Championing the Use of Concrete in Road Construction

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Crusoe Osagie writes on the commitment of both the federal government and Dangote Group to transform the nation’s road infrastructure using concrete

With the commissioning last weekend of the 26km Itori-Ibese concrete road in Ogun State, constructed by the Dangote Group, any doubts that remain about the possibility of constructing the entire failing road infrastructure in the country with cement should be banished.

At the moment, Nigeria produces more cement than any other country in Africa, over 40 million metric tonnes of cement per annum, representing a massive potential to change the nation’s infrastructure story, taking advantage of the abundant availability of the essential building material.

Most roads and other infrastructure in Nigeria and the whole of Africa are in sorry state. As the world currently grapples with a sluggish economy, the flow of investment to and within emerging economies is without doubt more intricate and extremely competitive. So, Nigeria must look inwards to keep her economy growing.
If the use of cement made in Nigerian factories for road construction is adopted, apart from the critical infrastructure being built, the nation’s industrial capacity utilisation will increase, more taxes will be paid, lots of jobs will be created and the list of economic benefits goes on, giving the country the opportunity of winning in all ways.

Lessons from Abroad
Some experts are of the opinion that a good place to begin the paradigm shifts with respect to road management in the country is the diversification of the material used for road construction and maintenance.
Virtually all the roads in Nigeria were made using asphalt and bitumen. Also, all the road maintenance carried out in the country is done using this single material and method, which has failed to give the quality of roads that make nations proud and lure investors.

Construction experts are now asking why cement, which Nigeria now produces locally in very large quantities has not been introduced in road making to save the country from the five-decade long embarrassment.
The fact that Nigeria has failed to use cement for road construction is most embarrassing because other countries such as India, the United States among others have successfully used cement to make roads and maintain them for up to a century or more.

US Cement Roads
As a matter of fact, cement and concrete played a major role in the construction of the United States Interstate Highway System during the past 60 years. The national focus has shifted from building new highways to maintaining and repairing the existing highway network. Recent advances in concrete technology enable highway contractors to rehabilitate the nation’s 160,000 mile national highway system to extend its useful life with minimal disruption of traffic.

The US national highway system, which includes the nearly 45,000 mile interstate system, carries 40 per cent of the nation’s total traffic, including 70 per cent of the commercial traffic and 90 per cent of the tourist traffic, according to the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

About 60 per cent of the interstate system is concrete, especially in urban areas where FHWA anticipates heavy traffic loads. Concrete was selected, in part, because of its durability.

Concrete can support heavy loads, such as truck traffic, with less deformation than asphalt. Although the initial cost of concrete used to be higher than for asphalt, today concrete has become the least expensive alternative for new construction on a first-cost basis in addition to maintenance costs being generally lower.
In addition, concrete generally has a useful life of twice that of asphalt. Concrete commonly serves 20 to 30 years without needing major repair, while asphalt typically lasts only eight to 12 years before resurfacing or significant repair is required.

The first concrete highway constructed in the United States was a 24-mile long, 9-foot wide, 5-inch thick strip of concrete pavement built near Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1913 – five years after the introduction of the Model T Ford. By 1914, concrete had been used to pave 2,348 miles of roadway.

FG, Dangote Concrete Road Progress
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, last weekend commissioned Dangote Industries Limited’s (DIL’s) 26km Itori-Ibese concrete road in Ogun State. He noted that the investment demonstrated the unwavering commitments of indigenous investors towards the industrialisation of Nigeria.

Fashola explained that going forward, the federal government will continue to encourage indigenous companies such as Dangote to compete with the traditional international construction companies to build quality roads at affordable cost in order to consolidate and extend its national road networks, maintaining that this will enable the federal government to actualise some of this administration’s cardinal objectives, which include job creation and economic empowerment of Nigerians.

According to him, one of the key thrust of the present administration is infrastructure development, pointing out that his ministry will soon commence an aggressive road construction and maintenance programme across the length and breadth of the nation.

Meanwhile, worried about the huge sum of money used in road repairs, the president, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said plans were in place to revolutionise Nigeria’s road infrastructure building with concrete, stressing that resources used in road repairs and maintenance would be channeled towards the pressing needs of the nation.
‎”We are going to be building concrete roads in the country so that anytime we build a road, we do not have to go back to repair after the third raining season, but move on and use the resources to address other pressing needs of Nigeria,” Dangote said.‎

Also, ‎Fashola said concrete road construction is not a new technology, stressing that countries that have achieved self-sufficiency in cement production have found it expedient to adopt the construction of concrete roads because they are cheaper, more durable and environmentally friendly.

“We will ensure that all economically viable projects under the ministry, commenced by the previous administration, are fully implemented, while new ones will be completed during the tenure of this administration. I want to use this medium to assure Nigerians that the present challenges being experienced especially in the power and road sectors of the economy, will soon be a thing of the past. We are working round the clock to deliver lasting solutions to the challenges in these sectors,” Fashola pledged.

The minister, during the commissioning, said: “I believe Nigeria should not be an exception. We must move with the times. I am also told that we have achieved local self-sufficiency in cement production, chiefly due to the activities of Dangote Cement Plc, which is the biggest player in the industry with over 60 percent of the market share. Therefore, there is no reason why we should not embrace concrete roads technology in the country,” he said.
He said based on the satisfactory report and recommendation of its team of engineers in the ministry, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved the construction of the 42.5 kilometer Obajana-Kabba Road by AG-Dangote Construction Company Limited using cement concrete, adding that this road project when completed, will be the longest concrete road in Nigeria.

He noted that the federal government also granted DIL 30 per cent tax concession in accordance with the provisions of section 3(1) and (2) of the Companies Income Tax Act (CAP, 21 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Companies Income Tax (Exemption of Profits) Order 2012 to help recover part of the cost of the project.
He reiterated that the federal government’s desire is to continue to partner and support indigenous firms like DIL that actively invest in employment generation and wealth creation for the benefit of Nigerians.

Also, speaking at the event, the Governor, Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, said ‎the Itori-Ibese concrete road will go a long way in easing vehicular movement and promoting economic activities within Ibese,its environs and the entire Ogun State.

He commended Dangote for the laudable gesture, saying that Dangote has been consistently giving back to society in all the areas of its operation and even beyond.
“Let me use this opportunity to reassure you all that my administration will continue to provide the enabling environment for Dangote and other investors to thrive in Ogun State. It is my firm conviction that industrialisation remains the only way to rejuvenate our ailing economy,” he said,
He added that the benefits of concrete roads are quite numerous, pointing out that concrete roads have a long service life compared to asphalt roads that Nigerians are used to.

Amosun said: “Concrete roads do not also require frequent repair or patching work like asphalt roads. In addition, I am informed that vehicles plying concrete roads have better fuel efficiency compared to those that use asphalt roads. I also learnt that unlike asphalt roads, concrete roads do not get easily damaged by often extreme weather conditions such as excessive rain or extreme heat, which are common in Nigeria. If this is the case, then I would like to enjoin Nigerians to embrace this new concept of concrete roads, being championed by Dangote. This is the way to go.”

“We in Ogun State are delighted to have been a part of Dangote’s success story with their investment in the Ibese Cement Plant. The company has not only transformed several host communities in the states where they operate, but they have also put Nigeria on the map of major cement-producing countries in the world. This is again, commendable,” he added.

Earlier, Dangote noted that 26‎km concrete road which is the longest stretch of concrete road in the country today constructed by AG-Dangote Construction Limited, its joint venture company is in line with what obtains in other parts of the world.

“You will all agree with me that one of the major infrastructural challenges that we face in Nigeria today is lack of good quality roads. Indeed, most of our highways are in a very deplorable condition due to lack of proper maintenance. That is why travelers on our inter-state routes often spend longer hours on the roads than they should. Obviously, this calls for a review of our existing method of building roads in Nigeria. Roads play an important role in the social and economic development of any nation,” he said.

He said the Nigerian cement industry as DIL’s contribution to finding a cost-effective and lasting solution to this problem, has been advocating the construction of concrete roads as a more viable alternative to asphalt roads.
“That is why we at DIL, are venturing into the construction of concrete roads. Today’s ceremony is just the beginning for us, as we will soon embark on the building of more concrete roads in other States of the federation, including Lagos, Bauchi, Kogi and Kaduna,” he said.

He noted that the project conceived in 2014 as part of our efforts to ease movement of our heavy duty trucks from our Ibese Cement Plant to other parts of the country, was borne out of the existing narrow road built in the 70s that had virtually collapsed which needed to be reconstructed to accommodate it’s trucks and other road users.
In his words, concrete roads are not only about 20 per cent cheaper than the conventional asphalt roads, but also last longer and do not have potholes, maintaining that concrete roads do not require frequent maintenance and they save fuel for motorists protecting tyres from wear and tear.

He said another advantage of concrete roads is that cement, the basic raw material is for construction, is available locally, and is cheaper to use in the long run than bitumen, adding that bitumen is a petroleum-based product that is presently imported.

According to him, in Nigeria, economic losses due to poor condition of our roads is estimated at about $1billion annually, saying that the introduction of concrete roads will enable the government to find lasting solution to the poor road network in the country, and also reduce the burden of constantly sourcing for funds to repair roads.

“We are excited that some state governments are already beginning to take more interest in concrete roads in the light of the benefits . I am happy today to announce that in another CSR initiative, we are reconstructing the Ijora Apapa Wharf Road in Lagos State, using cement concrete. I am sure those of you that are familiar with the road will appreciate just how critical it is to the evacuation of goods from Apapa Port. The assistance of the ministry of works is required to enable us to complete the engineering design and preliminary works for the early take off of the construction of this road. Within the next 18 months, we expect to complete the project and bring succour to Lagosians,” he added.

In his words, “We have also submitted to your ministry last year a proposal for the reconstruction of the Papalanto-Shagamu Road in concrete pavement as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project on the same terms as the Obajana-Kabba Road project. This road is a critical section of the highway linking Nigeria to neighbouring ECOWAS and it is important for the evacuation of cement from the Dangote Cement and Lafarge plants in Ibese and Ewekoro, respectively.”

He stated that DIL has recently been awarded the contract to reconstruct the 42km Obajana-Kabba Road in Kogi State, in concrete, pointing out that the estimated cost of the project is N11.5billion while commending the Federal Government for granted a tax waiver to enable the company recoup part of the estimated cost at N5.6billion in tax credits for five years.

“The balance will be our donation as part of our CSR. I wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Honourable Minister for the role you played in getting the Federal Government’s approval for this project after a period of over two years. We are also in discussions with the Kaduna and Bauchi State governments to construct concrete roads in their domain,” he stressed.

He said the concrete road being commissioned, is just one out of the several Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that the company has put in place for its host communities, adding that this is in line with its corporate philosophy, which is to impact positively on the lives of members of its host communities everywhere it operates, including outside the shores of the country.

“For example, just recently, we donated the sum of N150million to be used for various community-related projects in Ibese, as a mark of our appreciation of the kind hospitality we have enjoyed over the years. It is our hope that these projects will give these communities a sense of belonging,” he said.

Dangote said: “We will continue to invest in the country because we believe this is the only way we can fast track economic development. I therefore encourage you all to join us, as we strive to find ‘home-made’ solutions to the various challenges that we face as a nation.”