There is need for more attention to road infrastructure

A recent report by the World Bank has underscored the significance of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries as that would result in substantial long-term income gains for Nigeria and other low and middle income countries. Titled, “The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable,” the study introduces a new global methodology to calculate the economic impact of road safety. We hope the authorities in Nigeria will take seriously the report which quantified how investments in road safety have also become an investment in human capital.

Globally, it is estimated that 1.3 million lives are lost to road accidents every year with about 50 million people sustaining injuries. What is even more disturbing is that, because of the deplorable state of their infrastructure, most of these accidents occur in developing countries, and the cost is colossal in several respects. For instance, accidents impinge on virtually all economic sectors with two to five per cent of the Gross Domestic Product lost in many countries. It has also been estimated that globally, $518 billion is lost annually to these accidents that deprive nations of members of their most active labour force.

From the foregoing, it is easy to understand why the new World Bank study states that countries that do not invest in road safety could miss out on anywhere between seven and 27 per cent in potential per capita GDP over a 24-year period. This should be a warning to Nigeria that has one of the highest accident fatality rates in the world. It should also compel the authorities to begin to design programmes and policies to make our roads safe for travellers. The number of people that have been lost to road accidents in our country is huge.

Unlike most countries where the departments in the Transport Ministry calculate the costs of road accident casualties, in a bid to identify the value of prevention, there is no such effort in Nigeria. But even at that, it is obvious that the costs are very high both in economic and human tolls. For instance, even for those who survive, some injuries will require long-term care, at the expense of other people who may have to devote their lives to nursing such persons. Besides, some families never recover from the trauma of a sudden and violent death of the bread winner. Given this situation, it is important that the authorities recognise that we must do more to prevent road accidents.

Although the challenge of road infrastructure is at all levels of governance, our attention is more on the federal government, which has about 35,000 kilometres of the nation’s road network. Stretched across the country, these roads are the nerve of our economic activities. It should be obvious, therefore, why we are sounding like a broken record on this matter. Apart from the unacceptable loss of man-hours and the unbearable discomfort Nigerian road users suffer, the body count is mounting due to avoidable accidents even as the dilapidated roads are injuring economic activities, particularly of local economies that need the infrastructure to transport agricultural and allied products.

Unfortunately, years of toeing the path of impropriety and poor infrastructure development and maintenance in the energy and other sectors are having their toll on other forms of business and the national economy. Therefore, we urge a more creative and sustainable funding strategy for our road infrastructure. We also call on the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to work in partnership with other stakeholders so as to reduce the frequency of fatalities on our roads.