Nigeria's road infrastructure remains decrepit
A report on the quality of roads in African countries on Sunday confirmed Nigeria’s dismal condition and reminded its leaders of the need to act decisively to reverse it. Quoting studies undertaken by the IMF, Business Insider published a ranking showing Nigeria as having the sixth worst road infrastructure on the continent that it said, “casts a shadow over economic prospects and societal well-being.”This challenges President Bola Tinubu, and the Minister of Works, David Umahi, to quickly translate their repeated promises to transform Nigeria’s roads into action.
Neither delays nor excuses are acceptable. The report noted that despite a general realisation of the importance of efficient road networks to economic and social wellbeing, some countries like Nigeria had failed to invest adequately and sustainably in road infrastructure.
The IMF’s scoring on cross-country road quality measured the mean speed between a country’s large cities using Google Map, using it to evaluate road quality and accessibility. On this basis, Nigeria did better than only five African countries –Rwanda, Guinea, Burundi, Madagascar, and the Gambia.
This ranking largely also correlates with the World Bank’s ‘Rural Access Index,’ and the World Economic Forum’s ‘Quality of Road Infrastructure’ scoring.
Roads are acknowledged to be critical for a country’s development, and are “emblematic of its commitment to progress.” Well-developed roads are expected to translate to economic growth, says the World Bank, stimulate job-creation, and connect communities.
Nigeria’s roads however remain an untidy mess and its road infrastructure shortfall is critical. With a land mass of 923,768 square kilometres and a population of over 220 million (National Population Commission), its roads span just about 200,000km. About 63 per cent of this is un-tarred and most are decrepit. Commuters describe the roads variously as “death traps,” “deplorable,” or “dilapidated.” Umahi recently lamented that the potholes on federal highways had deteriorated to “boreholes.”
The African Development Bank reckons that between $100 billion and $150 billion would have to be spent annually over three decades just to close the road infrastructure gap.
Experts recommend that the government adopt a massive effort to attract private investment, management, and local inputs to expand the road network and link every part of the country, including the rural areas.
The three tiers of government should shift from rhetoric and inertia to action. Federal roads account for 36,000km of the total national network, while 31,000km are state roads. The rest are local government roads. With over 135,000km of roads un-tarred, the infrastructure inadequacy has constrained economic development, and entrenched joblessness and poverty.
While Nigeria’s leaders dallied, many other African countries, reported Business Insider, “are putting money where the asphalt is.” South Africa, Namibia, Morocco, Botswana, and Libya were ranked the top five countries with the best road infrastructure on the continent. Since it launched a National Road Network programme in 2014, Egypt’s ranking in global road quality improved dramatically from 118th to 28th by 2022. Nigeria should make similar choices.
Through a national programme involving its federal, states and LGs, India grew its road network by 59 per cent in nine years to become the world’s second largest after the United States by 2023, said its Ministry of Transport and Highways.
Nigeria’s Federal Government should move faster with new and inherited initiatives to greatly expand, rehabilitate, and maintain federal highways. There should a renewed emphasis on quality and durability.
The states and LGs should also expand and upgrade their road networks, and separately implement road master plans to link all major cities, towns, and industrial and commercial clusters by qualitative roads.