BY: DEBO OLADIMEJI

 

The state of roads is a major challenge across the country, as many of them – federal, state and council – remain in poor conditions. DEBO OLADIMEJI, who just returned from a tour of roads in Oyo, Osun and Kwara states, reports on the parlous state of the roads.

IN Nigeria, road is a major index of development. Unfortunately, over the years, the condition of most Nigerian roads has gone from bad to worse in every part of the country, with motorists and commuters spending hours from one location to the other.

Most federal roads are in deplorable conditions, as continuous patchwork by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has failed to solve the problem.

For example, the federal road that stretches from Gbongan in Osun State to Iwo, Awe (Oyo State), and to Ilorin in Kwara State to Lokoja in Kogi State, among others, is in a state of dilapidation.

The horrific gridlock on the road and the scope of accidents recorded in recent times ought to be of concern to the government.

Even when the roads are awarded to contractors, poor quality of work is often part of the reasons the roads remain as bad as ever.

Osun: A Mixed Blessing

IN Osun, the people are still awaiting the federal roads that cut across the state to be fixed, with motorists and the passengers groaning regularly by the bad roads.

Although the Ibadan-Ife road is being repaired by KOPEK Limited, the people are not satisfied with the standard of work being done.

For the traditional ruler of Ikire Kingdom, Oba Olatunde Falabi, Lanbeloye III, it is difficult to understand why most of Nigerian roads presently go bad as soon as they are constructed, when they are meant to have life span and maintenance culture built into the system.

“In those days, our roads used to last. The road that was constructed from Ife to Ijebu-Ode lasted for 40 years. But today, how long do newly constructed roads last?” he asked rhetorically.

He criticised government officials for not being able to institute a culture that ensures that the country’s infrastructure are up to date, as in other climes they often travel to.

“Our leaders, who are fond of travelling abroad, are aware of how good the roads are in some other countries, even in Africa, but they have refused to replicate such good things in Nigeria,” he said.

He called for a probe of the past Ministers of Works and those culpable brought to book for their failures, saying they are responsible for the poor state of Nigerian roads.

Oba Falabi lamented the loss of lives on most of the roads daily due to their deplorable conditions. He regretted the total disconnect between government and the people and appeared to have lost faith in government’s ability to resolve the problem; hence his resort to God for solution.

The monarch was also unhappy with Nigerian contractors, most of whom are politicians-turned contractors jostling for patronage, for poor execution of the contracts.

“Most of the roads in Ikire are bad, because the contractors collected the money to fix the roads and disappeared with it. It is only few contractors that actually know about road construction,” he lamented.

Motorists have bad stories to tell about the roads, especially those plying the Gbongan-Iwo road.

Adebayo Muftaudeen, a commercial driver who plies the road regularly does so with a lot of trepidation, pains and caution, aware of its poor and dangerous state.

However, not everyone plying the route is aware of the bad spots that dot it, hence many of them end up being consumed while trying to avoid the potholes that are covered by muddy water, which has also made it easier for armed robbers to dispossess motorists and commuters of their belongings.

“Armed robbers now cash in on the bad road to attack motorists and passengers. That is why few vehicles now ply the road, which has not seen any major rehabilitation since it was built,” he explained.

Muftaudeen pleaded for the reconstruction of the Osun Bridge that was constructed by the colonial masters, which is gradually collapsing.

The condition of other federal roads in the state is not different, as The Guardian was confronted with many failed and collapsed roads, some resulting in gridlocks and avoidable accidents, as motorists resorted to all sorts of strategies to get to their destinations.

Iwo people, like others, are unhappy with the condition of the roads and lack of federal presence in their locality.

The Oloya of Iwo, Chief Suleiman Ayinla Adiatu, echoed the general feeling of the people of the ancient town:

“Our Dam was constructed in 1952 and needs to be rehabilitated. There are no industries in Iwo, which is why our people are migrating to the urban centres.”

He said by now, Iwo ought to have been a mega city, having the highest population in Osun State from the 2006 census figures.

“But we thank the government for mentioning it in the budget that Iwo-Osogbo road has been awarded to Julius Berger,” he stated, while hoping that it would be executed at the end of the financial year.

The Special Adviser to Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Works and Transport, Oladepo Amudah, acknowledged the bad condition of the roads in the state, but quickly disclosed government’s intention to establish a road maintenance agency in the state.

He assured that the state government was doing its best to bring the situation under control, as the government had just awarded contract for the construction of roads in the state capital to a company called RATCOM.

“Full-scale maintenance work would start at the end of October, when the rain would have subsided for the contractor to commence work,” he added.

He decried the deplorable state of Iwo-Osogbo road and the fact that motorists now have to pass through the old Iwo-Gbagba-Owode road.

“We are also in the process of getting some notable contractors to bid for the reconstruction of Iwo-Osogbo road,” he disclosed, just as he noted that spending a huge amount of money on the maintenance of the road would be akin to double spending.

“That is why we want to put palliative measures in place, like filling the potholes with concrete, rather than asphalt. Our plan is to expand the road to make it a dual carriage road from Osogbo to Iwo and Ibadan,” he stated.

He, however, debunked rumours that the contract for the reconstruction of the road has been awarded to Julius Berger, saying: “We are in the process of awarding it and I cannot really tell you which contractor it will be awarded to.”

Amudah disclosed that many things will be put into consideration before the contract for the road is awarded. “We are going to look at the cost as well, which one is economical. We want to construct a good road, but we are not going to use the whole revenue of the state to construct one single road,” he said.

As for the bad road from Gbongan to Awe, he stressed that it is a federal road and he had already informed the Federal Controller of Works in Osogbo about its terrible condition.

Amudah also explained that other roads in the state would enjoy improvement, as the state government has embarked on the compilation of the roads to ascertain which of them needs rehabilitation or reconstruction, but added that all the works would not be done in one year.

“We are not concentrating our efforts at the centre (Osogbo) alone. We want to make Osogbo to look like the capital, but other parts of the state must be linked with good roads. We are looking at the possibility of rehabilitating a number of the roads next year,” he noted.

The Federal Controller of Works for Osun State, Oluwatoyin Obikoya, who has just resumed duties in the state, disclosed that the Federal Government has awarded Gbongan-Iwo road contract to Ibadan-based KOPEK Construction Company and work is billed to start soon.

Obikoya also revealed that rehabilitation of Ife-Ondo, Ijebu-Igbo roads, among others are in progress, while work is ongoing on Ibadan-Ife road.

He said FERMA is working with the state government to develop the road network in the state, saying: “As far as I am concerned, the Federal Government has not forgotten any road; it is just that maybe work has not yet reached some places with the resources available.”

FERMA, he stated, is already ‘patching’ potholes on the roads, most of which are very old and no road is designed to last forever.

“Twenty-five years is the life-span of most roads, but even a road that has outlived its life span could still be rehabilitated,” he explained.

In Oyo, Food Items Rot In The Rural Areas Due To Bad Roads

LIKE in Osun State, the roads in most parts of Oyo State are bad. From Iwo to Awe and its environs, a lot needs to be done to improve the condition of infrastructure in the area.

Another terrible federal road is the Iwo-Awe Road. A regular commuter, John Kehinde, said:  “The single lane road is full of potholes and motorists from Iwo, Oyo and Awe pass through the road everyday.”

It has become so bad that most motorists now have to divert from Iwo to Ibadan and then to Awe, instead of going straight to Awe or Oyo from Iwo. A journey that should not be more than 30 minutes now takes hours.

Although FERMA is presently carrying out repair work on the road, many motorists and the villagers expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of work being done.

The Guardian discovered that food items like yam and cassava now rot away in the villages, such as in Afijio council due to the poor state of the roads.

The road from Awe to Oke-Odofin is a write-off, while that of the Awe-Amonye-Ife-Odan is a death trap. The Junction-Akinmorin- Oritamerin-Ogbomoso road has not been rehabilitated for more than two decades.

Chief Samuel Babatunde Jewoola, Onsa of Awe, noted that potholes have started sprouting on the road recently constructed by the government from Oyo to Awe.

He disclosed that no major work has been done on Iwo-Awe road since 1982. “What we had was mere resurfacing. We have been completely forgotten here,” he lamented.

Jewoola disclosed that goods from rural areas are now rotting away in the villages because of the bad road.

“The roads to the rural areas are very important, because that is where the food items are produced. The villagers have no access to medical care, because there are no vehicles to take them to hospitals in the towns due to the bad roads,” he said.

Jewoola also stressed that the Odo-Oba Bridge is long over due for reconstruction, saying: “I am over 80 years old and I grew up to meet the bridge like that. You dare not pass on the bridge when it is raining,” he told The Guardian.

The only borehole sunk by Afijio council is insufficient to meet the needs of the people in Awe.

“Awe High School and our Police Station were built through communal efforts before Nigeria’s independence. But with civilisation, everybody is busy.

“We should try and put our destiny in our hands. Even the local government did not help us to repair our palace, but they used to promise us many things every Awe Day,” he recounted.

Mr. Oyetunde Adeosun, an indigene of Awe, said the government repaired the road from Oyo to Awe, but that from Awe to Iwo and other neighbouring communities are in terrible states.

He explained that Awe has no regular power supply, while the Ayekale Bridge has collapsed, leaving canoe as the only means of getting to the village.

“It is one thing for the government to repair the road, but it is another thing for the road to last long,” he said, pointing out that Ajagba, Aba Olori and other communities are now cut off because of the bad road.

“Farmers from Iwo and Oyo are living there. That is one of the reasons the price of foodstuff had gone up in the cities,” he stated.

As a result, the road has become a robbers’ haven with the dare- devil men blocking the road and raiding motorists.

Ayo Ade, a driver lamented the damage being done to vehicles on the road and said it is for that reason that he cannot undertake more than one trip from Awe to Oyo daily.

Kwarans Suffer In The Hands Of Elusive Contractor

FROM Osogbo to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the bad road continues, with gullies everywhere.

Awere Bridge, which is close to the palace of Oba Abdul-Ganiyu Ajibola Ibrahim, Olusokun II (MFR), the Elerin of Erin-Ile, vibrates as if it is about to collapse.

“We used to clear the filth under the bridge, so that it will not pile up and facilitate its collapse. Now that you are here, we are appealing to the Federal Government to reconstruct the road before the bridge caves in,” the monarch pleaded.

Motorists now spend more than 40 minutes to Offa, a journey that should ordinarily take not more than five minutes.

From Erinle to Ajase-Ipo, a distance of about 16 kilometres, takes up to one hour, as motorists have to meander round the bad portions.

In 1990, when the Federal Government awarded the repair contract to KOPEK Nigeria Limited, the contractor insisted that the contract did not include realigning or drainages, but just to rehabilitate the road.

“Do I need to tell the government again that this road is not good and they should fix it?’ Oba Ibrahim queried.

The two-lane federal road that runs through Offa to Ajase-Ipo is horrible, but the Chairman of Offa council, Saheed Popoola, assured that FERMA had awarded its re-construction to a contractor for the past two years, who, though, is working at snail speed.

“It is important for the government to carry the local government along while awarding such contracts, as the councils are in better position to monitor such contracts,” he reasoned.

He described the road as a very important access to the North from the Southwest, since the Ogbomoso-Ibadan road has gone bad.

In the same vein, Oba Sikiru Atanda Sanni Ilufemiloye Woleola II, Olupo of Ajase-Ipo drew a line in the sand to show that the contractor has been evasive.

“We don’t even know the contractor repairing the road. If he works for three-days, the next two months he will not come. As they are patching the road, they are supposed to install street lights to curb the incidence of night robberies, which is now rampant on the road,” he bemoaned.

Even a federal road, like Ilorin to Omu-Aran, which was allegedly fixed by FERMA only recently, is no better. Foluso Ayo Waheed had an accident in Koko, near Ilorin, as the driver of the commercial vehicle he was traveling in fell into a ditch and the vehicle veered into the bush. He is still nursing his wounds.

The Ajase-Ipo-Omu-Aran-Egbe-Lokoja federal highway is now abandoned due to its poor state.

I.D. Ijie, FERMA engineer in Kwara State admitted the terrible state of the road, but added that contract for its repair had been awarded to Zenith Limited.

He cited funding as a major constraint for FERMA, just as he explained that the agency is meant to undertake general maintenance of federal roads and not to reconstruct them.

Ijie attributed the slow pace of work on Ajase-Ipo-Erin-Ile road to the raining season, assuring: “As soon as the rain subsides, the contractor will fire on with the work.”

Commenting on the deplorable state of federal roads, Director General of Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Emeka Eze, lamented that most FERMA contractors do not have the necessary equipment to effectively fix the roads.

“In most of the road projects, maintenance is given to local contractors, most of who don’t have equipment. What some of them do is to sub-contract the work to companies that have the capacity.

“But when our people make money from sub-contractor, rather than use the money to buy equipment, they invest it in building hotels.

“Local contractors must make up their minds whether they are in business to provide services or just to make money,” he stated.

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