A FORTNIGHT ago, I spent four days in Lagos. I had been invited by AG Dangote, the construction arm of the Dangote Group, to see the road it is constructing between Ibese and Itori in Ogun State. The 24-kilometre road project is being undertaken as a Corporate Social Responsibility intervention by AG Dangote.
But it also has another purpose, which was to exhibit the relevance of roads construction in Nigeria through the use of concrete, as against the bitumen that has been central to roads construction in Nigeria over the decades. Aliko Dangote is the largest producer of cement in Nigeria and I think in Africa today; so he has a major reason to showcase the efficacy of concrete in the roads construction process in Nigeria and, in the long run, on the African continent.
Two reasons have triggered my interest. The first was that every road leading to Ilorin, my hometown today, is practically spoilt. The Kaduna-Ilorin road is a nightmare; the Bida-Ilorin road is completely unusable; we cannot travel anymore from Abuja going through Kabba to Ilorin and, therefore, we are forced to travel up to Okene and then make a detour into Ekiti State before entering Kwara, either through Osi or Ayedun/EkanMeje.
Even the Ibadan-Ilorin Expressway has stalled between Ogbomosho and Oyo, so it is also a major problem travelling from that direction too. All these roads are bitumen based, and over the years, they have rapidly deteriorated, becoming very difficult for road users. Yet, Nigeria expends billions of naira attempting to fix these roads. I love to drive on Nigerian roads to behold the beauty of our country and to also connect with the mass of people who traverse distances by road.
Today, it makes no sense to use roads because they endanger lives and easily destroy our vehicles. A few days before the last Sallah, we sent a driver with a bus to pick my children from their boarding school. A drive that would have taken not more than five hours ended as almost 11 hours of nightmare for the children!
Thinking out of the box
It became clear to me, that we needed to think out of the box, because bitumen-based roads don’t have the lifespan that would make driving reasonably comfortable for the Nigerian people. Besides, in an era of dwindling resources, and a nevertheless desperate need to fix roads, we surely must think out of the box. Isn’t there another way of fixing Nigerian roads in a cost-effective manner that will also last much longer than bitumen-based roads? Then a few weeks ago, I read an interview that Aliko Dangote gave on the effort that he was making with the introduction of concrete-based roads construction in Nigeria.
This was the second reason that stirred my interest; so I placed a call to Dangote. I asked him what the comparative advantages were and he obliged me with information. Similarly, he invited me to see the road that he was constructing in Ogun State. That was the reason that I travelled to Lagos and Ogun states two weeks ago.
The Ibese to Itori road is a 24-kilometre road that AG Dangote is constructing as a Corporate Social Responsibility intervention. It is also a showcase of the use of concrete as an alternative to bitumen.