Road Maintenance: Government Task Or Citizens' Tax?

The recent proposed 5% user tax on petroleum products as a means of sourcing funds for sustained road maintenance activities in the country deserves second thought. The new tax policy coming just as government assured members of the organized labour that it would do nothing to tamper with the current petrol price structure till June in line with the agreement signed by both parties last year, could further deflect the deteriorating economy. It is evident that transportation plays a crucial role in shaping the destiny of many nations because modern industry and commercial activities rest on proper, well-developed and efficient transport system. Huge sums of money have been sunk into road development in Nigeria. The road network is currently estimated at about 194,000 kilometres, with the Federal Government being responsible for about 17 percent, State Governments 16 percent and local Governments 67 percent (FMW&H). However, these roads have been plagued by a number of problems, with the major ones being faulty designs, inadequate drainage system and poor maintenance culture, which have significantly reduced the utility of the roads. There are potholes, washing away of pavements, fallen bridges, etc, along most Nigerian roads.

These problems have made it difficult, expensive and more arduous to move products and services from producers to consumers, farm produce from rural to urban centers, which often lead to loss of man-hours and high cost of goods and services. The annual loss due to bad roads is valued at N80 billion, while additional vehicle operating cost resulting from bad roads is valued at N53.8 billion, bringing the total loss per annum to N133.8 billion (Federal Ministry of Work & Housing). This figure does not take into account the man-hour losses in traffic due to bad roads and other emotional and physical trauma people go through plying the roads and the consequent loss in productivity. Overall, the poor state of roads in Nigeria impacts negatively on cost of production, and represents a major trigger of cost-push inflation. The primary mandate of the CBN is to maintain price stability. It is evident that this mandate will not be achieved if the problem of bad roads in the country is not addressed.

Integrated road development in Nigeria dates back to 1925, when the Road Board was established by the then colonial administration. The Board had the responsibility to evolve blueprints for trunk road network, connecting major administrative centres in the colonial time. As at 1951, 1,782km out of the total of 44,414km of road built in Nigeria was surfaced. The roads were however lacking in standard designs and were in single lane, with sharp bends and poor drainage system. The growth of economic activities prompted the need, for improvement in roads. Consequent upon this, the quality of road construction was improved as the length and network continued to increase such that by 1952, 15,785km of bituminous surface and 75,200km of earth/gravel surface roads were already in place in Nigeria (FMW&H). The estimated current total road network is about 194,000 kilometres. The Nigerian road system is classified into four broad categories: The Federal Trunk ‘A’ Roads: These are under Federal Government ownership and they are developed and maintained by the Federal Government. The Federal Trunk ‘F’ Roads: These were formerly under state ownership, but were taken over by the Federal Government, with a view to upgrading them to Federal highway standards. The State Trunk ‘B’ Roads are under the ownership and management of the component states. The Local Government Trunk ‘C’ Roads: These are under Local Government ownership and management. Each tier of government has the responsibility for planning, construction and maintenance of the network of roads under its jurisdiction

Funds for road maintenance in Nigeria had been from Federal Government allocation to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, as well as state andlocal government allocations for maintenance purposes. Some States, especially those in the eastern part of the country have been engaged in local road construction and maintenance over the years. During the years of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), the Fund had, as part of its mandate, the responsibility to maintain roads, especially the federal roads. These arrangements did not adequately tackle the problem of road maintenance in the country and therefore, a Presidential Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) was set up in 1999 to look into the state of the national infrastructure. The Committee recommended, among other things, that the funding of highways should be improved by establishing a Road Fund which will derive its funds from the following sources: Highway Tolls, Vehicle Taxes, Truck Weigh-Bridges, Parking Fees and Petroleum Tax (formerly collected by the defunct PTF). Presently, all these funds are paid into the Federation Account and the budget for road maintenance is from budgetary allocations.

A survey indicated that most of the roads especially in the Southern areas were in very poor condition, and require complete rehabilitation. The story is relatively the same with the roads in the Northern Zones. Some roads constructed over 30 years ago have not been rehabilitated for once, resulting in major cracks (longitudinal and transverse), depressions, broken down bridges and numerous potholes that make road transport slow and unsafe. On many roads, the shoulder, a major component of the road had eroded off, putting the roads in near impassable condition. Some of the roads require total rehabilitation and asphalt overlay, reinstatement of the shoulders, filling of potholes and building of collapsed bridges. The Chief Highway Engineers in the States should undertake an assessment tour of roads in their respective areas at the end of each rainy season to determine the state of roads, a detailed report of the state of roads, their maintenance needs, as well as the Bills of Quantities prepared and send to the appropriate ministries/parastatals for further action.

The state of Nigerian roads has remained poor for number of reasons. The number one problem is poor quality roads, resulting from faulty designs, lack of gutters and very thin coatings that are easily washed away by floods and hardly withstand heavy traffic. Second, funding of road maintenance has been grossly inadequate. It is understandable that from 1999 to 2002, less than 10 per cent of the funding request made by the FMW&H for road maintenance was appropriated. Even at this, only about 53.5 per cent of the appropriation was released. Statistics revealed that collections from tollgates across the country – N569.29 million, N742.72 million and N779.84 million in 2000, 2001 and 2002 respectively. For each year, tollgates collections alone were much higher than the total funds released for road maintenance. Third is the excessive use of the road network, given the undeveloped state of waterways and the poor state of the railways, which are alternative transport modes. In particular, the railways serve the purpose of transporting bulky goods, which are not good for road haulage. Fourth, information from the Chief Highway Engineers showed that there is no articulated programme for road maintenance. Road maintenance decisions are taken at the headquarters and are in most cases influenced by politics and not necessarily on the actual maintenance needs. For this reason most of the roads have been neglected. The introduction of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) led to the rehabilitation of some roads, though some of the rehabilitation works were not completed because the contractors were not fully paid.

From the South-South Zone housing Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States. It has a total Federal highway network of 4,150.89Km. The roads in this zone are in fairly good condition as it benefited immensely from the current road rehabilitation/expansion programme. However, the states in the zone were not evenly favoured as the bulk of the projects that have been completed/substantially completed are in Beyelsa, Edo, Delta and Rivers. Akwa Ibom and Cross River were not that favoured. My area, Oyigbo, a suburb of Rivers State is already written off.

At South-East Zone embodying the states within the South-East geo-political zone are: Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi and Abia. The total road network in the area is 3,121.7 kilometres of Federal highways. Most of the roads are in very poor condition with potholes, gullies and erosion affecting them. This is due mainly to lack of maintenance, as many of them have not been rehabilitated for over 30 years. The survey revealed that: Owerri-Onitsha highway is in a very bad condition with gullies and ditches adorning the whole stretch of the road. As a result, traffic flow on the highway is very slow and unsafe. A ride through the 90.5 kilometres of roads takes about 5 to 6 hours on a very bad day. Though contract was recently awarded for the rehabilitation of the road, work had not yet started. Abakaliki-Enugu road is in fairly good condition, though there is need for some maintenance work to be carried out in some parts of it. Enugu-Onitsha road is badly in need of rehabilitation as a recent one has peeled off, indicating poor quality work. Owerri-Umuahia road is in bad condition. There are potholes and peel- offs that need to be refilled to make traffic flow better. Urnuahia-Bende road is presently under rehabilitation. However, a portion of the road collapsed due to erosion. The workers on site claimed that it had always been like that.

South-West Zone consisting of Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Ogun states have a total road network of 4,161.06 km at the Federal highways in that area. The roads are in fairly good condition, as the bulk of the budgeted funds for repairs and rehabilitation from 1997 to 2001 were released. Below is the State of some highways in the zone: Lagos-lbadan road is dual carriage highway and it is in fair condition, Notwithstanding, there are some potholes and peel-offs that need to be refilled to make traffic flow better. lbadan-Ife road is in good condition and it is currently being dualised. Benin-Lagos road is a dual carriage highway. It is not in good condition and traffic on the highway is very high and unsafe, because of potholes and ditches that litter the road. Also, rehabilitation works that were carried out on it recently had deteriorated. Lagos-Badagry Expressway is in good condition. Ibadan-Ilorin road is a narrow single lane with heavy traffic. Also, the road is poorly maintained, and there are a lot of potholes and ditches on it. It is hoped that the present dualization work going on would ease traffic congestion and reduce accident thus minimizing the resultant death on the road.

Assessing through the North-West Zone consisting of Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States. The total road network is 6,363.4Km. The roads in this zone are generally in bad condition and require complete rehabilitation work. The state of the highway is as follows: Kano-Katsina road is a single lane road of 156 km, it has many potholes and large stretches were damaged by erosion owing to lack of gutters. For instance, the Kusada and the Tsanyawa areas of Katsina and Kano respectively had potholes of about 1 km each. Other roads in need of maintenance are those located around Rimi and Shanono Local government Areas of Katsina and Kano States, respectively. Also observed were the presence of casual labourers filling some potholes with sand and wheat grass. Katsina-Funtua road is characterized by minor potholes and the stretch, Funtua-Yankara-Tsafe-Gusau-Zamfara can be regarded as a death trap as the road is in a very deplorable state. There was also the presence of casual labourers along the roads trying to make the road motorable. Zamfara-Sokoto road is in fair condition with some potholes observed. The Sokoto-Argungu-Kebbi road is in very good condition. Kano-Wudil road is in very good condition. However, potholes characterized the Wudil-Kwanahukuma stretch. A construction work was being carried out at the Lamba-Kuchni-Kazaure road. There were also two rehabilitation works going on at the Kankia-Dutsinma-Safana-Batsari-Katsina road and the Malunfashi-Dabai-Dayi-Bakori road, while special maintenance work was being carried out on the Kano-Kaduna road.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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