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The Many Headaches Of Travellers On Federal Roads

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As commuters move from place to place across the federation, the only time that is certain is departure time as their arrival time is not due to multi level challenges arising from deplorable states of most federal roads in the country. The lamentation is palpable; urgency to get the road in good shape is another factor that continues to haunt travellers. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja) who visited some of the trouble spots reports.

Mr James Uche is a businessman based in Abuja and a regulator traveller on the Abuja-Lagos and Lagos-Abuja routes both as an airline passenger and an active road user.

It took Uche 55minutes of pleasurable flight to get to Lagos a fortnight ago from Abuja. On return, Uche, a car dealer, had to drive a groaning 15 hours to get to Abuja, a trip hitherto not more than 10 hours.

For the trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, there is no counting of hours, because it would take days to travel same distance.

Sharing his experience, Uche said that policymakers in the country appear not to know what it takes to drive on Nigerian roads except for few areas that still have good roads.

“Your mind is fixated on the road, you are always on the look out for potholes and no matter how good a driver you are, you cannot avoid running into potholes. It is a nightmare that has defined driving in the country.”

It is no longer news of the number of losses of humans and goods as a result of the deplorable and despicable state of most federal roads across the country. This is in spite of efforts put in by government, whether present or past in putting the roads in good shape.

LEADERSHIP Friday observed that even sections of roads fixed by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) often return to their bad states few months later, leaving motorists wondering what really is wrong with Nigeria’s roads.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Friday in Ibilo in Akoko Edo local government area of Edo State, Mr Adewale Bashir, a commercial driver, lamented that the federal government through FERMA in 2017 fixed the Isua-Ibilo-Lampese federal road linking Ondo-Edo to Kogi State but wondered why the fixed road collapsed in such a short time.

“We all saw FERMA working especially on the Edo State section of the road but look at the situation today, it has collapsed and back to how it was before. What kind of maintenance was done that cannot last 12 months?

“We commercial drivers celebrated when we saw men of the agency at work, but it’s shocking to see the road go bad and even worse than before,” Bashir complained.

The picture of the state of some federal roads became clearer when our correspondent travelled by road from Lagos to Abuja, recently.

Although, Julius Berger, Nigeria and Reynolds Construction Company, the two contractors handling the new six lanes of Lagos-Ibadan expressway could be seen working on site, commuters who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday lamented that the project is taking too long to complete.

They lamented that the number of accidents claiming lives and property on the Lagos-Ibadan road is alarming with barely no day passing without a record of one fatal accident, mostly involving heavy duty trucks.

Observation by our correspondent indicated that lots of work is still needed to complete the almost 140km stretch of road considered as Nigeria’s busiest highway.

Large portions of the road are still the way they used to be in spite of the heavy traffic witnessed on the road. Travellers, whether going to Lagos or coming to Ibadan, often face herculean time on the Ibadan axis just before the Iwo flyover.

The lamentation of travellers is palpable as the gridlock-experienced daily is overwhelming leaving them to do whatever it takes to meander through.

The Ibadan-Ife-Ilesa axis is another cause for concern for motorists. Like others, it is riddled with potholes and other dangerous spots. This is in spite of intervention of the federal government through FERMA in recent times.

There is relief on the Ilesa-Akure road which is free of bad spots but that cannot said of the Owo-Akungba-Oka-Oba Akoko road. The intervention of the Ondo State government only lasted a few months in some sections while the repairs by the federal government is holding in some sections.

The Ilesa-Aramako-Ado-Ekiti axis is no better as travellers, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday, lamented the poor state of the road.

In Ekiti State, some federal roads are still linked by a single-lane bridge, which was constructed during the administration of the late Premiere of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. One of such roads is the federal road linking Ilesa in Osun State and Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State Capital.

The Ikare Akoko-Kabba-Lokoja road is another area of concern as motorists often in a bid to avoid the bad state of the road take bush paths off the highway to Ikaran in Ondo State.

The Lampese-Ogori Magongo-Okene road is another challenge for motorists who must deal with the seemingly unending gridlock in Okene, Kogi State.

In spite of the intervention of the Kogi State government in fixing some of the dangerous spots causing traffic in Okene town, the challenge faced by motorists remain visible with trucks spending days to get through the city.

When LEADERSHIP Friday got to the city, the convoy of trucks in a lockdown situation indicated that the problem facing commuters as well as residents of the town is still a long way from ending.

The protracted traffic on the Okene-Lokoja road has forced many drivers to go through the Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba road, although the concrete road being constructed by Dangote Group has become the toast of commercial drivers travelling through Kogi State.

Night driver, Abdullateef Maruf, in a chat with LEADERSHIP Friday in Lokoja commended the Kogi State government for the high-level security checks in the state. He said the presence of security check points on most of the federal roads in the state has helped in no small measures for travellers going through the state at nights.

“I praise the Kogi government for the security checkpoints on the roads, how can we drive safely on these bad roads without the security forces providing cover for us,” he stated.

LEADERSHIP Friday observed a heavy presence of security checkpoints from Ogiri Magongo through Okene-Lokoja to the boundary with the FCT at Abaji.

Recall, in the past, the Okene-Lokoja road used to be notorious for kidnapping and armed robbery. As security is improved on the road comes the challenge of the deplorable condition, a concern many users share as life threatening.

The Abuja-Lokoja dual carriage road has remained a mystery to many motorists who see the road construction, which was first awarded during the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2006 as unending.

Although, some sections of the road are enjoying the Sukuk fund, the road is still a far cry from completion. When LEADERSHIP Friday went through the road, large section of the Abaji-Kotonkarfe axis remained in a bad shape with multiple potholes.

Some of the completed sections of the road have collapsed over the years leaving commuters wondering the quality of works being executed by the contractors.

The Gwagwalada-Zuba axis remains abandoned leaving motorists in daily traffic after a section of the road was closed to traffic. Some of the sections completed have seen dangerous potholes appearing and endangering road users.

Also, the Uyo-Umuahia-Enugu-Lokoja road is another federal highway that sees lots of traffic but with large sections in bad shape. Although, the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway is enjoying reconstruction from the Sukuk fund, motorists lament the poor state of the Enugu-Otukpa-Lokoja section, which is in deplorable state.

So also is the Enugu-Otukpo-Makurdi road in Benue State, which has been described as one of the worst federal roads in the country.

Other roads of concern to travellers across the country include among others: Calabar-Itu road to Enugu-Onitsha and then Calabar-Ikom-Katsina-Ala road as well as the Benin-Auchi – Okene highway. The nightmare continues on the Benin-Ore-Ofosu, Ilorin-Omuaran-Otun Ekiti State roads.

Other road networks that are in deplorable state include the Ore-Okitipupa and Ore-Ijebu-Ode, the Akure-Ondo-Ore, Akure-Ikere roads; Suleja-Minna, Minna-Bida, Minna-Zungeru roads and several other roads in the north eastern part of the country.

Checks by LEADERSHIP Friday indicated that from its 2017 budget, the federal government allocated a total of N555.99 billion to the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. Out of that amount, N295 billion was reportedly set aside for key capital projects, which include funds for construction, expansion and maintenance of roads across the country.

Aside capturing several road projects in the 2017 appropriation, the federal government also opted for supplementary funding to repair or build roads it considered economically important to the country.

Recall that the federal government announced a N100 billion Sukuk Bond to augment budgetary funding for road construction. While contractors could be seen working on some of the Sukuk funded projects, the plight of commuters is still far from over.

However, some kudos have been given to the federal government for fulfilling its promise of reconstructing the collapsed Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano highway, which also has been a concern to many.

Mohammed Munir, a commercial driver in Zuba, Abuja said it was a dream come true for him and several of his colleagues when they saw Julius Berger engineers on site.

“We were happy to see the workers on site removing the old asphalts, it’s a dream come true and the federal government lived up to its promise of fixing the road. They must not stop work like other places where work just stops. This road is very important to us,” Munir said.

Recent checks by our correspondent to the site indicated a progressing trend by the contractor handling the road works.

Few kilometres after Suleja in Niger State, a new super highway is fast emerging, so is a section on Kaduna-Jaji-Zaria axis in Kaduna State, while works are in top gear on the Zaria-Kano axis with bridges being reinforced.

Recall that the federal government awarded the Abuja-Kano 375km highway at the cost of over N155 billion to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc in December, 2017 and works commenced this year. The contractor has a completion period of 36 months.

Reeling out the performance of the federal government in the last three years, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, recently, in Abuja, while presenting a three-year scorecard, said in 2016, 277 kilometres of road were constructed, 345km were rehabilitated and 17,749 people were employed in the process.

For 2017, the minister disclosed that the federal government constructed 488 roads, rehabilitated 256 others and engaged 31,227 persons.

While for 2018 till November, 497 km of road has been constructed, 284 rehabilitated and 30,402 persons employed.

On the poor road networks, Fashola said, “We know the roads are bad. There is no magic to it. If those who came before us had done their work, we won’t meet bad roads. That is the simple truth. We earned $100 per barrel of crude oil for about five years.”

The minister said the federal government is executing road projects across every state especially abandoned projects like the Lagos – Ibadan expressway, the second Niger Bridge, Enugu- Port Harcourt road, Jebba-Mokwa way among others that have drastically cut down travel time.

Also speaking, the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mohammed Bukar said there have been awards of 365 roads for construction since 2001.

He said the Buhari government awarded 121 of these in three years while the previous government awarded 144 others in the whole of 17 years.



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