The state and cost of Nigerias rail and road infrastructure
We are often reminded that the Nigerian economy is stagnating. At the route of the crumbling state of Nigerian economy is the dilapidated state of the national infrastructure. The purpose of this short write-up is to explore the state of rail and road infrastructure in Nigeria. Infrastructure is defined by Oxford dictionary as: “The basic physical and organizational structures (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise”.
Put simply, it is the vital services and facilities that power the national economy and the technical structures that support a society, such as:
- Water supply,
- Power grids,
- Schools and Universities
It is these infrastructures that make great nations of Europe and America to standout both in terms of a strong national economy, high business productivity and high standards of living of the peoples. Democracy is incomplete without these technical structures. Perhaps, now you can begin to understand the origins of our crumbling economy and the quality of life of average Nigerians.
With a total network of about 193,000 kilometres, Nigeria road sector carries more than 90% of domestic passengers and freight. "There are only eight dual carriage ways that link Kano – Kaduna – Zuba – Abuja, the short dual carriage way within Ajaokuta axis across river Benue linking Kogi east in Kogi state, the Enugu – Umuahia – Aba – Port-Harcourt dual carriage way, the Benin – Ore – Ijebu – Sagamu interchange dual carriage way, the Lagos – Ibadan dual carriageway, another short dual carriage way that linked Ibadan – Ife axis – Ijesa and the two under construction that links Kano – Azare – Potiskum – Damaturu – Maiduguri and Abuja – Abaji – Koton Karfe – Lokoja dual carriage ways” (El-Ghude, Daily Trust). Most of these roads are almost impassable, particularly during the rainy and erosion season. The consequences are before us in the form of long hours of traffic jam, accidents and high casualties, armed robbery attacks, high transportation costs, and skyrocketing foodstuff prices.
In the past eight years about N500bn had been expended on the rehabilitation of about 3,500kms of the 34,120kms federal road network, yet "the state of the roads did not only constitute a danger to commuters, but had also become a death trap to people’s lives and goods. The issue is that some of the money that is yearly budgeted for roads is being diverted to private pockets” (Alhaji Lawal Isa, Association of Road Transport Owners, Punch, May 6, 2009). The African Development Bank (ADB), estimates the vehicle operating and road accidents costs of deplorable level of Nigerian highways to be in the range of N80 billion ($570 million) per annum (allAfrica.com). What is disturbing is the fact that the Nigerian government has the means but not the political will to invest in vital road infrastructure. It is this unexplainable state of affairs that prompted Mrs Clinton to lament:
” The corruption is unbelievable,….. The failure of the Nigerian leadership over many years to respond to the legitimate needs of their own young people, to have a government that promoted a meritocracy, that really understood that democracy can’t just be given lip service, it has to be delivering services to the people, has meant there is a lot of alienation in that country and others.”
Nigeria’s strategic location and size result in four routes of the Trans-African Highway network using its national road system:
- The Trans-Sahara Highway to Algeria which is almost complete.
- The Trans-Sahelian Highway to Dakar is substantially complete.
- The Trans-West African Coastal Highway starts in Nigeria, connecting it westwards to Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire with feeder highways to landlocked Burkina Faso and Mali. When construction in Liberia and Sierra Leone is finished, the highway will continue to seven other ECOWAS nations further west.
- The Lagos-Mombasa Highway is very much awaited to link caters Cameroon and there is the hope for a continuing highway to Central Africa and Southern Africa which could boost trade within the continent.
“Recent projects that have been announced include the reconstruction and modernisation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in a 25-year concession under a public-private partnership scheme. The project, approved in 2009, will reportedly cost more than NGN89 billion (USD600 million). In May 2009, the government also announced expansion plans for Abuja highways – with contracts awarded for the rehabilitation and construction of 34 federal highways” (http://www.janes.com).