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The deplorable Ibadan-Ife highway - Tribune Editorial

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The Ibadan-Ife highway is among the most strategic roads linking the North and the  southern part of the country. Before the Lagos-Sagamu-Benin highway, it was the only connecting route, and for three decades, the preferred road connecting the entire South-West to the South-South, South-East and parts of the North-Central. Today, it constitutes a classic illustration of infrastructure decay in the country, with the leadership seemingly not caring a hoot.

The road is ever-busy in spite of its deplorable and despicable condition and notwithstanding the fact that it has become an obvious death-trap and an embarrassment to the country. The failed portions of the road have allegedly become hideouts for hardened criminals who torment road users even in broad daylight, notwithstanding the ubiquity of law-enforcement agents. Ironically, uniformed state operatives also abuse their mandate by fleecing citizens under the pretext of mounting surveillance at black spots. Time and again, motorists  lament the colossal damage to their vehicles each time they ply the road.

Another gnawing experience on the road is the pain being inflicted on passengers by commercial vehicle operators because of rapid wear and tear occasioned by its despicable condition. The effects of  the neglect of the road are also underlined by the sustained rise in the prices of staples, as traders lament the difficulties in conveying agricultural produce to cities and towns having higher demands and competitive prices for goods due to larger human populations and the existence of small-scale industries.

While a lot of accidents on the highway go unreported, there have been very fatal crashes with huge losses of lives and destruction of valuable property. For instance, at least 14 persons died in an auto crash on the highway  in July last year. The majority of the victims were burnt beyond recognition. And coupled with the human casualties arising from the precarious condition of the road is the huge losses of man-hours. The economic cost is huge because it now often takes a minimum of one and a half hours as against the previous 45 minutes to drive from Ibadan to Ile-Ife at a reasonable speed.

Successive federal administrations have made interventions to fix the road, only for the road to return to a sorry state shortly after rehabilitation. This is often due to the shoddy job done by contractors and government agencies like the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). To be sure, the real solution to the problem is beyond the cosmetic treatment that it has often received. The road needs complete upgrading, not repairs, at least going by the opinion of experts. Therefore, the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, give the highway the attention it deserves in order to save it from total collapse.  Reconstructing the road is the best way to go, but with provision for expansion, basic ancillary sections and services of global standard.

Lastly, institutional leaders, including political and traditional leaders from the South-West, ought to see it as a slap on their face that such a critical highway continues to suffer from neglect by the federal authorities. A revamped Ibadan-Ife highway should be part of the democracy dividends that Nigerians enjoy.


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