A typical gridlock on the Minna-Bida road There is hardly any 200 kilometres stretch of a motorable road in Niger State, though the state boasts of the highest number of federal roads estimated at over 3,000 kilometres. Even in this deplorable state, there are still very bad cases, those the media refer to as “red routes”. The condition of the roads, especially from Minna to Bida, has indeed worsened as the rain intensifies with many failed portions emerging. Perhaps, the stretch from Garatu through the Police checkpoint could be said to be the worst section. The failed portions can hardly be termed as potholes, but gullies. Across several kilometres, the tarred surface has peeled off while the shoulders have been virtually eaten up over time. The situation is more hellish whenever it rains as it is difficult to tell how deep a gully is in order to avoid it. An accident truck Then there is the threat now posed by motorists and travellers by the condition of the Gada Sabongida, which had been in the news last three weeks when a portion collapsed following torrential rainfall. The entire area is on Fadama, thereby forcing the water to stagnate throughout the season due to lack of channels that it could flow. Residents said there is supposed to be a long bridge covering the Fadama portion and channelization to disallow water from stagnating and eating up the road. The state government has since finished the damaged portions, but a few days after the repairs, there are signs it may give way again following consistent pressure from heavy-duty vehicles. Deep holes are beginning to re-emerge forcing motorists to take turns to avoid getting stuck. From Sabonginda to Bida the road is relatively smooth with fewer portholes but the congestion around toll gate and Ciriko areas largely by heavy-duty drivers has led to many avoidable accidents with consequent loss of lives, while also stalling the flow of traffic. Travellers and motorists seek urgent action Many road users who spoke to our correspondent, decried the state of the road and all other ones across the state. Malam Mohammed Kolo, a public affairs analyst, said the cost of plying the road by motorists is high. “Vehicles breakdown incessantly on the road because of the very bad shape it is now. It has made so many people abandon their private vehicles to save the cost of fixing them after each trip,” he observed. He also stated that its deplorable state has led to the loss of many lives. “This is as a result of attempts by drivers to dodge potholes or avoid bad portions while driving, “ he said, adding, “sometimes collision cost entire lives in both vehicles.” Also, Hamza Waziri, a journalist, said the state of the road has led to waste of man hours with people spending longer time than they are ordinarily supposed to. According to him, a trip from Minna to Bida which used to be about 50 minutes is now almost two hours. “I used to go every two weeks to see my aged mother, but now, I have reduced it to once in a month. In fact, she has even asked me not to take the risk of going frequently, but, rather make regular phone calls,” he explained. On his part, Bala Zaki, a Bida indigene who was caught in the long traffic on the road, while visiting from Abuja said his friend got stranded on the road a day earlier after two his tyres were damaged. He called on the state government to declare an emergency on the road, while also appealing to the federal government to expedite action on the repair of Bida-Lapai-Lambata road to decongest the Minna-Bida road. But the state government said it has been intervening to make the road motorable. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructural Development, Engr. Abubakar Balarabe, disclosed that the current administration has spent over N400 million on its rehabilitation. He said while some sections of the road fail yearly due to excessive rainfall, most parts failed because of heavy-duty trucks and tankers that unabatedly ply the road. Daily Trust Saturday reports that the initial earthworks on the 84 kilometres road were carried in two stretches-Minna-Kataregi and Kataregi-Bida. The Minna-Kataregi, it was learnt, was handled by Albishir Construction Company, while the Kataregi-Bida section was undertaken by PW Nig Limited. However, since its construction, the deterioration has been more on the Minna-Kataregi end. Experts attributed the constant deterioration of the section to the failure of the underlying layers. They also faulted the “misapplication” of the project management principles in the design, construction, as well as management of the section. They pointed out that pavement evaluation using the required technology should have been applied, instead of resorting to visual inspection and observation with poor outcome. They equally observed that although the road was designed and constructed with Trunk ‘B’ characteristics, it nonetheless carries Trunk ‘A’ responsibilities with vehicles bearing loads well above its capacity plying it daily. This resulted in many failed portions, reducing the residual life of the road to zero levels. Triacta Nig Limited was engaged in 2004 for the complete reconstruction with the work delivered a year later. However, failure began to emerge a few years later with increasing traffic flow. An effort was made again in 2010 to do a wider assessment of the condition of the road whereby failed spots were enumerated including their dimensions. Since then, interventions have come in the form of rehabilitation, which also failed a few weeks after such efforts. The situation worsened following inaccessibility of all the federal roads which have hitherto provided the alternatives to road users. The Lambata -Lapai-Bida and Mokwa-Bokani- Tegina roads have collapsed, while Tegina -Birinin Gwari-Kaduna also in the deplorable condition is being avoided due to the activities of bandits. The permanent secretary agreed that total reconstruction is required as the road has outlived its lifespan but said the scope of work contemplated is capital intensive and beyond the funding capacity of the state government. Daily Trust Saturday recalls that to adequately fund the project, the state government had reached out to the Islamic Development Bank for a $180 million credit facility for its dualization. The permanent secretary said the state government is taking advantage of the window provided by the federal government’s approval of its request for a credit facility to the tune of $266 million for the project. “It arose from the initial consent note that was approved for the project,” he explained, adding that the federal government, in turn, forwarded the request to the National Assembly for inclusion in the national borrowing plan. According to him, the proposed work would also include two flyovers on Minna and Bida axis respectively, with two major bridges as well as smaller ones. He said the road will be tolled with facilities such as shopping arcade, parks, medical services and security post, adding that the government is expected to recoup part of the contract sum from the heavy vehicular traffic on the road. He said the payment plan for the loan is 25 years, while the construction period is 24-30 months. He expressed optimism that the reconstruction would commence early next year with the state government and the bank’s representatives putting finishing touches to the processes regarding the loan. Heavy duty vehicles as culprits Many respondents decried the indiscriminate parking by tankers and other heavy duty vehicles and their menace along the routes across the state while blaming them for partly responsible for the deteriorating condition of the roads in the state. They pointed out that since the heavy duty trucks are “necessary evil” it becomes imperative for the federal government to adequately fund the reconstruction of its own roads across the state while compelling them to carry the required haulage. “We are confronted with a situation where heavy duty trucks that are supposed to carry about 30-40 tons ply our roads with more than double the required tonnes. This is the reason why our roads don’t last,” he lamented. He said to check the menace, the state government is contemplating deployment on its own roads in order to regulate the tonnage carried by heavy-duty trucks. Respondents also urged the state government to build heavy duty truck parks across major roads in other to check indiscriminate parking along the road. They also called on the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), police and VIO to deploy their men to highways in order to check overloading, indiscriminate parking and other acts of recklessness by heavy duty truck drivers.