Never had it been heard that the colonial masters constructed any road and the road failed in less than 20 years. Even up to the 1980s, it was guaranteed that roads covered with bitumen, last equally as long as those done under the British administration, even if such roads were done by the Ministry of Works, then known as PWD.
But, what is happening nowadays? It is disheartening that roads being constructed in virtually all parts of the country fail even while the contractors are still on site. And the big question has remained: ‘Is it that the razor blade is dull, or that the barber is deficient in the art of barbing?’
Whatever be the case, not long ago a Minister of Works told Nigerians about the discovery of special chemical used to boost the strength of bitumen in road construction, instead of the use of kerosene, the popular substance used to beef up the integrity of bitumen in road construction since the colonial times. We were also told of a certain ‘hammer’ which the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Works hit on tarred portions of roads than under construction to affirm the durability or otherwise of such work. What really happened to all those? Were they mere gimmick meant to further confuse and confound the ordinary Nigerians and fleece money to private pockets while such roads fail almost immediately?
Nigerians should be seriously worried especially by the fact that from Lagos to Sokoto; from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, there is no single stretch of road that can stand the test of integrity, yet, every year Nigeria spends billions of Naira on road construction and road rehabilitation. It is this same attitude that has made it impossible for us to complete the rehabilitation of rail lines which did not take the colonial masters donkey years to design, construct and complete.
Where exactly did we get it wrong? Is it that we are not aware that those roads constructions that were on-going or the ones we were told had been completed in the immediate-past years are still Nigerian roads being used by Nigerians? How come none of those roads lasted beyond the first year of their rehabilitation or reconstruction? Why is it that people are no longer fascinated by the so-called construction giant working on any stretch of the road any longer? Are they cases of re-enactment of the idiom aforementioned?
It has become moonlight stories that in some states, roads that are still under construction were washed away by heavy downpour and we glossed over such as if they mean nothing. It is even worse that bridges had collapsed, yet nobody bathed an eyelid; it was one of those things, business as usual.
While building collapses no longer seem to make news, inspite of the number of casualties recorded on such tragedies, are we not really bothered that we remain unperturbed and paid only passing attention to such disastrous occurrences? In more conscious societies, one such calamity would be more than enough to sort out whatever there were that brought about such a tragedy. It is very disturbing that our penchant for bribery and corruption abhor no boundaries. Such limitless unbridled, shameless acts should begin to prick our consciences so we can take drastic actions and put such expensive dirty deals behind us.
With the series of collapsed buildings occurring in almost every state across the country, coupled with incidences of washed-off roads, collapse bridges and other construction defaults, it is time the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other regulatory agencies woke up from slumber and shirk off encumbrances that deter them from performing their assigned duties satisfactorily. It is a shame that such exceptions are gradually becoming the norm, than become the exception. We need to immediately reverse this ugly trend and the time to do so is now.