Road maintenance: Experts consider toll gate, other funding options

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The poor state of roads in Nigeria has been a concern to many due to its negative impact on the nation’s economy. Stakeholders look at the issue and solutions are proffered, in this report by. OKECHUKWU NNODIM

The prolonged years of neglect of Nigerian roads have made most of the facilities to to go from bad to worse, stakeholders in the road sub-sector have said.

According to them, the state of roads in Nigeria is largely due to poor maintenance, limited budget, bad attitude to road usage by citizens and government’s neglect.

They noted that during the military era, many Nigerian roads were abandoned, adding that Nigerians had the habit of using roads as markets, a development that had further deteriorated the facilities.

The National Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Highway and Transportation Engineers, Mr. Obiekwe Anaduaka, stated that it was important to point out the reasons why many Nigerians roads were in different degrees of dilapidation.

He, however, noted that the institution had started engaging the National Assembly actively for the consideration of bills to establish the National Road Fund, Federal Road Authority and National Transport Commission.

Anaduaka, who spoke to our correspondent in Abuja on the sidelines of his investiture ceremony as the second national chairman of NIHTE, stated that the passage of the bills would help address the problems being faced in the road sub-sector across the country.

He said, “Over the years, and based on my experience as a long serving director at the Federal Ministry of Works, we’ve been having series of problems with our roads. There have been a lot of efforts made by different persons or groups to review the transport sector, especially the road sub-sector with a view to improving the situation.

“But all these efforts have failed; you must have heard when somebody said in a whole year, some time in the past, only N1m was in the national budget for the maintenance of all the roads in Nigeria. I believe that you can write a book on this anomaly if you choose to.”

He added, “So, there has been a long period of deferred maintenance, particularly during the military era when government didn’t border or appreciate that roads must be regularly  maintained. The roads were ignored and most of them went from bad to worse.

“We at NIHTE are not satisfied with the state of Nigerian roads, but it is not something that happened today. Don’t also forget that there has been tremendous abuse of our roads. If you are travelling, you’ll notice that so many roads have been turned into markets. That’s road abuse.”

Anaduaka stated that people also abused roads by cutting the facilities illegally, adding that transporting very heavy materials on some roads was contributing to the dilapidated state of the roads.

He said, “People cut our roads anyhow; it is an abuse. When you drive on some roads, you see a trailer carrying something like 10 houses on a road that is designed to carry load that is far less than the weight of the trailer.

“People should know that this is not healthy for our roads. There was a time when Nigeria experienced a terrible situation on our roads. This was during the period that the Jos rolling mill was built. People were moving raw materials needed by the mill from the seaorts in Lagos to Jos.

“You can imagine what impact this would have. Of course, it destroyed most of the roads. And we have not recovered from that because Nigerians do not appreciate the importance of maintaining our roads.”

The NIHTE chairman, however, noted that with the interface between engineers and the National Assembly, the country might soon have laws that would promote the maintenance and adequate funding of roads.

He said, “However, with what is happening today based on the reform in the road transport sector, when we get the road reform bills passed into law, I believe there will be significant changes. Also, the National Assembly is working with us closely and they understand these problems.

“So, we hope that it will not be difficult for them to appropriate enough money to take care of the state of Nigerian roads.”

On how the bills will be effective with respect to road maintenance, Anaduaka said, “Some of the bills will deal with road funds, meaning that there will be a law on how to raise funds for roads. You know that today everybody goes to the National Assembly to get a budget.

“Sometimes when they share it to the whole country, the roads get far less than what is needed to have them properly maintained. But with the Road Fund Act, a lot of ways on how to raise funds will be made and specifically dedicated to the roads. So, there will be available money and that is one aspect of it.”

Also speaking on the subject, the immediate past Chairman of NIHTE, Mr. Isa Emoabino, stated that the Act had issues that would deal with institutional framework in order to get the modern trends on how to organise the road transport sector.

He said this would allow engineers to build their capacities so as to be adequately equipped to cope with is happening globally.

He said, “Therefore, these laws will bring up options that are suitable on how to raise the funds needed to manage our roads as well provide the necessary framework to drive the sector to greater heights.”

Anaduaka also stated that it was important to introduce toll gates as a means of raising funds for the maintenance of roads.

He said, “It is important to note that toll gates’ introduction is one of the sources of raising funds to maintain the roads. In fact, in some countries, they carry out a performance -based contract, which has to do with when you give a contractor a road to manage based on strict guidelines.

“The contractor will be allowed to build toll gates and collect money for the maintenance of the road. So, in the Act on road funds, there are so many sources of raising funds for our roads and toll gates is one of them.”

Anaduaka stated that Nigerians should learn to cooperate with the government when toll gates would beintroduced on roads, as this was not a means of punishing the citizens.

He said, “People should understand that the introduction of toll gates is not a punishment. For instance, if you have a car and you are driving from Abuja to Lagos and when you get to Okene, you are told to follow a new Road on the right and pay N300 to get to Lagos in three hours. But if you don’t want to pay, you can follow the normal road but you will get to Lagos in nine hours. Now, tell me, which one will you prefer?

“Of course, many people will prefer the one that they will pay N300, drive on a good road and get to their destination in time. Toll gates are used everywhere all over the world. So we should not kick against its introduction as it is a major source of funding for road management and maintenance.”

The President, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Mr. Otis Anyaeji, stated that engineers were willing to assist the government in revamping the road sector and urged his colleagues to continue interfacing with the National Assembly so as to ensure the introduction and passage of robust bills that would prove the state of Nigerian roads.

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