Human rights activist, Chief Patrick Eholor has condemned a recent statement credited to the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, over the deplorable condition of roads in the country which the minister had described as manageable.
Eholor, in a letter to the Minister made available to newsmen said the poor state of roads in Nigeria has become a national shame and an unnecessary embarrassment as there is hardly any part of the country that can boast of motorable roads.
The activist who is the founder of One Love Foundation, a civil society group based in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, described their activities as domiciled in the schedule of Federal Government of Nigeria, Amnesty International and other international civil society groups.
He said: “We write to counter the statement credited to you that the state of our roads is not so bad”, adding that most of the roads are in terrible condition even after over 20 years of uninterrupted democracy in the country.”
Eholor said by their assessment as a civil society group, “these bad roads are consequences of poor leadership and woeful planning,” noting that even existing railway system which the Federal Government so boast of is not only dysfunctional, but under-developed and under-performing.”
He recalled that sadly the Minister once boasted that “any serious government should be able to fix electricity in six months”, asking if he was now telling them that he is not a serious person, especially as he has not been able to fix the nation’s roads in over six years.
The activist, who years ago, led other civil society groups to champion the compulsory rehabilitation of federal roads in South-South by the Federal Government, through a mass movement tagged “One Million March Against Bad Roads, ” said the “state of our roads is a national tragedy that does not shock anyone anymore as scores of innocent people have been killed daily in avoidable accidents.”
He said the same poor road network has resulted in poor productivity as immeasurable man-hours are lost in traffic, while the national economy suffers incalculable losses”.
Eholor noted that it was high time government at all levels treated road infrastructure as a priority to enhance economic development and secure lives and property.
Eholor, popularly known as “Democracy Observer-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said the poor state of roads reflects a situation where “corruption has dealt another devastating blow on the country”.
He said from available records “since 1999, a whopping N1.4 trillion ($8.5 billion) has reportedly been spent on road construction or maintenance with very little evidence of the money spent,” remarking that without a functional railway system, roads are the only means of movement for people and goods.
“When roads are not in good shape as is seen all over the country, the nation’s economy is sure to be the first victim,” he stated.
The Activist listed some of the worst highways to include “the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Shagamu-Ore, Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt road, generally believed to be the most strategic economic routes in the country as Lagos seaports are the only viable ones”.
He listed others to include “Ikorodu-Shagamu road, Okene-Lokoja-Abuja and Rijau-Kontagora road in Niger State, Calabar-Itu Road, Ikom Calabar Road, Aba Owerri Road, Aba Port Harcourt Road, Benin, Ore, Lagos Road, with a few exceptions, indeed, virtually all the highways in the country are in terrible state”.
According to him, what is more traumatic travelling through Nigerian roads, as he experienced recently moving from Benin City to Abuja was not only nightmarish but depressing, adding that a journey of five hours took him thirteen hours.
He said after 60 years of independence, it is indeed a shame that Nigeria, “despite the huge revenue earnings from oil, is yet to develop a good transportation system.”
Chief Patrick Eholor said “from 2008 to June 2014 alone, Nigeria reportedly earned N44.655 trillion. Add this to another N2.5 trillion reportedly earned by Nigeria in the last quarter of 2015”.
He said that is why it is quite pertinent to ask the kind of premium government places on roads as economic assets that should aid national productivity
He said “smaller African Countries boasts of better Roads noting that the Lagos-Badagry highway, for example, which links Nigeria with the Republic of Benin, underscores this ugly narrative, whereas the Nigerian side of what should be a super highway, linking the whole of West Africa, is dilapidated and impassable, the Republic of Benin’s portion is not only in good condition, it advertises a certain irresponsibility on the part of Nigeria”.
Eholor said “in every respect, we sympathise with the agonising road transporters. The Nigerian authorities are culpable and they should show responsibility. It has been said often that the building of concrete roads with cement, especially in the southern states where erosion is rife is the way to go”.
The Activist said that option “is what experts have been recommending as a solution to uncertain durability of asphalt roads. But it appears that no one listens or cares about this”.
He said such insensitivity nurtured by corruption, of course, explains a situation in which roads are still being built at prohibitive costs without considering quality, whereas, the World Bank’s benchmark for building a kilometre of road is N238 million, the same one-kilometre is built for about N1 billion in Nigeria”.
The Comrade said maintenance of roads in Nigeria must improve or else the nation’s development objectives will remain unattainable.
He argued that the federal and state governments should enunciate a policy that will involve private sector operators in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model that can also attract foreign investment.
He said already, the Federal Government has launched a road concessioning scheme that accommodates private sector participation adding that there is a commission responsible for this and should be made functional to serve public interest.
He expressed gratitude in advance, hoping that the minister and the Federal Government act urgently in fixing the ugly tragedy of bad roads.