The Danger of Naked Roads



The NAKED ROAD is not a new piece. It was first published in 2014 at the promptings of a presentation made by a World Bank Consultant who described some of our roads as naked. The second publication was in 2018 if my memory is correct. I am again using the same material as a precursor to other materials I plan to run as we gradually wind down 2020 with the expected end of year rush and increased motorization as well as avoidable road traffic crashes and deaths.

Three crash events of the last couple of weeks are the reasons for the reuse of this material. The first is the crash which occurred in Enugu State where about seventeen school children were killed. The second is the road traffic crash which occurred at Ayangba in Kogi State where sixteen deaths were recorded. The third is the crash in Ebonyi State where five children were killed by a water truck driver who was incidentally lynched by angry youths. The last are events in Niger State.

However, since the Federal Road Safety Corps has released a press statement on the Ayangba and Enugu States’ incidences with respect to the location of markets, I have chosen to use events in Niger State which is one of the Commands under my watch to drive home my point. I do hope that the fresh information provided will guide us as we travel during the last weeks of 2020.

Niger State has been my biggest worry as the Zonal Commanding Officer. In the last three months, we have had to contend with daily traffic gridlocks caused by the road condition along Bida-Lapai-Lambata, Bida-Mokwa, Tegina-Mokwa and Lambata -Suleja. Although some of these roads are under construction, there are eroded road shoulders, potholes, undulating surfaces as well as markets and schools on the highway which like I said earlier is a topic for another day.

Within this period, there have been crashes, deaths and injuries but my focus today is on three specific crashes. The first crash occurred along the Bida-Lapai road on 20 October,2020 involving nine vehicles comprising five articulated vehicles, two tankers, one bus and one motorcycle. The crash was caused by wrongful overtaking, break failure and loss of control leading to six deaths and three injuries.

The second crash occurred on 26 october,2020 involving two vehicles; one articulated vehicle and one canter which claimed thirteen lives and twenty injuries. This crash occurred along the Bida-Mokwa road at a T-junction caused by speed violation and loss of control. The last and third crash also occurred on 26 October, 2020 along Lambata-Suleja involving two vehicles; a canter and a Toyota corolla. It was caused by wrongful overtaking and loss of control. Two deaths were recorded with six injured

These crashes brought memories of a mail I received from a reader who once questioned the timing for the Corps speed limiting device enforcement because of what he described as the state of our roads and the absence of the appropriate road furniture. The memory of his mail and the description of some of our roads as naked by the World Bank consultant were some of reasons for using the piece some years back.

During the discussion on the state of Nigerian roads, the Consultant made a statement that caught my attention. According to him, “Our roads are naked”. This tag was embellished by another speaker who noted that, “No one builds a house and moves in without furnishing. A road is not a road without the appropriate furniture”, the second speaker summed up disregarding ongoing efforts of Government to give the roads a facelift.

The second pillar of the UN Decade of Action spells out the need to improve the safety of road networks for the benefit of all road users, especially the most vulnerable: pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

Despite the current efforts of Nigerian government, what do you think of road signage on some Nigerian roads? Inadequate? Bastardized by hawkers and villagers? But do you know that a good number of Nigerians who drive are ignorant of road signs? What do you think about transportation safety generally? Well, let us first reflect on America’s assessment of safety and transportation in Nigeria. According to them, ‘’safety of public transportation is poor while urban road conditions/maintenance is equally poor. They equally maintain that rural road conditions/maintenance are also poor. Furthermore, they observe that availability of roadside assistance is poor too while roads are in generally poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions.

It is against this backdrop and the need to buy into the Corps’ strategies for safer roads that this piece is focusing on road signage. It is common for us to lament over the state of our roads and the inadequacy of road furniture. Strictly speaking, how many of us truly comply with the ‘inadequate’ signs that we have? As a Christian, the Bible says that he that is faithful in little will be faithful in much. I wish I have the Islamic version of this to guide my Muslim readers. Meanwhile, what I expect is that we first comply with what Government has provided before asking Government to do more which I believe is the current thrust as demonstrated by the recent approval of N87.5billion Naira for road projects.

A brief history of emergency road signs will be helpful in appreciating its importance. The earliest road signs were milestones, giving distance or directions. For example, the Romans erected stone columns throughout their empire, giving the distance to Rome. In the middle ages, multi-directional signs at intersections became common, giving directions to cities and towns.