Major roads linking different parts of the country are in a sorry state and this has continued to expose the citizens to all kinds of hazards and trauma.
Investigations conducted by our correspondent show that the situation is the same on many roads leading to major cities such as Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Onitsha, Benin, Asaba and Aba.
Government agencies saddled with road repair works are hardly on duty, and when they come around, often belatedly, the situation would have deteriorated almost beyond their capacities. At best, they provide palliatives, which the next major rain will wash away.
For instance, a number of points on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos have become impassable and only motorists who know no alternative routes use the road. The situation is worse after a downpour with predictable breakdown of trucks, the attendant traffic jam and accidents on the bad spots.
Motorists and commuters also waste precious man-hours in tormenting gridlock on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, for instance, due to difficulties in movement around a number of the road’s failed sections.
Specifically, road users spend agonising hours moving from Ifo to Sango, a journey that should ordinarily not exceed 15 minutes.
The failed portions are at Joju U-turn in the Sango-Ota area and at the Owode Junction, all in the Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Remedial measures are sometimes undertaken by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency on these bad spots but they usually fail the next torrential rain test.
Motorists, passengers and residents, who pass through this route almost on daily basis tell stories of hardship and suffering.
A commercial bus driver, plying the Sango-Abeokuta end of the road, gave an account of what people recently went through: “The traffic jam started around 5.30am just after the rains and it continued up until the evening. The main cause of the traffic jam is the bad portions of the road at Joju U-turn near Ota.
“After Joju, the next dreaded area is the Owode junction, a stretch of about 200 metres, which has failed completely due to flooding. There is no drainage to free the floods.”
Travellers on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, arguably the busiest road in Nigeria, have had to daily brace for hours of gridlock at several failed sections. Recently, the situation became critical after the Long Bridge that some of the people trapped in the traffic were forced to sleep on the road.
A pregnant woman fainted. Many missed their appointments. And this was due to some bad portions on both sides of the road around Wawa/Arepo.
After sustained public outcry, the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Ogun State Government came in to do a remedial work. The situation has merely abated.
While this is going on, the reconstruction of the road, which began in 2009, appears to have been suspended. The contractors, Julius Berger Plc and Reynolds Construction Company Nigeria Limited, have moved their men and equipment out of the road. There is still a problem with the funding of the project, according to The Infrastructure Bank.
The Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria, which recently expressed worry over the deplorable state of the highways, identified 10 major roads in dire need of rehabilitation or reconstruction to include the Lussada/Igbesa Free Trade Zone road in Ogun State; Omotosho to Ijebu Ode (in Ondo and Ogun states); Agbara/Atan road (Ogun State); Papalanato/Sagamu road (Ogun); Ubiaja-Uromi road (Edo) leading to Abuja; and Oyigbo/Aba-Port Harcourt road.
Others are Ikot-Ekpene/Itu/Odukpani/Uyo-Calabar road; Ikwuano/Ikot-Ekpene road connecting Abia and Akwa Ibom states; Umuapu/Ohaji road connecting Owerri to Port Harcourt; Umagwu road in Imo State connecting Ihiala (Anambra State); and the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway.
The transporters, in a statement by their Chairman, Dan Okemuo, lamented the heavy toll that the bad roads was taking on vehicles and their owners, including high maintenance costs, loss of man-hours and endangering the lives of road users.
These, it said, had resulted in many transporters dropping out of the business, while new investors were scared of coming in.
They called on the new Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to urgently fix the roads.
Faiz Abdul, a businessman, spoke on the deplorable state of the Jebba/Bodesadu Road, a major road in the northern part of the country linking the South-West, and mostly plied by heavy duty vehicles.
“The road, which is not more than 90 kilometres, is riddled with potholes. As a result, a vehicle can be on a bad spot for three hours,” he said.
Abdul said the bad state of the road had also made criminal activities to be on the rise in the area.
On roads in the South-South, a lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, Cross River State University, said the state of the Itu/Calabar and Akpabio/Bakasi roads had become appalling, describing them deathtraps.
Travelling on the Akpabio/Bakasi Road, according to him, has become a nightmare.
The Agbara/Atan-Igbesa road in Ogun State is another road not befitting of a rapidly developing industrial area.
The route, according Mr. Ayo Nasir, a businessman and resident of Igbesa, is known for heavy traffic and frequent accidents as a result of its bad state.
“Heavy duty vehicles, which are fully loaded, hardly find it easy to move; they sometime fall off, block the road and cause accidents in the area. Commercial motorcycle (Okada) has become a major form of transportation in the area,” he said.
The Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, recently appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the rehabilitation of the 25km Sagamu/Ogijo/Mosimi/Ikorodu road mostly used by tanker drivers loading petroleum products from the Mosimi depot to different parts of the country.
A civil engineer, Afolabi Adedeji, said many of the roads had the challenge of longevity because the contractors hardly took into consideration the fact that Nigeria has a tropical climate characterised by heavy rainfall.
He noted that flash flooding, a regular occurrence in many areas, could do a lot of damage to any road if not controlled.
Adedeji, a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, who recalled that as a young graduate from the university, he took part in the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, said, “During supervision of work, certain post construction maintenance like clearing the bridge’s silt is ignored. This makes the bridge to overflow and the frequency of this may eventually damage the road.”
A former Managing Director, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, Mr. Olubunmi Peters, said some of the roads had overstayed their time and were due for reconstruction.
This, he explained, was responsible for their quick deterioration after rehabilitation; and called for an assessment of all the nation’s roads.
To reduce the cost of building and rehabilitating roads, Adedeji stressed the need to build local capacity by encouraging Nigerian graduates to go into highway engineering.