In a landscape dotted with potholes, traffic jams and poverty, Nigeria’s economy is being held hostage by the country’s lack of proper infrastructure. For more than two decades, academics, politicians and business leaders have pointed to a failing, almost non-existent transport system and blamed it for hampering economic growth and impacting on every-day life and health. However, tangible change has yet to be delivered. Extensive research has honed in on districts of Lagos and labelled existing transport networks as inefficient and in need of major investment.
Nigeria boasts at least 120,000 miles of road. However, poor management and heavy traffic has left the federal network in a state of serious disrepair. Some, but not all, of the roads are paved, although most littered with potholes. Thousands of miles are only covered in gravel and as many as 32,000 miles are still little more than dirt tracks.
The impact of poor infrastructure on urban households is so great that public participation is being encouraged to prompt change. In a report, written by Austin Otebulu, of Lagos University, it is stated that inadequate road maintenance, air pollution and accidents are costing people not just money but their health too. More than 1,000 households in the Lagos State districts of Alimosho, Apapa, Eti-osa, Ikeja, Kosofe, Mushin, Shomolu and Surulere participated in a survey for the university.
Delays cause loss of productivity
As well as identifying areas with no real infrastructure, the study also examined the efficiency of existing road networks. Participants said the poor state of roads was causing delays of up to 60 minutes on commuter journeys. The university said this pointed to lost productivity as well as an increase in air pollution and damage to vehicles that overheat in traffic jams. Add to this the financial cost of damage to vehicles and fuel and it is not hard to understand the scale of the problem.
Nigerians are trapped in a cycle of poverty and poor health as a result of bad roads.
The study, which concluded some Nigerians are willing to pay for an improved transport system, points out reforms will not happen unless an efficient regulatory system is put in place to look after the interests of consumers. It says, regulation is vital to monitor the output of infrastructure providers and those who maintain networks.
Lack of infrastructure aggravates unemployment levels
As far back as 2013, Obafemi Hamzat, who was the Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, admitted that poor infrastructure was the biggest cause of a stagnating economy. He made the comment while addressing members of the youth movement Think Oyo. In a lecture entitled ‘Infrastructure: Ingredient for Development’, Mr Hamzat said poor infrastructure was aggravating the country’s unemployment problem. He said proportionally developed infrastructure could end Nigeria’s ‘embarrassing predicament.
Mr Hamzat said families were in crisis because of the lack of proper roads. He issued a challenge for the Southwest of Nigeria to lead change.
Infrastructure: the future
As well as better roads, walkways and cycle paths, railways are increasingly talked about. However, it will take the will of the people to convince those in power to make real progress and deliver a transport system that will transform Nigeria’s fortunes. Better infrastructure will increase productivity, improve health, keep families together and improve water supplies and sanitation.
Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest economies and and needs nurturing to ensure it meets its full potential on the worldwide stage. Delivering a much improved transport system remains its number one priority and biggest challenge.