by Joyce Mlumun Ikpaahindi,

 

An extensive and reliable road transport network is crucial to manufacturing, retail, a robust agricultural supply chain, and a host of other economic activities. Nigeria has the largest road network in Western Africa and the second largest in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, there are about 193,200 kilometres of paved and unpaved roads linking State and Local Governments to the Federal Road network. Road transportation is also responsible for over 70% of inland passenger and freight movement and accounts for more than 90% of the transportation subsector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (National Bureau of Statistics,2015).

However, this extensive length requires huge spending in terms of construction, maintenance and management. This massive demand has led to budget deficits in the sector and deplorable road conditions across large swathes of the country. Also, whole rural Communities have been cut off from the grid due to collapsed or badly maintained roads and bridges.

In Nigeria, progression in rural areas has historically been hindered by insufficient road networks connecting them to larger towns and cities.This has led to inadequate access to schools and health facilities and decreased social interaction and mobility. A recent EU study shows that a good road system  ‘improves accessibility to job opportunities, aids movement of food surplus, reduces food price variations, improves farming practices and helps the transition from subsistence farming to cash crops and market economy’(European Road Federation,2001). Most agricultural productivity takes place in rural areas and as Nigeria diversifies its economy away from oil to agricultural exportation, not enough attention is being paid to improving road infrastructure in rural communities- a major link in the agricultural value chain.

Nonetheless, the Federal Ministry of Works – the Government Agency responsible for the construction and maintenance of highways –  has announced a short term strategy to remedy the situation by prioritizing for rehabilitation, heavily trafficked roads and those that link states. This strategy aims to connect Federal and State Roads thereby opening up access to rural areas. This might work in the short term; however, a long term solution of extensive construction, rehabilitation and maintenance should be considered to ensure economic benefits are wide-ranging and sustainable.

The Ministry of Works also has a strategy for gender inclusion in Road construction. It has done this by instituting the G-WIN Project which trains 50 professional women in public procurement and 250 rural women in basic techniques on road maintenance. Also, 10% of contracts would be set aside for these selected Women in future Projects. This would help reduce poverty among Women who make up more than 60% of the Nation’s most vulnerable. The G-WIN program is likely to be mainstreamed across all States of the Federation in the near future.

In conclusion, good roads are the economic backbone of the nation. They are a boost for industrialization, rural/urban exchange of services and agriculture commercialization and a contributor to GDP. They create employment opportunities and in developing countries, like Nigeria, are a cheap and affordable means of mobility. Efforts are currently being made for gender inclusion in the road sector with the potential of creating a safety net for some of the most vulnerable in society. Therefore, there is huge potential for road transport to be an important and dynamic part of the Nigerian economy.

 

References

National Bureau of Statistics (2015): Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report, Issue 7 Quarter 3

European Road Federation (2001): ERF’s position on the Socio-economic Benefits of Roads to Society, Position Publication No. 18

about the author –

Senior Civil Engineer- Road Design

Federal Ministry of Works Headquarters,

Abuja, Nigeria