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Home » Development » Port in Profile, Part 2 of 2: Nigeria’s roads and highways

Port in Profile, Part 2 of 2: Nigeria’s roads and highways

Scene of a container related accident on Ojuelegba Underpass, one of the busiest commuter parks in central Lagos.

PortandTerminal.com, June 8, 2019

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the Tin Can Port in Apapa, the port district in Lagos, Nigeria. Apapa has become a no-go area for visitors and hellish for anyone who lives or works there. Getting cargo through it has been described as “traumatic”. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at what lies beyond the port gates for shippers trying to move cargo on Nigeria’s roads and highways

Nigeria

With 203 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. It is made up of more than 250 ethnic groups. Approx. 62% of Nigerians live in poverty

Leaving the port in Lagos

Getting your cargo out of Nigeria’s main ports in Lagos takes time. Containers that were supposed to be cleared in 7 days can often spend 22 days or more just to be cleared. Each is inspected manually prior to being released.

Trucks that want to access the port spend as much as five days on the main road outside the port gates before simply being let in.

We sleep on the road, sometimes we rush to a public toilet to take our bath and defecate during the day. Sometime, in the night, some miscreants and thief will attack us, and once we run away, they sometimes remove the battery of our truck; sometimes they carry our extra tyre away.

Nigerian port trucker

Once your cargo has actually cleared the port and is on the road is when things get really dicey.

Nigeria’s road network

Without a functional railway system, roads are the only real means of movement for people and goods in Nigeria. The country has the largest road network in Africa. Almost all of the roads though are in terrible shape and many of them are the deadly hunting grounds for groups of armed bandits. The WHO estimates that 38,000 thousand people were killed on Nigeria’s roads in 2017.

Since 1999, a whopping N1.4 trillion ($8.5 billion) has reportedly been spent on road construction or maintenance with very little evidence of the money spent.

Alhaji Mustapha Shehuri, Minister Of State For Power, Works And Housing

The Nigerian minister of state for power, works and housing, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, has said that Nigeria needed at least another N3 trillion ($8 billion) to build standard roads across the country. He may be low-balling the real cost though and whether the money would be spent on improving the roads is an open question.

The WHO estimates that 38,000 thousand people were killed on Nigeria’s roads in 2017

Bus owners and the Association of Private Companies of Nigeria have had to increase transport fares by as much as 70 per cent, citing skyrocketing maintenance costs and the terrible road condition in the country.

Highway banditry

The level of lawlessness and banditry on Nigeria’s highways is breathtaking. People are fed up. In parts of the country, armed vigilante groups have formed in a desperate effort to try and protect themselves from the roaming gangs of bandits. In February 59 bandits were killed by a civilian defence force, fed up with the misery being inflicted upon them by the criminals.

The level of lawlessness and banditry on Nigeria’s highways is breathtaking.

In April of this year on one of Nigeria’s critical highways, hundreds of drivers abandoned their vehicles and fled to the woods to hide from gangs of kidnappers who had attacked the highway. Many people taken by the gang remain unaccounted for. Everyone in Lagos knows that it’s not the first time that this has happened on this stretch of the highway and it won’t be it’s last.

The armed robbers came to the bus and robbed the passengers. They also raped the women. Then after two days, we brought another bus to take the passengers. But as the bus came out to continue the journey, the same set of robbers came out again and robbed the second vehicle. My driver rushed to the nearby police station. But the police said they must be given N50,000 if we wanted them to rescue the passengers.

Nigerian bus operator describing a highway attack

If plain old banditry weren’t enough, Nigeria also an ongoing problem with the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram too.

There are reports of Boko Haram beheading truck drivers using chainsaws in the region

Boko Haram, which famously translates to “Western education is forbidden” is active in the northern states of Nigeria. It was Boko Haram that kidnapped 200 school girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria in 2014.

In 2014 Boko Haram kidnapped 200 school girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria.

Boko Haram remains a force on the four-hundred-mile long highway between Kano (northern Nigeria’s largest city) and Maiduguri (the Northeast’s largest city).  There are reports of Boko Haram beheading truck drivers using chainsaws in the region.

Grinding poverty

And finally, Nigeria’s grinding poverty remains a disruptive and deadly force on its roads. Oil truck accidents on Nigerian highways happen frequently – often with deadly consequences. All too frequently impoverished people risk their lives to collect fuel leaking from capsized oil trucks when they burst into flames.

Caution: Video shows the grisly remains of people who were incinerated by a deadly oil truck fire

Corruption and mismanagement

“The state of Nigeria’s roads is a representation of the constant decline and decay of public infrastructure all around Nigeria, irrespective of how important they are to national life. Rather than focus on fixing these crucial infrastructures, the elite have decided on a strategy of insulation and avoidance – insulation in the type of vehicles with which they ply the bad roads and avoidance by flying, even for the shortest distances” (Source: Stratfor, Where Roads Are the Enemy: A Look at the State of Nigeria’s Roads)

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