State Of Nigerian Roads: Pains, Losses To Economy | Independent Newspapers Limited
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State Of Nigerian Roads: Pains, Losses To Economy

Posted: Jul 10, 2015 at 12:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Recent developments indicate that government often neglects areas where it generates chunk of its annual revenue. The state of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region and the Apapa/Oshodi express Way, serving as main access road to the two seaports in Lagos state, presents clear examples. In this special report, our reporters focus on how the dilapidated state of the road infrastructure causes pains and losses to the economy.

Road Project Funding Challenges

It was learnt that for a road network of 35,000km, sometimes Works Ministry receive between N60 and N70 billion. The military allegedly did not even budget up to N10 billion for those roads.

Nigerian situation can be compared with little countries like Zambia, which has a total road network of 7,000km. But Zambia reportedly spends, on the average, about $1billion yearly on their roads. But Nigeria with about 35,000km, which is five times the road network of Zambia, is unable to spend 50 percent of what Zambians are spending on their roads.

Former minister of works, Mike Onolememen said the issue of funding is germane. It is a major challenge because, often times, budget provisions are made, but in terms of releases, the provisions are not matched. He cited an instance when in 2013, the ministry had a budget of N141 billion for highway projects, but, at the end of the day, it received only N65 billion.

Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

“We know that it is one to have budgetary allocations, it is another to have the funds released; even with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction, there have been questions about how much exactly it is going to cost, and when the project will be completed?”

He said what the ministry did differently was to tap into non-budgetary sources of funds. One of the first things the ministry did when Onolemenmen came on board in 2011 was to  institute a road sector reform committee in order to take a holistic look at the  sector and road development programme, and look at how they could be properly  funded in line with international best practice.

Although the recommendations of that committee, which include the setting up of a Roads Authority and the creation of a road fund that can  help to fill the funding gap in road development projects and programme, the ministry began implementing  the  recommendations by looking towards the private sector and other non-budgetary sources of finance for road development projects.

The ministry was also looking at private finance initiatives, enhanced collaboration with multilateral and development agencies around the world. A case in point was the Federal Road Development Project which saw the World Bank putting down about $330 million and led to the effective rehabilitation of the Nigerian-Cameroun transport corridor from Enugu through Abakaliki to Mbok, through Ogoja junction to Ikom and Mfam.

The former minister said that that entire corridor was made possible by tapping the World Bank and Africa Development Bank funds.

Beyond that, the ministry was a recipient of enhanced funding from the SURE P since 2012.

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project was designed to cost N167 billion. The project was awarded to two contractors in two sections: Julius Berger Nigeria Ltd handling Section 1, from Lagos to Shagamu interchange, and RCC Nigeria Ltd handling Section 2, from Shagamu interchange to Ibadan. The financial architecture the ministry designed for that project is the same as approved by the Federal Executive Council at the material time.


Toll Plazas

The previous government had decided that it is only economical routes on which private sector resources have been deployed in completing those roads that it will reintroduce toll plazas, and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is one of them. Tolling is believed to be part of international best practice because when money is borrowed from the private sector to do an infrastructural project, the project itself should pay back.

The ministry of Works did the outline and final business case studies, which all proved that Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was a viable road, and that, based on traffic flow on the road, investors would be able to recoup their investments.

Some people believe Federal Government cannot have such a policy to charge tolls on all federal roads for very obvious reasons. Government itself has a social responsibility to the people. A road network serves two purposes, first as an artery to support economic activities, like hauling tons of cement, iron billets, bitumen and other different articles.

These are strictly economic activities; a road is expected to also serve social activities, which are for social and national integration among different sections of the country, so government has that responsibility, and as such cannot toll every road. However, Onolemenmen also believe that what  government is doing by establishing tolls on all roads on which private sector funds have been expended is a good way of arresting some of these problems of dilapidation.

“I say so because if we are able to get the arterial routes right, and they are now able to fend for themselves and pay for their own maintenance, government resources will be freer to handle those other road projects that have social impacts in terms of national integration,” he said.

The government also planned to toll the second Niger Bridge after completion in order to recoup the funds, just like Lagos Ibadan Expressway. The Federal Government is expected to contribute about 30 percent of the sum, while the Julius Berger Consortium will be responsible for  the provision of 70 percent.

Government also planned to toll the Keffi-Makurdi to Nightmar in Enugu road by the time it apply the funds from the China Exim Bank on its dualisation. This is in order to recoup the funds and repay China Exim Bank because that is the new template.

On Kano-Kaduna and Kano-Maiduguri roads, there is the need for effective culture of maintenance. Looking at the design of Kano-Kaduna Road, it was to last for 25 years; after the 25 years, a major rehabilitation ought to have taken place.

Government has not been able to maintain that road the way it ought to have been maintained because of the cost. Government was supposed to remove the entire wearing course, stabilize the base course and do complete asphalt overlay.


Inter-Modal Transport

During the preparation of the national integrated infrastructure master plan, the committee on transportation talked about inter-modal transportation  because that holds the key to dealing with the issue of maintenance and reducing the cost of maintenance.

If the rail transportation is brought back and fully stabilized, most of the heavy loads will be off the road. And if those categories of haulage items are off the roads, the roads will last longer. Before now, the roads were designed to last for 25 years.

The quality of asphalt being used now is designed to carry axle load of not more than 40 tons. So if the country is able to check excessive axle loading, the road will last for a minimum of 25 years. But, today, 60 to 80 ton trucks are on the roads, and, when they pass, they leave a permanent mark, which is called rotting.

In the past, trains ran on the railways and heavy haulage was done by rail not by land. Some people have suggested that those put in charge of the railway corporation deliberately ran down the corporation so that their trailer business could thrive.

Whatever the reasons for running down the railways, the consequences are that the haulage business and their huge articulated trucks have not only ruined the roads, they have become a health hazard to the people. Efforts to revive the railways have not succeeded. Apparently because of lack of commitment and poor funding the result is that the only way of moving goods and people in the country is by road.

The aviation industry which could have contributed substantially to the movement of goods and people is expensive for most people. Without movement of goods, services and people the economy will not grow. This is why government has to pay attention to the health of the roads.


Cost Of Construction

In the northern part of Nigeria where the rainy season is short and where the land is flat with little or no mountains and hills except on the Jos and Bauchi plateaux, roads are much more easily constructed and maintained than in the south.

But up north, the spatial distribution of population in wide areas and the size of the land mass that had to be traversed increase cost of construction in the north. In the south, roads sometimes have to pass through mangrove swamps and the rain forest and on large bodies of water leading to high cost of road construction.

Unlike in many parts of the world where colonialism led to infrastructural modernisation, Nigeria inherited from the British overlords, poor network of roads. Roads leading out of Lagos at independence were winding narrow roads going to Abeokuta and Ibadan and subsequently to the east. To go to the north one had to pass through the tortuous roads from Lagos to Ibadan then to Ilorin and to Jebba across the Niger then to Kotangora, Tegina, Kaduna and then to Kano, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri.

Experts say there is a need for a comprehensive review of the road network in Nigeria. First of all, we have to agree that the hinterland of Nigeria has to be linked to the coast. What this immediately suggests is that there is need to have four longitudinal roads- one running in the western part of the country from Badagry to Sokoto, another from Lagos to Kano, a third one from Warri to Bauchi and another one from Calabar to Maiduguri.

Then there should be an east-west road linking Lagos along the coast to Port-Harcourt. The coastal road from Lagos to Port-Harcourt has been on the drawing boards for several decades yet no action has been taken, because the road will have to pass through mangrove swamps necessitating the building of many bridges.

Already, there is a dual carriage way running from Lagos to Port-Harcourt through the Sagamu-Benin-Onitsha-Enugu-Port-Harcourt dual carriage way. There is another one running from Lagos to Oyo and on to Ilorin if and when the Oyo-Ogbomosho section is finished.

There is a dual carriage way from Abuja through Kaduna to Kano and then to Maiduguri. The Kano-Maiduguri dual carriage way is probably the longest in Nigeria and cannot be truly justified on economic grounds.

The Abuja-Lokoja dual carriage way is under construction. Perhaps in the future, the Lokoja-Benin sector would be constructed. The Benin-Warri-Yenagoa-Port-Harcourt east-west road is also at an advanced stage of completion. In all this road networks, the South-west is being short changed.

The dual carriage way from Ibadan to Akure stops abruptly in Ilesa and this does not make economic sense because Ondo and Ekiti states produce 80 percent of Nigeria’s cocoa and substantial amount of hard wood timber.

One would also have expected a dual carriage way to link Ado-Ekiti and Akure and Akure with Benin. But as it is today, roads are constructed on political basis thereby economically shooting ourselves in the feet.

A careful assessment of road projects in Nigeria showed that averagely a kilometre of road costs N1bn. Investigation revealed that road projects were also constantly being reviewed with government increasing the contract sums either biannually or once in five years.

For instance, while the contract for the 127km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was fixed at N167bn or $1bn, a contract for the 1,028km Lagos-Abidjan road project was estimated to cost between N167bn and N240bn by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The six-lane project is expected to connect five major cities in the region namely Lagos, Nigeria; Cotonou, Benin Republic; Lome, Togo; Accra, Ghana and Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

Though the number of kilometres to be covered under this road project is eight times higher than Nigeria’s Lagos-Ibadan Expressroad project, the cost per kilometre is far lower than that of Nigeria.

During a meeting with development partners on the 1028km project, the Commissioner for Infrastructure, Economic Community of West African States Commission, Mr. Ebima Nijie, said that it would cost the union between $1bn and $2bn (N170bn and N240bn) to construct the road.

At the projected maximum cost of N240bn, the cost of the road per km will be N234m. Whereas the six-lane Expressway road contract awarded by the Federal Government at N167bn cost N1.3bn per kilometre.

A 2013 report by Paul Collier et al for the Departments of Economics, Universities of Oxford and Gothenburg, compared the unit costs per km of asphalt overlays of between 40 to 59mm across various countries of the world. The report examined activities between 1996 and 1998 and between 2005 and 2007.

Between 1996 and 1998, the unit cost per km of asphalt overlay in Nigeria was $95,100 (about N16m) while it was $42,900 (about N7m) in Ghana and $50,700 (N8,6m) in Mexico. Out of the 22 countries examined within the period, only three countries had a higher cost of asphalt overlay than Nigeria.

While the costs of asphalt overlays in Paraguay, Bulgaria and India between 2005 and 2007 are $31,100 (about N5m), $40,700 (N6.9m) and $35,900 (N6.1m), respectively, the cost of such activities in Nigeria within the same period was $73,000 (N12.4m).

The report explained that though building a road in more rugged terrain would likely involve higher unit costs of construction and maintenance, it also identified the role of corruption in having high unit costs of construction in many countries.

A civil engineer who was the past Chairman of the Nigeria Society of Engineers, Lagos Branch, Olatunde Jaiyesinmi, identified corruption as one of the factors contributing to the high cost of road projects in the country. He said too many actors are involved in the process of awarding government contracts in Nigeria.

“The contracts are usually overloaded in this country. So many interests are there and people who are not part of the construction work will take money here and there. So, one cannot actually say that a road costs so much per km in Nigeria because there may be part of the cost that is not going into the construction of the road.

“When you award a contract and there are so many interests, the interests take their share from the money and the remaining money may not be enough for the contractor to work and still make profit,” he said.