The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission believes that Nigeria has about 195,000 km of road network. About 32,000 km out of these are federal roads, and 31,000 km are state roads. In total, we have about 60,000 km paved and the remaining 135,000 km are untarred. Most of which are in a state of disrepair.
When two cities in two different states of the country are linked up by a road, that road is considered to be a Federal Road. This is a very broad definition that could get things complicated along the line.
When I see a long expressway where vehicles run for hours, leading to another state, it’s easy for anyone to say that the road is a federal road ; what makes it complicated then is when this road twists and bends into streets in a particular state. Under that situation, should the twists and bends within a state, used mostly by people in the state be also a part of what belongs to the Federal Government?
A typical example is the Portharcourt road Aba in Abia State, which joins the Enugu/Portharcourt Expressway. Most of the commuters using the road are in Aba, the streets are in Aba, the small shops and businesses there are in Aba, in fact almost everything about the road is in Abia State for instance, and yet the road is considered a Federal Road . This dilemma has left most roads in shambles for years leaving them in deep mess as these roads are not visible enough for the Federal Government since they are hidden in the streets within a particular state.
Another example is the Lekki/Epe Expressway. Located in Lagos, leads to different places in Lagos, and used mostly by Lagosians travelling to other parts of Lagos State. Yet, the apparent reason for it’s neglected state is the fact that it is considered the property of the Federal Government.
The States think the roads should be built by the ‘owners’ ,the Federal Government thinks they are close enough to the states to be one of their own. In this state of confusion, the roads suffer neglect and the citizens get the pain.
In many developed countries around the world, road projects are executed using monies and revenue generated from tax. If a particularly road was built using taxpayers money, the road users are expected to use for free. Otherwise, toll gates are introduced. I know what heavy vehicles do to roads, and anyone who thinks that vehicles should not contribute to repairing the wear and tear they contributed on the road based on how heavy they are should kindly reconsider.
I have seen a newly constructed road get ripped apart by a low bed truck carrying an excavator, I have also seen a newly constructed drain get wrecked by a fully loaded tipper truck parking just next to it. Though this may have more to do with the quality of execution than prolonged wear and tear still; it reminds us that vehicles deteriorate roads.
Hence, the reintroduction of toll gates on roads should be seen as a need to restore efficiency and the culture of sustainable development. In some countries private companies build roads and then introduce toll gates which helps in keeping the roads maintained. Also roads built with loans collected from banks are also serviced by the revenue generated from toll gates.
What We Can Do
So then, as the nation contemplates on the big picture restructuring, whether or not the ownership of resources within a state should belong to the Federal Government or the State Government, they have to restructure the ownership of roads. State Governments should own, maintain and generate revenue from all roads within their topological boundaries with assistance from the Federal Government in critical cases. Also, the members of the National Assembly should as a matter of urgency to try to do the needful. Then, there should be a total, I repeat! total expulsion of touts who neither build nor maintain roads from all government owned roads.
No government would be taken seriously by anyone if there are as many touts as there are potholes and gullies in their major roads.