Innovating Road Construction

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INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

Jonathan Eze examines the benefits of using concrete for road construction, a campaign that Dangote Cement Plc is aggressively pursuing

It is an indisputable fact that roads play a very important role in any nation’s infrastructure. Hence, sometimes, development of a country is being appraised on the basis of its road networks. In the past weeks, Dangote Cement Plc, owned by the richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has been emphasising on the need to embrace cement concrete option for road constructions.

The company argued that concrete roads are durable and safe. They are considerably less prone to wear and tear defects like rutting, cracking, stripping, loss of texture, and potholes that can occur with flexible pavement surfaces. Also, a low maintenance requirement is one of the principal advantages of concrete pavements

The company indicated its commitments to this project by announcing that the construction of concrete roads had commenced in various states across the country, particularly in Lagos, Bauchi, Kogi, Kaduna and Ogun States.

“We are very happy at the moment. We can categorically state that we are in more than five states across the country already constructing roads. The reception has been wonderful. State governments are beginning to see the need to embrace concrete roads and we are very happy at the way things are currently going,” the company in a statement.
Dangote, himself has also pleaded with the federal government to consider the use of concrete in road construction in the country.

According to him, “We are pushing for Nigeria to do concrete roads. It is cheaper to do a concrete road that will last 50 years than to do a bitumen road. It will also help in eliminating corruption because if you go and build a bitumen road, it will have to be adequately maintained unlike a concrete road that is very durable.”
In the same vein, the Group Executive Director, Strategy, Portfolio Development and Capital Projects, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, has appealed to the federal government to consider the use cement for the construction of its roads in order to ensure their durability.
He explained that concrete roads had longer life span of 50 years or more compared to asphalt roads that could barely last 10 to 12 years.

Unlike asphalt roads, a concrete road does not require frequent maintenance and patching, he stated.
Concrete roads, according to him, also have the advantage of not getting deflected under the wheels of loaded trucks, this makes trucks to consume 15 per cent to 20 per cent less fuel compared to when they move on asphalt roads, and have resistance to automobile fuel spillage

He added that plans are in the offing to introduce concrete roads to other states like the 24km constructed in Itori, Ibese in Ogun State where Dangote cement plant is located. The durability of concrete roads, he further noted, will allow governments to use their funds for other projects rather than re- awarding contracts for dilapidated roads. Therefore, such partnership will be beneficial for the nation’s drive for new global infrastructural development.
The choice of concrete option might be timely considering the fact that the federal government had recently handed over the reconstruction of the Apapa road to DangoteGroup and other firms.

Dangote Group and Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN)Plc are funding the project valued at N4.3 billion.
Speaking at the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony for the project, Honorary Adviser to the President/Chief Executive of Dangote Group, Joseph Makoju said the group was moved by the deplorable state of the road which informed the need to look for like-thinking partners to effect repairs and salvage the road.

According to him, the deplorable state of the road has impacted negatively on businesses, activities and lives of people within the locality. He explained that the state of the road crippled economic activities as people spend whole days in traffic losing precious work hours
Makoju opined that the tww- kilometer road to the gate of Apapa is vital to the nation’s economy and described it as the national economy’s artery.

He commended the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, who he said put in extra efforts to ensure the handing over of the road for reconstruction as the project has been on ground for over a year. The new road, he said will be concrete based in contrast to laterite base and has a life span of between 30 years to 50 years.
He described the road reconstruction as a higher form of corporate social responsibility as Dangote Group is not asking for tax rebates. According to him, businesses need to engage with host communities through corporate social responsibility projects to ensure sustainability.

He said: “Here at Dangote, we have built houses, new towns, hospitals, schools, roads, markets and awarded scholarships in the communities where we have our operations but this is a higher form of corporate social responsibility. This project is a higher form of intervention on a national level, intervening in provision of critical infrastructure.”
However, he tasked government to do more in terms of providing a conducive and enabling business environment for businesses to thrive stressing that If the environment is conducive and right, businesses will thrive and do more in terms of interventions in national infrastructure.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing,BabatundeFashola in his remarks at the event said: “We are here to embark on what will be the final solution to a massive inconvenience business and people in Apapa suffered over the years. Apapa is the nation’s first industrial base and was served by a good rail system. Cargo and containers were moved by rail to all parts of the country. The road network was for transport of passengers. The roads were good.However, we allowed the rails to collapse and choose road for evacuation of containers and cargo. But we are working to stop all these.”

He disclosed that for several years government adopted palliative measures towards the road while waiting for a final solution and especially thanked Dangote Group and FMN for coming to take over the road for repairs.
He said: “We must thank Dangote Group and FMN for coming to our aid via providing the funding for the repairs. The repairs estimated for a duration of one year is valued at N4.3 billion.”

Explaining why it took government some time before handing over the road for repairs, he said: “The delays in handing over the road for reconstruction was because of the need to put final touches to the road design. Apapa has high water table and any road built here must have proper drainages otherwise it will be experiencing constant flooding.”
He added: “We have done the survey and prepared the bill of quantity. The two kilometer road which will be based on concretes estimated at N4.3 billion. A concrete base instead of laterite is chosen. The construction and funding will be on corporate social responsibilities basis as they will not be seeking for tax reliefs.”

Fashola called on all stakeholders to cooperate with the constructing company and traffic controllers because there would be distortions and road diversions.
“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 environment friendly. I believe Nigeria should not be an exception. We must move with the times.”

He said that government would continue to encourage indigenous companies like -Dangote to compete with international construction companies to build quality roads at affordable cost in order to consolidate and extend national road networks.
He said that cement, which constituted raw materials for construction of concrete roads was locally available compared to bitumen which were being imported.

Dangote said that the country was losing $1 billion annually due to the poor condition of roads in the country.
“Roads play an important role in the social and economic development of any nation,” he said.
Also, the Executive Team of the Nigerian Institution of Highway Engineers lauded the management of Dangote for the use of cement to construct 23 kilometers road from Itori to Ibeshe in Ogun State, offering to partner with the company to better enhance its operations.

Commenting on the use of concrete road for the country, the chairman of the institution, who led the delegation for the industrial visits, Isa Usman Emoabino, said: “Definitely, this will not be a new thing for Nigeria. Dangote is veering out into another area that is not very common in Nigeria and if they work together with professionals like us, we will make sure that we are able to get the best out of that. That is our main reason for coming here today, we tagged our visit here today to be industrial visits, and all through the things we have seen, we try to give free consultancy, in order to ensure that whatever we have seen can be made better.”

The Chief Executive of Dangote, AshifJuma thanked the professional engineers for coming and importantly for offering to partner with the company. He said the 23 kilometers concrete road is a corporate social responsibility effort of the company, to show that concrete roads are better in all ramifications than the asphalt roads.
According to him, “The project is for the benefits of the community. It is obvious that the option for concrete roads will be the solution to solve the road infrastructural decay in the country.

“This is because concrete road is less expensive than asphalt road by almost 23 per cent and also we can build concrete road in less time. Even in terms of maintenance, we don’t need so much resources to maintain it like the asphalt roads.
Similarly, the Executive Director in the Dangote Group, Mansur Ahmed urged the three tiers of government to embrace the use of concrete roads in Nigeria. He said concrete roads makes more economic sense for a country like Nigeria, as the use of asphalt has left the roads in deplorable conditions.

Noting that asphalt road is no longer in vogue in developed climes, he said the construction of concrete road is faster and can last for half a century compared to asphalt. According to him, in the construction of concrete roads, the cement raw materials are readily available while asphalt is imported into the country.