As the Federal Government plans to reintroduce tollgates on highways in Nigeria, expectation is high among the citizens that road infrastructure will come back to life for safety and good driving experience. Recently, the government launched what it called Highways Development and Management Initiative (HDMI) whose objective is to attract significant and sustainable investment and funding in the development of road infrastructure in Nigeria.
It is expected that the HDMI would maximise the use of assets along the right-of-way and develop other highway furniture, which encompasses all roadside objects used for safety and traffic control such as signage and other road assets like earthworks, drainage, and culverts. “Our targets are to develop an ecosystem along the federal highway network by bringing multi-dimensional resources of skills, finance, technology and efficiency into national highway governance,” Babatunde Fashola, minister for works and housing, states.
Adedapo Kuti, director, federal highways, South West Zone, says Nigeria has a total of 200,000 kilometres of road network, which is a little above Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) estimates of 195,000 kilometres. Out of this number, 32,000 kilometres are federal roads and 31,000 kilometres are state roads. In total, only about 60,000 kilometres are paved, leaving 135,000 kilometres untarred and therefore in deplorable condition, and often not motorable.
“FERMA is grossly underfunded. If you look at their appropriation in the last five years, you see between N30 billion and N35 billion given to them in a year and when government does that, most times, they don’t fund the budget. The implication of poor road funding is the collapse of many roads, especially those belonging to the Federal Government. The roads are not only slowing trade and commerce, but also claiming lives on daily basis, with combined negative impact on the economy.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s plan to concession the highways and return the tollgates under HDMI has, therefore, been welcomed and commended by a cross section of professionals and stakeholders, though not without reservations.
The highways for concessioning include the Benin-Asaba, Abuja-Lokoja, Kano-Katsina, Onitsha-Owerri, Shagamu-Benin and Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga. Others are the Kano-Shuari, Potiskum-Damaturu, Lokoja-Benin, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Ilorin-Jebba, Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta, and the Lagos-Badagry-Seme Border highways, which have a combined length of 1,963 kilometres.