There are around 35, 000 kilometres of federal roads across the country. Of these, statistics shows that Niger State has the longest, covering about 1,437 kilometres and spreading across 15 of the 25 local government areas of the state.
Ordinarily, this road network is expected to boost the economy of the state but the opposite is the case.
Reason: No fewer than1, 115 kilometres or 80% of the roads, according to informed sources, are in a deplorable condition.
The roads include Jebba-Mokwa-Bida-Minna Road, Jebba–Mokwa-Bokani-Tegina-Kagara Road connecting Birin Gwari-Kaduna Road, Rijau Road linking Zuru in Kebbi State, Katcha –Baro- Agaie –Lapai-Lambata-Suleja Road and Rofia-Swete-Segema Road.
Others are Wawa-Kaima Road, Auna-New Bussa Road, Sarkin Pawa-Kaduna Road and Pandogari Gurmana-Allawa Road.
There are also Bida-Lapai-Agaie Road, Bida-Minna Road and Minna-Suleja Road. Some of the highways link the South with the North. Interestingly, most of the agricultural produce the North boasts of is conveyed to the South through these roads.
The roads, according to Sunday Vanguard investigation, are designed for trucks with a maximum of 30 tons of goods but this important aspect of our highway rules is merely on paper as trucks and fuel tankers carry not less than 70 tons of goods which is adversely affecting the roads.
For instance, it was reported that a group of armed robbers, numbering about 20, some weeks ago, held motorists travelling along Mokwa -Tegina -Makera- Kaduna Road hostage for several hours, using the bad spots on the highway to carry out their nefarious activity. Also badly hit is the ever busy nine-kilometre Minna- Suleja Road which is the only road that connects the South from Ilorin-Mokwa-Jebba-Bida-Minna to Abuja and the North with over 5,000 vehicles plying the road daily.
As a result, the road has been categorised as among the highways that claimed many lives and property worth millions of Naira in recent times. Jebba-Mokwa-Bokani-Tegina-Kagara Road connecting Birnin Gwari-Kaduna Road has totally collapsed.
Taking advantage of the deplorable state of the road, kidnappers and armed robbers carry out their nefarious activities mostly in daylight unabated.
Despite the presence of the security task force on the road, criminals operate at will. This has forced motorists, particularly fuel truck drivers conveying products from the southern part of the country to the North, to abandon the road.
Also, trucks plying Bida-Agaie-Lapai-Lambata-Suleja Road to link Abuja-Suleja Road are avoiding the road after the total collapse and kidnappers and other criminals began to operate freely.
Bad alternative routes Highways that would have served as alternative routes for trucks and heavy duty vehicles are Wawa-Kaima Road, Auna-New Buddha Road, Sarkin Pawa-Kaduna Road and Pandogari-Gurmana-Allawa roads but they are also dilapidated while criminals seize the opportunity to wreak havoc on travellers.
For now, the only alternative for coming from the South to the North is the Mokwa-Bida-Minna-Lambata-Suleja Road which links Lokoja-Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
The governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, during a Town Hall meeting on insecurity and the deplorable state of federal roads in the state, held at the Justice Legbo Kutigi International Centre, Minna, recently, lamented the neglected highways in the state which, he said, was bringing not only untold hardship on the people but also recording deaths on daily basis.
“The existing roads across the state are designed to take only 30 tons but, now, all the trucks and tankers plying these roads carry not less than 70 tons of goods”, Bello had said.
“No road in Nigeria can take the capacity these trucks are taking. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to implement the laws associated with our highways otherwise we will continue to spend billions of Naira to rehabilitate or reconstruct these roads annually.
“We have spoken with stakeholders severally on the need for trucks to comply with the stipulated capacity of loads they carry but all the roundtable conferences have not yielded any dividend.
“Truck drivers, while behind the steering, feel on top of the world and become so unruly and block the highways at the slightest provocation thereby causing untold hardship to other road users. That is the height of indiscipline I have ever seen”.
The governor pointed out that since other federal highways had been abandoned by road users due to dilapidation, statistics showed that no fewer than 3,000 trucks from the southern part of Nigeria pass through Bida-Minna-Suleja Road to the North everyday with overloaded goods.
He said, “Of the 2, 655 kilometres of federal roads in Niger, the Federal Government has just approved only three to be rehabilitated and I don’t see any impact this can have on motorists plying these roads daily”.
Former Minister of State in the Ministry of Niger Delta during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, Zainab Kutchi, also lamented the deplorable condition of federal roads in the country and called for the declaration of state of emergency on federal roads in Niger. “Almost all the federal roads in the state are bad thereby paving the way for bandits to carry out their nefarious activities on commuters and making life unbearable for residents.
The only way out is for the Federal Government to declare state of emergency on federal roads in the state”, Kutchi said.
On his part, the Chairman, Council of Youth in Niger, Musa Muhammed, said the Federal Government had disappointed the people for not meeting their yearnings especially on security and roads.
Litany of crashes According to figures from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Niger State Command, between January and September this year, no fewer than 147 people have been killed in 361 road traffic crashes in the state traceable to road dilapidation among other factors. 74 of the crashes were recorded as fatal, 265 serious, 22 minor and 915 injured.
The data further shows that the number of road crashes in the first nine months of the year is almost exceeding the number of crashes recorded in 2018 even as the FRSC pointed out that 85 percent of crashes were due to the deplorable condition of the roads across the state.
The statistics shows that in 2018, 479 road traffic crashes occurred out of which 115 were fatal, 326 serious, 40 minor, 1,256 injured and 191 killed.
About one month ago, a tanker loaded with over 40, 000 litres of fuel fell after losing control and exploded at the ever crowded Dikko Junction along the Dikko-Suleja-Minna Road.
Six persons died, 19 injured, dozens of cars burnt and over 35 shops were razed in the incident.
The accident came barely three months after a similar one involving a fuel truck fell at Maje Junction in Suleja, leaving five people dead and over 50 houses razed. A family of five going back to Abuja after a wedding in Minna perished in another accident when their vehicle had a head on collusion with a commercial vehicle that was trying to avoid a pothole on Minna-Suleja Road.
Similarly, six people, including three staff members of National Examinations Council (NECO) returning from an official duty in Kano, perished in an accident involving three vehicles on the road.
As a result of the constant accidents and loss of lives on the road, Niger State government fixed the road and claimed to have spent about N5billion on the road. Bad federal roads may cut off several communities from Nigeria – Okowa(Opens in a new browser tab) But the portion of roads repaired collapsed almost immediately due to what experts claimed was pressure by overloaded trucks.
This forced the state government to come out with a measure restricting the movement of heavy duty vehicles on Bida-Minna-Suleja Road to 7pm-6am. In other words, no truck going to Abuja and far North will be allowed into the road from the Bida end until 7pm to allow rehabilitation work being carried out.
Initially, the order was seen as draconian and motorists fought back but reason later prevailed as those who could not afford to wait till 7pm went back to take Lapai-Agaie-Lambata Road not minding the dilapidation and insecurity while others who had no choice stayed in a long queue along the Bida-Minna end of the road with the military, police, FRSC, Civil Defence and VIO officials keeping vigil and to enforce the order.
The Minna main road, especially the Western Bypass through the College of Education to Chanchaga, has been badly affected too.
No fewer than five trucks have fallen on the highway within the past five months thereby causing panic and gridlock in the area.
Schools located in Chanchaga along the busy road had to close for days due to the regular gridlock, tension and panic every morning on the road. Protest Some youths under the aegis of Coalition of Niger State Civil Society Groups stormed federal roads in the state about two weeks ago and prevented vehicles from coming or going out as they protested against dilapidated roads.
As early as 6am, they barricaded the roads. They carried placards with inscriptions like, ‘President Buhari, come to our rescue’; ‘We are suffering in Niger’; ‘Repair our roads’, among others.
All vehicles coming from the South through Ilorin-Mokwa-Jebba-Bida Road to Minna or from Abuja-Suleja-Lambata-Paiko Road were trapped for several hours.
This led to long queues of vehicles stretching several kilometres. Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Matane, addressed the youths to end their protest promising that their demands would receive government’s attention.
However, the protest resumed on Monday as the youths took to the roads again to disrupt vehicular movement.