Gridlocks do not just waste road users’ time; revenue is also lost. If in doubt, ask Dangote Group of Companies. Between 2017 and 2018, the group said it lost N25 billion to gridlocks.
The enormity of this challenge makes sense when juxtaposed with the fact that most traffic challenges in Nigeria are caused by bad roads.
Not a few believe Nigeria’s road networks and surfaces are some of the most deplorable in the world. Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, however, does seem to share this view. He believes the roads are not that bad.
Dangote Group makes use of the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki-Ojota highway, which has been in a bad state for years, a lot. Hardly any big firm in Nigeria is free from this road, which is daily clogged by traffic.
Lines of heavy-duty trucks are regular sights on this road, which hosts the country’s money-spinning ports.
Last month, Fashola said the reconstruction of the road would be completed this year. He spoke while inspecting the project with the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, whose firm took up the challenge of fixing the Apapa segment of the road.
The bad state of the road in Apapa led to businesses closing shops. Property development and renewal took the back seat. Clearing and forwarding agents and shipping companies looked elsewhere for succour.
Aside from the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki-Ojota highway, many are also looking in the Federal Government’s direction for the fixing of the Oyo-Iseyin road.
Its engineering design works are said to have been concluded and procurement processes are said to have been activated in preparation for a contract award.
The poor state of this road has crippled economic activities in that axis. The people are looking up to Fashola to ameliorate their sufferings.
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the East-West road and numerous other federal roads across the country are also reasons all eyes will be on Fashola this year.
Many parts of the East-West road have failed and need attention. The Calabar-Itu highway is causing hardship to road users.
The axis between the Odukpani Junction and the Okurikang Junction has been in a very terrible condition for several months.
Significantly, almost all sections of the Lagos-Abeokuta road, including parts of Sango, Owode, Itori, Kola and Tollgate, have become impassable.
The Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway which was, in 2018, awarded for expansion from a four-lane dual carriageway to an eight-lane dual carriageway has left passengers with no choice but to deliberately avoid vehicles plying the road.
The rehabilitation of the Taraku-Otukpo portion was completed a few months ago, while the Makurdi-Aliade-Taraku axis had been neglected.
The Gombe-Biu Road, which the Federal Government voted N1.83billion for in three years, is also in a bad condition.
Fixing the roads does not come cheap. The Federal Government, it has been shown, cannot go it alone. That is why it has used public-private partnership and is considering the tolling option to fund the maintenance of kilometres of federal roads.
Read Also: Fashola: Govt to complete road projects
The Muhammadu Buhari administration, Fashola revealed last year, is indebted to contractors handling road projects to the tune of N306 billion.
Fashola is not going to be judged by roads alone. Many are homeless in the country and the government’s effort in this area seems a tokenism.
The country’s housing deficit, according to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), is 22 million units. Urban areas such as Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja are the worst hit because of the ever-expanding urban population.
With an annual population growth rate of 3.2 per cent, which translates to more than five million people born annually, a solution needs to be found. And fast too.
It is estimated that building additional units requires more than N6 trillion ($16 billion) annually. The Land Use Act of 1978 is also believed to be a problem to the solving of the deficit because it vests ownership of land in governors. The property registration process is made cumbersome thus creating barriers to housing development.
The act, experts believe, must be reviewed or amended to improve housing development. Failure to do this, they say, will make breaking the housing deficit jinx a pipe-dream.
Fashola will also have to find a solution to the paucity of funds, which is a key constraint to efforts at bridging the 16 million housing deficit.
The mortgage system in the country is also not effective and this has made it difficult to bridge the deficit. Other sources of funding housing projects such as budgetary appropriations, deposit money, banks, insurance companies and housing corporations are not enough.
This will definitely be a busy year for the minister as the people will expect to start seeing the fruits of his second coming. And with the power sector taken off his mandate, his efforts to bridge housing deficits and to give the country good roads will be closely scrutinised.