With the year 2024 rainy season at hand, concerns are mounting about the state of the country’s roads and the impact that torrents of rain can have on them. Of particular interest are the Federal Government’s 17,000 kilometres of trunk roads which facilitate the movement of commuters and goods, especially food, for trade and commerce across the country. The rains come with anticipation of flooding, erosion, visibility challenges and more.

The attendant consequences include, among others, impeded human and vehicular movement, extended travel times and the resultant loss of valuable man-hours, damage and depreciation to goods, reduced industrial and other productivity on account of lateness of raw materials and other input to site, heightened wear and tear on vehicles and physical stress on drivers, commuters and livestock, and accidents, some culminating in the loss of lives and limbs.

There are also the dangers and losses arising from heightened security risks as criminals take advantage of rain conditions to prey on hapless victims.

Thankfully, between late 2023 and the early weeks of 2024, the Federal Government kicked off the rehabilitation of some of the largely deplorable network of federal highways linking Nigeria’s 36 states and Abuja.

In November last year, Minister of Works, David Umahi, after a meeting with President Tinubu in Abuja, told journalists that the President had approved more than 260 road repairs across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to the tune of N217 billion.

Among the projects Umahi had mentioned were the resurfacing of the Third Mainland Bridge, construction of Lekki Deep Seaport Road, reconstruction of two collapsed bridges in Enugu, Benin-Sapele Road, reconstruction of two locations on the Onitsha-Owerri Road, upgrading of the Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia Road, and dualisation of the Lafia by-pass.

Umahi had also inaugurated a committee in the Niger Delta to monitor the reconstruction of the Benin-Warri Dual Carriageway (Section I, II and III) and dualisation of East-West Road Section III: Port Harcourt (Eleme Junction) Onne Port Junction Road in Rivers.

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The minister had also said that road contracts would thenceforth be fragmented and issued to many more companies and that more concrete would be added to the mix to ensure better quality, guarantee project completion and the meeting of project deadlines.

Some state governors had ventured into the rehabilitation of particularly bad sections of federal roads traversing their states to facilitate the movement of commuters and the haulage of goods.

Government’s road construction projects are coming side by side a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) scheme which undertakes to prioritise the use of cheaper CNG fuel, as against petrol, to drive much of the country’s commercial transportation vehicles, so as to lower transport cost. Thus, the prospect is of smoother, less cumbersome roads to navigate, resulting in reduced cost, as well as cheaper fuels.

Umahi, a former governor of Ebonyi State, is a qualified civil engineer and comes with a track record of good work in the private and public sectors.

There have been reports of the kick-off of quite a number of the projects listed and further reports of supervision by the minister down the line thereafter.

A summary of work done on road rehabilitation leading up to the onset of the rains and activities going forward would provide some encouragement for prospects of trade, commerce and business, particularly as regards food supplies and prices which are of particular concern at this time.