Nigeria: The Highway of Death

15 April 2021

The Abuja-Lokoja expressway is a national embarrassment

The Abuja-Lokoja highway is about the most strategic road in the country that enables the ease of movement of commuters and goods across the original three geo-political zones of north, west and east. It is also a nodal highway that connects the nation's capital with several towns, communities, and states in the southern parts of the country. Sadly, this road has become a death trap for many commuters because of the high turnover of accidents on it. The cause of this high accident rates is attributed to its deplorable condition. "Lokoja/Abuja highway is a shame to the country; 15 years after, the construction a 200-kilometre road is yet to be completed," said the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president, Samson Ayokunle, recently in Lokoja.

We agree with Ayokunle that the apparent laxity by the federal authority in ensuring the timely delivery of the road is a national embarrassment. We are even more concerned that the highway has become one of the most dangerous tracks to ply in the country. Drivers and commuters always feel extremely fearful and anxious whenever they navigate the road. This grim feeling is because many portions on that road have failed - either collapsed or are ridden with potholes. The bad portions only heighten the risk of accidents whenever any of the several rickety fuel-laden trucks that struggle for space on the road loses control and rams into other vehicles.

As the daily death toll continues to rise, people who inhabit communities along the road have been reduced to emergency undertakers occasioned by the many impromptu burials they accord recovered corpses from road carnage. On annual basis, no fewer than 100 lives are lost on the busy highway whose contract was signed in 2006 while many more have been injured. No fewer than 20 persons, including students of Kogi State Polytechnic, were recently burnt to death when a bus they were travelling in was involved in an accident.

As a result of these accidents, travelling on the road has become an anathema. Besides, the bad state of the road has literally made it a den for robbers and kidnappers, who waylay innocent passengers at any time of the day to carry out their nefarious activities. It amounts to sheer negligence on the part of the federal authority as many lives are being wasted on regular basis simply because it is taking decades to complete an important road.

Indeed, driving on Nigeria's approximately 200,183 kilometres road network can be risky and arduous as large swathes of the road tracks have broken down and are ridden with potholes due to neglect over the years. It is therefore no surprise that Nigeria is reputed as one of the countries with very high road fatalities in the world. Apart from the highway being littered with craters, driving at night is comparable to walking through a dark alley because of lack of street lights. We urge the authorities to fulfil their constitutional and civil duty to the public by fixing many of the federal roads to mitigate the distressing harvest of deaths.

In the specific case of the Abuja - Lokoja expressway that has been neglected for years, the right thing any responsible government will do is to make the road motorable without further delay.

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