Recently, truck drivers who regularly ply the Kwara/Mokwa/Bida/Lambata road blocked the route to all forms of road transportation in demand for the federal government to repair that road. Their seven-day action, although sabotaged economic activities to a great extent, was hailed as well-deserved, in the opinion of many who feel that road has been neglected for too long. And the take is, depending on the ultimate upshot of their action, a new culture to arm-twist the federal government to do its work may be evolving. Truck drivers’ rebellion might be an example to emulate in the future.
As a matter of fact, the federal government has already started making some concessions to the demand of the drivers. And their demand is appropriate, “make the roads pliable!”
The drivers had blocked the road in protest of the Niger State Government blocking the Bida/Minna road, which had been closed to articulated vehicles owing to construction work. That road had been used as an alternative route because the Kwara/Bida/Lambata Lapai road, which is the main road linking the Southwest to the North has become virtually impassable. And lip service has been paid over the years regarding that road.
For example, since 2018, when N33 billion was allocated by the federal government to rebuild the road, virtually nothing has been achieved, as the condition has only worsened since then with every rainy season.
The economic importance of that road cannot be overstated. A large swathe of the north, which depends on the ports of Lagos depends on that road to convey manufactured and imported goods to end-users. On the other hand, the Southwest depends on the road to receive agricultural products from parts of the north, which depend on that road. There can be no gainsaying the fact that the road condition has contributed to the rising cost of food, since perishable foods that should be conveyed over a 24 hour period from north to southwest take days and get wasted, to the loss of farmers and the larger economy.
A highway network can be likened to the human cardiovascular system. Good pavement and minimal construction zones keep a local economy moving, healthy, and growing, but potholes and slow-moving construction projects are like plaque – they render regional commerce sclerotic.
When interstate highways are pockmarked by rough, vehicle-ruining roads, it takes longer to deliver goods in and out of the region. Delivery vehicles will be damaged more often (flat tires, bent tire rims, broken axles, etc.) and need more repairs.
Labour and fuel costs increase when traffic moves slowly, due, simply too bad conditions, or lane closures during extended resurfacing projects – causing drivers, their goods, and passengers to endure more time per trip.
The same applies to municipalities. When bad streets are all that connect consumers to a shopping center, the options to shop online, in stores elsewhere, or not at all become much more attractive. The online alternative might come with a higher price if parcel delivery services begin to tally and charge for the added costs of delivering in specific areas. But especially regrettable is the billions of man-hours lost in traffic, most notably in cities like Lagos, largely due to potholes.
Many intra and interstate travelers can identify with the above scenarios. With the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the populace such as loss of jobs, salaries slash, to name a few, coupled with the increase in the prices of fuel and electricity, improving the pliability of the country’s roads is a veritable and the most impactful moves the federal and state governments can make to assuage the pains of the masses.
A regular user of that road, Aliyu Usman says if the roads were in good condition there would be reduced incidences of banditry, kidnapping, and other criminal acts. He observed that such criminal activities occur at bad spots where vehicles must slow down due to bad spots on the road.
One important take from the saga is that the blockade by the truck drivers was only called off after the state government shifted grounds to allow the trucks to use the Minna-Bida Road, which happens to be an interim arrangement to allow the federal government to mobilize contractors to site to recondition the road, at least in phases.
The success of the truck drivers’ rebellion to the arm-twist government to do the needful may embolden road users suffering similar menace in other parts of the country to do the needful: ‘fix the roads’.