funds to the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for emergency repairs on all federal roads in the country. The Senate’s resolution followed a motion by the senator representing the Cross River South Senatorial District, Gershom Bassey. According to the senator who serves as chairman of the Cross River State caucus in the National Assembly, in order for total rehabilitation to be achieved, about N215 billion per annum is required to revamp the 3,500km federal roads for eight to ten years. In his motion titled ‘Motion on Nigeria’s Bad Roads and Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) Impending Nationwide Strike’, Bassey observed that from 2016 to2020, the total sum released to FERMA by the Federal Government for road rehabilitation and maintenance was just about 17 per cent of the required sum. He said: “The deplorable state of federal roads in Nigeria has become a national embarrassment, as scores of innocent people are kidnapped by bandits, robbed, mutilated and killed daily in avoidable accidents on account of bad federal roads.”

Indeed, there have been protests across the country over the poor state of the roads. For instance, there were protests in recent weeks over the Ota/Lagos road in Ogun State which residents described as a nightmare. Indeed, the state governor, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, recently lamented the Federal Government’s abandonment of roads in the state, saying that the  Ado-Odo/Ota road which harboured the biggest industries in the country was in a terrible state. In another instance, last week, road users took over the bad portions of the Benin–Sapele road to protest its dilapidated state. The protesters expressed their disappointment with the Federal Ministry of Works and FERMA. Led by human rights activist, Patrick Eholor, the protesters vowed to continue the protest until the road was fixed. Eholor, speaking for millions of Nigerians, said: “We are tired of the insensitivity of the government to the plight of the people.”

It is indeed a terrible time to be a Nigerian. The indices of poor governance are everywhere, and it cannot be a moot point that Nigeria’s so-called democracy is being circumscribed by poor roads. It is not just that there are bad roads everywhere despite the N1.12trn allocation in the last five years: vast swathes of Nigerian territory have never even witnessed anything that looks like a modern road. At the risk of being repetitive, we state that the state of federal roads in the country is horrible. It is a harrowing experience travelling on the Abeokuta-Lagos road. Nigerians plying the Ibadan to Ife/Ondo route and linking the South-South/South-East zones of the country via Ore know that they almost always have to take painkillers whenever they have the misfortune of using the road. If your route is from Mokwa or Lokoja to Abuja,  Ilorin to Jebba, or Share to Patigi, you will weep for your country as traffic snarls accentuated by the ghastly roads task your patience to no end. The Enugu-Port Harcourt road is a criminal mess, as is the Akure-Owo expressway and nearly every so-called federal road in the country. It is almost as if politicians would lose their hold on power if Nigerians travelled without hassles on those roads.

Day in, day out, the roads easily ‘swallow’ vehicles, causing, as the Afrobeat king Fela Anikulapo-Kuti quipped, sorrow, tears and blood. Craters and gullies are everywhere. The states are supposed to have departments of works but they have not liaised with the Federal Government to ease the pains of commuters. In any case, it is not exactly as if the state governments have covered themselves in glory regarding the issue of roads. If anything, they have performed below par, throwing excuses at the problems which Nigerians face on a daily basis rather than looking for solutions. Like federal roads, state roads are in a deplorable state, and the situation is worsened by the fact that the state governors have virtually crippled the operations of the oddities called local governments. The 774 local governments conjured by the country’s severely defective constitution are no local governments in a realistic sense, but then even the little expected of them is not being done. And so Nigerians remain in a fix, passing through jungles, as it were, before making their way into the state/federal roads which confirm their status as citizens of a bogus state.

Pray, just how can you say you have a society without good roads? What are the current tenants in the corridors of power thinking? How are Nigerians expected to survive with the deathtraps that dot the landscape? It is time federal and state authorities came to grips with the reality of their dismal failure and began to make amends. Nigeria’s democracy cannot prosper with poor roads.

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