Cheta Nwanze: Nigeria’s economic recovery is inextricably tied to her highways

by Cheta Nwanze

The picture below was taken at Opoji Junction, Ekpoma. This morning. The location is roughly 800m from the Esan LGA secretariat. Along Nigeria’s A2.

I travel a lot in my line of work. So I know a little about Nigeria’s highways. The major highways, South to North, are the A1, A2, A3 and A4.

The A1 starts, effectively, at Ojota, you know that point where Ikorodu road splits. The A1 then continues all the way to Birnin Konni in Niger Republic. What should be an 19-hour drive passing through Ibadan, Oyo, Ogbomoso, Ilorin, Jebba, Gimi Beri, Sokoto, and then it terminates at Birnin Konni, where Niger’s jurisdiction takes over, and the road becomes the N1.

The A2 starts at Port Harcourt in Rivers State, and passes via Elele, westward through Warri to Benin. At Benin, it swings North, and then goes through Ekpoma, where these pictures were taken, via Okene, by Abuja, then Kaduna, Zaria, and ends in Kano. I’m told it continues up to the border with Niger, but I’ve not been up that particular route.

The A3, starts at the same point in Port Harcourt as the A2, somewhere around Choba. But rather than going West, it goes North, through Eastern Nigeria. This road passes through Aba, Umuahia, Okigwe, Enugu, Nsukka, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Potiskum, and then terminates in Maiduguri. I have not been on the portion beyond Maiduguri, but I read that it continues all the way to Gamboru, on the border with Cameroon.

Finally, there is the A4. This is the one I’ve explored the least. It runs from Calabar to Maiduguri through Taraba state, and riding along it, you’ll pass through Ikom, Wukari, Jalingo, and close to Chibok.

When you look at a map of Nigeria’s highways, you’ll see that logic and planning, went into these roads. Basically, the four of them form straight lines from the ports to our northernmost borders, while all other roads link between these, forming a grid pattern.

Our planners had sense, but like all things Nigerian, the implementation left a lot to be desired, and the maintenance is zero.

In practice, a drive along the A1 is not 19 hours, but four days. If you are lucky. Does it not now make sense why Niger Republic, despite having both the A1 and A2 terminate just inside their borders, will rather use the ports at Lome and Cotonou to receive most of their imports? As long as these roads remain like this, no economic plan can save Nigeria.

Let us be guided.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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