TIME TO ADDRESS THE DILAPIDATED ROADS

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MONDAY EDITORIAL

The authorities could help secure the people as well as the economy by fixing the roads

In unveiling his plan for federal roads last December, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, said thefederal government would re-introduce highway tolling to raise additional funds to finance road infrastructure and ensure efficient road maintenance. “Maintenance would be our watchword. We are setting up a robust maintenance regime to keep our highways in good shape,” said Fashola. “This shows that tolling is necessary to support government funding. So, it will not be too much if we ask every road user to pay little to augment government funding for road maintenance. We will use technology; so if we don’t pay cash, you will pay by tokens or tickets and the money is accountable and it will go to the right place”. He added that the nation’s road infrastructure would also generate job opportunities and reduce unemployment in the country.
Against the background that a drive through many of the nation’s major roads is now a nightmare, wehad wholeheartedly endorsed the Fashola plan. But eight months after the plan was unfolded, Nigeriansare still waiting for any concrete actions in that direction. As things stand today, trips that ordinarily should take no more than a few minutes now take hours and at times days because of the conditions of most of the major access roads. And no part of the country is spared. From the north-east and north-west to the south-south, south-east and south-west to north-central, the story is the same: most of the roads have become death traps.
Some roads in the south-south, south-east and south-west are particularly in a sorry shape apparently because of the impact and damage the rains have on them. Most affected roads in the south-east include the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Bende-Ohafia-Arochukwu road, Aba-Ikot Ekpene-Calabar road, Enugu-Awka-Onitsha road and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road.
Even in Lagos, the roads leading to Apapa, the strategic port city where hundreds of millions of naira are made daily by the government and others, are embarrassing. Over the years, billions of naira had been poured on the Oshodi-Apapa road but it is still in a shambles, crater-ridden and looking more like a war-ravaged area. Even the road to the international airport in the nation’s commercial capital is an eyesore.
Unfortunately, it is not too difficult to decipher how we got to this sorry pass. Instead of maintaining the bad spots on the roads as they develop, the authorities would wait until the roads go completely bad and provide opportunity to award contracts at heavily inflated rate. And even worse, many of the contracts are often abandoned, as Fashola himself revealed recently. In order to go around this problem, the federal government at a point established FERMA, an agency saddled with the responsibility of maintaining roads. That it has not lived up to the billing despite huge budgetary allocations annually is very evident.
It is not just that most of these roads are impassable that we find very disturbing. It is also the fact that the dangerous spots along many of them have also become convenient operating centres for highway robbers who lay siege to unsuspecting motorists and other road users. This is aside the notorious fact that the poor state of these roads hampers economic activities as several tonnes of farm produce and other products cannot be transported to areas where they are needed. Now that we are in the rainy season, many communities have practically been cut off with impassable roads.
We therefore call on the federal government to put in motion the plan by which we can rebuild thecritical road infrastructure in Nigeria.