Road transport is the oldest mode of transportation that still plays an important role to the modern economy. In fact, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, road transport contributes not less than ninety percent (90%) to the GDP from transport-related activities.
Its accessibility and flexibility coupled with mass production of automobile by different manufacturers make the road transportation paramount in our daily activities hence the need for road management in our society becomes inevitable. The problems of road transport are more than building the highways. For instance, in 1990 Nigeria had over one hundred and eight thousand (108,000) km surface road net work, which is the highest road net work in West Africa and second in sub Sahara region. Currently, road net work in Nigeria is more than one hundred and ninety four thousand (194,000) km.
Despite, the high numbers of road net work, the road users still encounter different traffic problems virtually every day. According to Federal Ministry of Works and Housing (FMW&H), the annual loss due to bad road is valued to eight (8) billion naira, while operating cost resulting from bad roads is valued at N53.8 billion.
Road net work is not the road problem in Nigeria.
At this point, it is important to note that, some of the traffic problems encountered on our highways generally come as a result of deplorable condition of the road and not the road net work itself. These problems were however, worsened by lack of good maintenance of the existing transport facilities. For instance, let us imagine an over loading lorry abandoned its track in a bid to evade one pot hole or the other on highway may pose a serious danger to other road users.
Furthermore, statistics available at Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in 2009 shows, that 8 out of every accident were caused by pot-holes in Nigeria. This is a clear point of poor road maintenance which shows that we lack good road management structure.
The incorrect conception of a good road
In Nigeria, to have good roads to average road users simply means construction of new roads and building of highways which may not even stand the test of time due to poor construction while the contractors make huge amount of money from such contracts. This is the basis of poor road infrastructure which cut across all level of governments. What a misconception indeed!
Importance of Road maintenance
Meanwhile, the objectives of the federal road development project in Nigeria are: “ To reduce passenger travel times; vehicle operating cost and traffic related facilities or targeted federal roads and assist federal government of Nigeria to manage Nigeria Federal road assets in sustainable manner” However, as important the objectives are they can never be achieved by building roads and highways alone. It calls for proper maintenance and management of existing national highways or roads. The basic objective of road maintenance is to ensure that the road is constructed or made to maintain its original condition throughout its designed life. Road maintenance is intended to slow down the road deterioration and it should begin on the first day after the roads construction or improvement works are completed. Road maintenance is important in the following ways:
- It prolongs the life of the road by reducing the rate of deterioration thereby, safe guarding previous investments in construction and rehabilitation of the road.
- It lowers the cost of operating vehicles on the roads by providing a smooth running surface.
- It keeps the roads open for traffic and contributes to more reliable transport services.
- It sustains social and economic benefits.
- It reduces the accident rate if the road users are safety conscious.
The effect of regular and timely maintenance is to increase the life span of the road by putting off the date at which it needs to be re-constructed. This will provide a higher rate of return on the initial investment. However, it can be argued that the construction of any road that consumes a large amount of money as the case always is in Nigeria is of limited importance, if there is no effective maintenance afterwards.
The problem of inadequate funding and untimely maintenance of road infrastructure in Nigeria has been a great concern to me and other road users, although, much efforts have been made in road construction in different state, local and federal levels by governments while proper maintenance of the road itself has lagged behind.
Factors responsible for poor road infrastructure
Road management as it were, in real sense, involve all factors needed for a good road infrastructure which include, adequate funding, good construction, adequate safety, good research, good maintenance culture, trained traffic officials, capable authorities and agencies such as FERMA, VIO, FRSC etc at federal level, LASTMA, TIMARIV, OYTMA, etc at state level.
Besides, some of our roads are plagued by numbers of problems which include faulty engineering designs, inadequate drainage system, poor maintenance culture to mention but a few. In addition, over loading vehicles and heavy duty vehicles often cause premature road deterioration on our roads. All these problems have resorted in littered pot-holes, washing away of pavement, and collapse of bridges and so on, in some of Nigeria roads.
Major solution to poor road infrastructure
To put a stop to these problems, awaiting new road contract is not in enough, while the existing roads are deteriorating virtually every day with little or no maintenance. Enough effort should be made by the government at all levels, private individuals and agencies concerned to ensure proper maintenance of roads.
It is a known fact that lack of access is a key determinant of poverty. Without access communities will face greater obstacles in obtaining health, education and other social services. In addition, ability to take advantage of surplus agric produce in the rural areas and employment opportunities will be severely constrained, if there’s no better access. Therefore, roads are the key element in provision of physical access. Hence, the benefits of building roads are short-lived, if the roads are not maintained.
However, when a new contract is awarded to a contractor, patriotic qualified engineers from the side of the government should monitor and ensure that the road construction is made according to the specification in the contract agreement. By this, building a good road that will stand the test of time with good maintenance culture would go a long way to reducing accident rate, lowering vehicle operating cost and sustaining social and economic activities in our society.