Addressing Nigeria’s road infrastructure crisis
Written by Adeola Ibrahim on October 24, 2023
The reaffirmation of the poor state and quality of Nigeria’s roads by the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, should remind the three tiers of government to address the crisis with a renewed sense of urgency. Umahi, after a recent road inspection tour across the country, lamented that no existing federal road could survive for seven years as the contractors had done terrible jobs. He said many roads were riddled with “potholes” that had deteriorated into “boreholes.” The challenge falls on him, President Bola Tinubu, the state governors, and local government bosses to remedy the situation.
Umahi declared,“There is no project being constructed right now in Nigeria that is going to last for seven years. The question is, are we going to be maintaining or reconstructing our roads every 10 years? That is what we have been doing. I travelled from Abuja to Benin City through Lokoja, all the stretches of the road are on contract, and ongoing, but how much of the roads are motorable? I travelled through the roads myself and I shed tears for the kind of pains our people are going through.”
Nigeria’s road infrastructure shortfall is indeed critical. With a land mass of 923,768 square kilometres and a population of 216 million, it boasts just about 200,000km road network. About 63 per cent of this is un-tarred and most are in disrepair. Visitors describe the roads variously as “death traps,” “deplorable,” or “dilapidated.”
Estimates of funds needed to fix the deficit vary. While the African Development Bank prescribes $150 billion annually over three decades, Dataphyte says $2.3 trillion is required, and the World Bank $3 trillion.
Roads are the arteries through which an economy breathes. Federal and state authorities must therefore act decisively. Efforts should be made to attract private capital and management expertise. Malaysia, India, and South Africa are among countries that have adopted this model with resounding success.
Federal roads comprise 36,000km of the total network, while 31,000km are state roads. The rest are LG roads. With over 135,000km of roads un-tarred, this glaring infrastructure inadequacy has stymied economic development, and helped entrench joblessness and poverty.
The Federal Government has launched various initiatives and interventions. These include the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, and the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund to fund.
The tax credit scheme is facilitating the reconstruction of the 35km Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos by Dangote Industries at the cost of N73 billion. The Sukuk funding for road construction, which recorded 132.25 per cent over-subscription in 2019, is an ingenious response; the second tranche of the N100 billion will finance 28 road projects nationwide.
However, these initiatives have been inadequate in bridging the gap. Efforts should be made to attract foreign investment in road projects. Quality should also be emphasised.
In 2019, Namibia had the highest road quality infrastructure in Africa, according to business executives’ perceptions. Egypt and Rwanda followed respectively. Nigeria must therefore bolster investments in roads.
The states and LGs should expand and upgrade their road networks. The Federal Government, in collaboration with the states, should commence a massive multi-year federal highways master plan to link all state capitals, major cities and industrial clusters through expansive expressways, jointly funded by the states, private capital and aid.
There should be similar programmes at the sub-national level with master plans of highways linking all LG HQs, major towns, and agriculture, mining, and commercial centres in each state.