Saturday, November 27, 2021
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“Shuffering and Shmiling”

Ahmed Yahaya – Joe

The first tarred road in Nigeria was completed back in 1926. It linked Lagos with Abeokuta yet, here we are in present-day Nigeria where a container is leaning on a tanker.

Federal roads total a mere 35,000 km compared to the 17,000 km and 140,000 km of roads belonging to states and the 774 local government areas.

Currently, only 60,000 km out of this 195,000 km of road network is asphalt tarred.

Asphalt is a composite of aggregates (stones), sand, and bitumen; whereas bitumen is the viscous binding material that holds asphalt together. Asphalt roads if properly constructed are relatively durable; with a layer depth of 25-40 mm. Meanwhile, Bitumen roads are much less durable; with a layer depth of 10-20 mm.

Reinforced concrete roads are however a different ball game with depths ranging from 150mm (6 inches) to 300 mm (12 inches)

Agreed, concrete roads are expensive but why are they still not popular in Nigeria?

We continue to budget for asphalt roads but end up providing bitumen roads. That is why there are so many Lebanese in the business. Consequently, our roads have notoriously short life spans. 

There are two types of bitumen. The natural and the synthetic by-product from crude oil.

Now pay attention, very carefully.

Nigeria has one of the largest deposits of natural bitumen in the world available from the North Central states of Nasarawa, Kogi and Kwara encompassing most of the South West.

Capital investment in exploiting this resource is however very low because it was more easily available from NNPC’s four refineries.

Only that these refineries have been shut for nearly a decade. So, importing bitumen using up scarce foreign exchange is bigger and easier business. Expectedly, this exerts enormous pressure on the Naira yet we turn around and complain the rates are hitting the roof!

Meanwhile, you can’t construct any durable concrete road without well calibrated steel reinforcements (iron rods) specification of which has to be imported because the Ajaokuta Steel plant has been moribund for decades.

The Lebanese compared to Germans are actually small timers in Nigeria.

The 375 km long Kano-Abuja expressway that passes through Zaria and Kaduna was awarded to “Big Blue” for N155 billion. It has since been upwardly reviewed to a magnificent N797 billion to include, “trailer parks, weigh bridges, toll stations and additional side lanes”

Now, compare that with the 1028 km long Lagos-Abidjan expressway that ECOWAS has budgeted N240 billion for.

The Second Niger Bridge is another interesting case study. The project was first mooted by President Shehu Shagari but it was not until the brief era of President Umar Yar’adua that the 6-lane project was awarded for N58.6 billion with a completion date of 3 and a half years.

Tick, tock, tick, tock……..At a town hall meeting on August 30, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan promised that if the bridge was not completed by 2015, he would go into exile.

Perhaps, Ebele meant exile to Otuoke because incoming PMB cancelled the contract and re-awarded it including a 10.3 km long ancilliary road network to the Germans that moved to site on September 1, 2018.

Interestingly, the same “Big Blue” delivered the 1.4 km long Lekki-Ikoyi cable-stayed bridge in May, 2013 to then Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola at a cost of N29 billion. Fashola as minister is now poised to receive the 1.6 km long Second Niger Bridge at N336 billion in February, 2022.

Agreed, terrain is one of the chief factors that disproportionately jacks up construction cost. Additionally, in the South, compensation is a do or die affair.

That is why the 156 km long railway line from Lagos to Ibadan cost $2.5 billion while the ongoing 387 km long Kano-Dutse-Katsina-Maradi standard gauge line is a mere $1.82 billion in comparison.

Notwithstanding, in overall context the high cost of infrastructure delivery in our nation is still, “99 sitting, 99 standing.”



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