4 August 2012

Nigeria: Poor Road Maintenance Culture


Ever experienced what it feels like to be tossed by the waves? Okey try driving along Olusegun Obasanjo Way- a stretch of road from Zone Four through Zone Seven, or Michael Okpara road at Zone Five.

Abuja as a city was created in February 1976, and many of its roads were built alongside the city's creation; expectedly, owing to natural laws of wear and tear, many of these roads are fast showing signs of crack, thus implying that they are long due for maintenance.

It is a sad fact that Nigeria is good at buying and building infrastructure and various equipment, but poor at sustaining a maintenance culture. Instead of maintaining infrastructure when necessary, the government either buys or build new ones or waits until the damage is complete and the people are made to suffer, cry before remedy is done.

Which is better? To spend less in maintenance as and when it is due or to empty the nation's coffers when it gets bad? The old saying of "Penny wise pound foolish" is perhaps opt in this case.

Take the case of the Bwari/Ushafa road. This one time trunk 'B' road has slowly eroded and is now abandoned. There is also an almost completed customary court being built on the same road which has left potholes and patches of left over asphalt.

Eliozu, a male trader who lives nearby, complained of the discomfort the road brings to residents. They cannot drive freely on this road and have to be careful not to run over pedestrians, who are also trying to avoid bad spots by not walking on the right side of the road or by its side. Both drivers and pedestrians now face delays, every day, as they try to avoid the obstacles.

These trunk 'B' roads - which are sub expressways that open into a main expressway - is built using low quality asphalt compared with the main expressways, and this naturally reduces their life-span to twenty years, a construction engineer with one of the construction firms in Abuja volunteered.

The Olusegun Obasanjo way is another trunk 'B' road, which was built to carry non-heavy duty vehicles and fewer vehicular traffic than what it is currently carrying, bearing in mind that when it was built, there were no NNPC mega station, NAFDAC or Road Safety offices nearby. On the Melford Okilo road, the PDP secretariat and other high rise buildings which have sprung up nearby attracts a lot of traffic, and busy commercial offices like the Abuja Capital Motors LTD and beverage factories like Coca Cola also bring heavy vehicles to Leventis Close.

On the Bwari/Ushafa road, there is the FCDA Pipeline, the Sarplast West Africa Limited signboard, the Customary Court and some churches, and presently, it still carries travellers who want to avoid the traffic at Dutse Express and Dutse second gate from Kaduna.

Today, besides these buildings that attract heavy traffic to the roads, there is also the larger population living in the city than at the inception of the roads over thirty years ago who patronise the road. The government, Abuja city watchers have advised, should commend the original road builders because people are able to use them long after their expiration date.

A typical danger to lives and property is the Olusegun Obasanjo road, where the bridge that carries the NNPC mega station's tankers to and fro also has a crack and pothole, leaving its users at great risk.

This road has three kilometres of very uncomfortable driving - featuring alligator cracks and potholes caused by unmaintained drainages, poor sub-surface conditions as a result of rain water and heavy traffic.

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