The State of Nigerian roads have been a source of worry to many citizens. When you travel round the country by road you will appreciate the fact that Nigerians who use these roads on a daily basis suffering untold hardship. A few of our roads are in good quality and shape no doubt, but so many are in terrible state of disrepair and even fuelling carnage on our high ways.
One major issue is the fact that most contractors that win the bids for road construction are either not having the professionals in their team to give citizens of the country or a state the right quality of road that should last at least thirty years as obtained in other climes, or they lack the equipments and tools of the trade to give the required quality of work.
Some contractors do not have any equipment, not even a head pan let alone a pale loader, yet they win the bids either because they are close to those in the corridors of power or they belong to a particular secret cult or group. After winning the bids and collecting mobilization fees, they go out to hire almost all equipment from better and more suitable road construction firms in bits and pieces and at the end carry out poor quality job to the dissatisfaction of members of the public and sometimes you wonder what’s amiss.
Nigerians are alarmed at the situation given the over 750billion USD that has accrued to the nation from crude oil alone since it was discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibri in 1956 and later in almost all parts of the Niger Delta. Countries such as Omar, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Venezuela all developed their road networks in all nooks and crannies of their countries with revenue earned from crude oil. But Nigeria’s case is a disaster as much of the oil revenue went to private pockets and sadly, most ended up in secrete jurisdictions outside the country.
In most parts of the country today, travelers are meant to move from one part of the country through poor standard roads, unprofessionally built bridges and culverts which very often fail after few years. There are some that peel off just few days after asphalting. When you find out how much was released to the contractor that built such sub-standard roads, you may be shocked to know that several billions of Naira would have been released for such projects.
It is against this backdrop that one finds the recent resolve by the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki to set up a contact group with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to review road contracts awarded by the state government as laudable.
According to Obaseki, the contact group which will be made up of executive members of COREN, the country’s highest engineering regulatory body, would drive down the cost of constructing roads and ensure quality work is done by contractors. There is no doubt that this initiative is also coming on the heels of the anti-corruption stance of the Godwin Obaseki’s administration in the state and the hunger to give the citizens quality roads that would be durable and last many years beyond the life span of his government.
This was during a courtesy visit by the executive members of COREN in Government House, led by the Chief Inspector of the Benin Engineering Regulatory Inspectorate, Engr. Dr. Victor Obanor. It is worrisome as expressed by the governor the tendency for contractors to inflate the cost of road construction when the materials are available within the country.
Whereas Governor Obaseki believes the partnership with COREN was imperative and essential towards reducing the cost of construction, especially roads, it is my firm conviction that Edo Government’s partnering COREN would provide a technical solution direly needed not just to deliver cost-effective and durable infrastructure, but at the same time bearing in mind the current state of affairs the country’s economy which is in recession.
It is always heartwarming to be reassured by the Governor of his administration’s high premium on transparency and accountability which would ensure there is real value for every tax payer’s money spent to fund projects in the state. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is important to emphasize that the state would need the collaboration of COREN in manpower development in order to boost the capacity of workers in the state, especially engineers.
It amounts to stating the obvious that the state government under Governor Godwin Obaseki has been doing excellently well in the area of road construction and rehabilitation. He has constructed several roads in all parts of the state which has led to some quick wins for his government in the hearts of all Edo people within a short period of time, a development that has has earned him the alias, “wake and see Governor”.
Interestingly too, just as the executive arm of government was preparing the right ground to work with COREN in effective road projects delivery to Edo people, the second arm of government, the Edo State House of Assembly under a new leadership of Rt. Hon. Kabiru Adjoto adopted a resolution calling on the State Controller of Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), to appear before the Parliament to brief the people of the State on plans for the rehabilitation of the Benin-Agbor road which passes through Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the State on a date to be communicated by the House.
The resolution also urged the State Ministry of Works through the Edo State Rapid response Agency to, as a matter of urgency, carry out repairs on the failed portions of the Evbuobanosa-Oza-Igbanke with emphasis on the only connecting bridge on the road before it collapses completely.
It is also important that the Edo State House of Assembly draw the attention of the Federal Government to the worsening condition of the Benin -Auchi -Okene Road which is now a big nightmare to its users. The quantity of trailers and other heavy duty trucks plying the failing road has made the matter worse in such a way that passengers now spend days on the road for a journey that should not last more than two and a half hours.
I am of the firm view that the rehabilitation of these roads are urgently needed as it will go a long way in ameliorating the untold hardship and sufferings our people go through on a daily basis on these routes. Also, the rehabilitation of these roads and bridges would ease the evacuation of food and cash crops from the interior communities to the respective urban markets of Ekpoma, Uromi, Benin, Lagos and Abuja and it will be a win, win for both government and the citizens.
• Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.