In line with global trend towards attaining national economic growth and development, the Federal Government has conceptualized Vision20:2020 programme as a strategic developmental policy aimed at placing Nigeria in the league of the world’s largest 20 economies by the year 2020.
Towards the realization of this national objective, an efficient road transport network has a critical role to play. Suffice it to say that good road network across the country would greatly make positive impact in our national life.
It would facilitate opening up of the rural areas, enhance investment and socio-economic activities, reduce accident rate as well as promote international perception index of Nigeria; thereby attracting Direct Foreign Investment which is critical for the realization of Vision 20:2020.
It needs to be stressed that though the federal roads account for only 18 percentage of the total road network in the country, they carry the heaviest volume of traffic, which is estimated at about 70%. In addition, the federal roads also serve as the main routes that link all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT; including the main seaports in the country. In terms of economic service structure, the federal roads accounts for about 70%, state roads contribution in this aspect is about 20% while local government roads contribute only 10%.
From the above, it is apparent that building an efficient road network, which is a vital tool towards the actualization of Vision 20:2020, has been one of a major challenge to the Federal Government. The problem is further compounded by the lack of efficient railway and water transport systems, which could have provided alternative transport systems that could reduce traffic on our roads.
Similarly, current economic and demographic trends are fundamental issues posing great challenge to road sector development in the country. Essentially, investment in National Highways has been constrained by insufficient budgetary allocation. This greatly contributes to the delay in the completion of most of the road construction and rehabilitation projects across the country.
For instance, the East-West road ( Warri-Kaiama- Port Harcourt- Oron), Kano- Maiduguri dualisation project, Benin – Ore- Shagamu road and Abuja –Abaji- Lokoja roads are among the major national corridor projects awarded in 2006.Most of these major arteries of the nation could, however, not be completed due to paucity of funds; and of the 34,000 KM of the federal roads, only 28,453 are paved, the balance of 5,887 are unpaved. This development is one of the major challenges to the Federal Government and it could be argued that it is one of the significant hurdles towards the realization Vision 20:2020 Programme.
It is generally well known that building an economically viable road network, which would sustain national transformation, is capital intensive for the public sector alone to bear. It is in this respect that government decides to embark on Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme with a view to encouraging private sector to participate on and invest in road sector development. Government is also collaborating with international organizations such as the World Bank and African Development Bank in order to facilitate national roads development.
Some of the PPP Pilot projects include, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway concessioned to Bi-Courteney Consortium for the period of 25 years, at the cost of N89, 533,688,879.84, with a construction period of 4 years. Another vital project to be executed in similar manner is the proposed second Niger Bridge, which is currently under design; others are Benin- Shagamu dual carriageway, Kano-Kaduna-Abuja dual carriageway and Lagos-Badagry-Seme border dual carriageway. It is hoped that when these major roads are effectively fixed, they would greatly enhance socio-economic activities in the country.
There is the need for the Federal Government to step up action towards road transport sector by upgrading, rehabilitating and widening existing major highways across the country. For instance, some of the existing single lane highways could be converted in to two lanes with paved shoulders. In addition, as road traffic increases over time, the existing four lane highways could also be upgraded/expanded to six lanes in line with the international standard.
Further to the above, there is the need for improvement on city ring roads to enable easier connectivity with national highways especially those that connect our major commercial and industrial cities. This is in addition to the stretches of national highways that require additional flyovers, grade separators, service roads and bypasses considering the population and housing growth along the highways across the country.
Lastly, since investment in national roads could be utilized to implement the objective of our national growth and development as encapsulated in Vision 20:2020 Programme, government should establish special intervention fund similar to that of Banking and Textiles sectors, among others. This will ensure availability of funds which would accelerate road sector development and consequently promote regional, national and international trade and competitiveness; thereby enhancing efficiency in the movement of goods and services both internally and from external markets.
Hadi Y. Alhassan
Gaduwa Housing Estate Abuja