The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has insisted that Nigerian roads are not that bad as often portrayed.
Speaking shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, Fashola said reports on the poor state of the country’s roads were mere hypes.
The FEC meeting, which was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, approved N58.4billion for the construction of Bida-Sachi-Nupeko road and the Nupeko-Patigi Bridge across River Niger, linking Nupeko and Patigi in Niger and Kwara states.
The PUNCH had on June 24, reported that federal roads were in a terrible state of disrepair. According to the report, the bad state of the roads has been aiding bandits and herdsmen, who kill and kidnap travellers in impassable spots on the highways.
Some of the roads listed included the 110-kilometre-Gusau-Dansadau Road in Zamfara State; the Oyo-Iseyin road in Oyo State and the Makurdi-Gboko-Katsina Alla-Zaki Biam Road, which links Benue State to Taraba State.
But on Wednesday, Fashola, while dismissing reports on bad state of the highways said, “The roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed. I know that this is going to be your headline, but the roads are not that bad”, he told State House Correspondents.
The minister explained that, but for funding challenges, most road projects would have been long completed.
Fashola also stated that some parts of the country faced peculiar issues like high water table, which made construction in the rainy season difficult.
He mentioned the South-East and the South-South among areas with such difficulties.
The minister added that the ministry and contractors were waiting patiently for the rains to subside so that they could return to sites.
Reacting to Fashola’s assessment of Nigerian roads, the Chairman, Infrastructure Development Committee, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Ibrahim Usman, said contrary to what the minister said, Nigerian roads were very bad.
He said, “I think the minister is being economical with the truth. The roads are terrible. Take for instance the Biu to Gombe road that took one-and-a-half hours in the past to ply, now it takes four hours to get from Biu to Gombe. The luck we have is that Boko Haram has not stuck on that road.
“Another terrible road is the Damaturu-Biu road. That also takes four hours when in the past it took less than two hours. That was where military trucks and equipment were seized and taken into the bush by bandits some weeks back. At least if the roads are good, cars can move with speed but when the roads are terrible, movement is difficult and it is easy for robbers to attack.”
Usman said his cars could no longer ply the roads and he had to park them.
He said he recently travelled from Lagos to Cotonou where he spent three hours getting to Cotonou but from Cotonou to Lome, he did not find a single pothole and the trip took less than the length of time it took to go from Lagos to Cotonou.
Minister doesn’t ply Nigerian roads – Employers
The Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr Timothy Olawale, reasoned that the minister might not be plying the same roads as other Nigerians.
He made reference to the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso road, saying that it was a very good example of the terrible situation of Nigerian roads.
He said, “The huge craters along the Oyo-Ogbomoso road can swallow vehicles. These are roads that were manageable before but they have gone completely bad. People spend hours on that expressway because of tankers that fall into the craters.
“The sad thing is that the government is not doing any kind of palliative work on the roads.”
Olawale said he also had reason to travel by road from Asaba to Enugu and the same deplorable road situation played out.
He said, “To say that the road between Asaba and Enugu is bad is an understatement. I think the minister is not in touch with reality. He needs to speak with his road maintenance engineers and get information about the true situation of Nigerian roads.”
On his part, the Ogun State Chambers of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture, disagreed with the minister.
The Chambers, which spoke through its first state Deputy President, Wasiu Olaleye, said Nigerian roads were “nothing to write home about.”
He advised the minister to travel on some roads in Ogun State and beyond, adding that it was difficult to cite any good road in the country.
He said, “ The roads in Nigeria are nothing to write home about because, when you look at the road we are using; the Lagos-Sango-Abeokuta road, I was told by one of my members yesterday that a section of that road from Itori to Papa, you can’t even try to move in that part with vehicle at all.
“A friend also just sent a message that he spent about three to four hours on that road on Saturday night and he even posted it on social media.
“I entered there 6am, I came back at 11, so, what is he saying? I want to say that he should make himself available and travel on our roads with the leadership of business organisations like NACCIMA and MAN. He should therefore go to Agbara and travel from Agbara to Atan then he comes back to Sango.
“He should travel from Abeokuta through Ifo to Sango and at the same time Ajah, Epe then back to Ijebu-Ode.”
Also assessing other roads outside Ogun State, Olaleye said, “A member of the chamber that travelled from Abuja to Minna. I called him today, he said the same thing.
“The road from Abuja to Minna is also bad. I don’t know any road you can talk about. If you are going to Abuja from Abeokuta, your heart will be in your mouth because of the state of the road. When you get to Ife-Ibadan Expressway, you will see what is there.”