1st June, 2010
We will not stop to draw the attention of the people in government to the deplorable state of Nigerian roads until the federal and state governments muster enough courage to fix them.
As long as these highways remain the eyesore and death traps they are, many lives will continue to be wasted due to avoidable accidents. The latest incident has to do with the death of Nigeriaâ€™s foremost golf player, Ali Abudullahi. He along with two other golfers were on their way to Niger State recently when their car ran into a deep pothole and crashed, killing the three occupants of the car on the spot.
The hapless victims were going to participate in the Tradoc Pro and Amateur (Pro-AM) Golf Tournament when they died in the crash. Two female occupants of a Peugeot car travelling in opposite direction were lucky as they escaped death. Abdullahiâ€™s car rammed into the Peugeot car after bumping into the pothole.
The death of Abdullahi, the nationâ€™s number one golfer, has depleted the nationâ€™s array of stars. It has swelled the long list of lives that are lost daily on the nationâ€™s bad roads. Last Sunday, at least 20 people died in an auto crash at the Obosi end of the Onitsha/Owerri road. The accident involved a truck and four other vehicles and it occurred at a police checkpoint. Police checkpoints on the highways have also become death traps for travellers because of the manner the men in black stop vehicles. The blood of Nigerians who die on these bad roads will be on the hands of corrupt public office holders and contractors who have collected billions of naira and refused to fix the roads. Most of the works ministers since 1999 cannot account for the billions allocated for the rehabilitation of the nationâ€™s roads.
The elite who usually travel by air believe that it is only the so-called common people that use these bad roads and should be left to suffer. However, sometimes, circumstances compel these big men to travel by road and they also feel the pain the common people go through daily on these roads. The story has been told about how former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, was trapped in the traffic on the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway for hours because of the bad state of the road. While he was in power, he did not ensure that the roads were rehabilitated even though he awarded contracts worth billions of naira to repair major highways across the country. The bulk of the money, of course, went into the pockets of few corrupt individuals.
The nationâ€™s leaders merely pay lip service to issues, like providing good roads, that are germane to the peopleâ€™s safety and wellbeing. It does not matter to them whether people die daily on the roads. That is why roads in the South-South, South-West and South-East geopolitical zones are some of the worst in the country, with the attendantÂ death of travellers on these roads that were constructed more than forty years ago. In the South-West, the ever busy Lagos-Ibadan expressway is now a major death trap with so many dangerous potholes dotting the entire stretch.
The Niger bridge in Onitsha is under severe strain due to the volume of traffic on it. The bridge creaks during peak period and experts have warned that it could collapse soon if a second, sturdy bridge is not constructed to ease traffic on the existing one. However, the need to construct a second bridge across the River Niger has been politicised over the years, in spite of the fact that the existing Niger bridge is a vital link between the West, the East and Northern parts of the country.
The nation will continue to lose precious lives as long as those in government do nothing about our bad roads. But their loved ones could also be victims one day.