Kaduna-Kano road undergoes repair: As one travels from Kaduna on the way to Kano, the 82-kilometre stretch dual carriage-way from the Kaduna State capital to Zaria ordinarily enables a convenient speed of between 100 and 120 kilometres per hour to cover the distance in just about 40 minutes.
The road used to be a delight to travel on due to its width, smoothness and the high embankments on both sides to prevent vehicles from tipping into opposite lanes.
But over time, the road has badly deteriorated, with some of the bridges collapsing, the tar washed off, many potholes and craters emerging in the middle and the shoulders being eaten up by erosion.
Travelling on the road has become a nightmare for motorists due to the many potholes and craters which cause undesirable obstructions, diversions, and meandering to avoid driving into them.
As a result of the many complaints and cries from motorists, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in December 2017 approved the contract for the reconstruction of the road and federal government officials flagged-off the project, starting from Abuja to Kaduna through Zaria to Kano, covering a distance of 375.4 kilometres.
Zaria sits between two capital cities, Kaduna and Kano, and is linked to both by the dual carriageway. Money for the project was expected to come through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund with a seed funding of $65m from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas dividend account as approved by the National Economic Council.
It was awarded at a cost of N155 billion to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. Work has since commenced, especially between Kaduna and Zaria. Initially, people were happy that the government finally listened to the cries over the road, but the repairs also came with its problems.
This contrasts with the promise made by the managing director of Julius Berger, Wolfgang Goetsch, in June 2018. Goestch said the company had introduced a “cold recycling” method value-driven solution that had never been used in Nigeria.
He said the method would ensure less construction traffic compared to conventional methods. But since work started in June 2018, it has been tales of woes for road users.
Motorists complain that accidents occur daily on the road due to several diversions, cramping of vehicles on opposite directions in one lane, lack of road signs to indicate speed limit regulations, road congestion and impatience of drivers.
The journey that should take less than 40 minutes now takes about two hours. A public health expert, Prof. Abdullahi Ibrahim Musa, told our correspondent that an average of three accidents occur daily between Kaduna and Zaria alone because the proper things were not done before the start of work.
These he said, include lack of a safety manager for the project, lack of signs to guide road users, lack of clear indication of speed limits and lack of environmental impact analysis. “In other countries, before such major repairs are undertaken, such measures are put in place, but the emphasis here is the protection of the workers rather than road users.
That is why anywhere you see their men working, they would be using LED lights and flagging people to slow down.”
He said there should have been a yellow line on the road to indicate that motorists cannot overtake under any circumstance and the speed limit of 70 k/ph they put is too high. The Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Kaduna, Corps Commander Hafiz .T. Mohammed, agrees on the need for drivers to use common sense speed limit along the route.
He said, “When there is too much traffic, you move at a slow speed, highest 30-40 k/ph, but unfortunately, some drivers due to impatience, overtake from the right.”
Our correspondent observed that the road between Kaduna and Zaria was divided into six zones, each with its entry and exit points, but while work is going on simultaneously, no zone has yet been completed.
It takes an average of seven minutes to move through each diversion and in many cases, gridlocks occur at the point of entry and exit. Impatient drivers always totter from one lane to another, despite sharing a lane with vehicles from the opposite direction.
The sector commander said six diversions were created to regulate and control movement, adding that the volume of traffic between Kaduna and Zaria to other parts of the North-West or North-East is usually high.
“You will agree that a high volume of traffic going through a narrow path will not be enough. We are used to driving on two lanes, but now it is like one lane.
Because of that, we are always faced with a high traffic volume, particularly on weekends because people travel more on Fridays and Sundays,” he said. He said the corps had to increase the number of personnel at Birnin Yero, Dankande toll gate and Kwanar Farakwai. Construction workers continuously engage equipment at several points as work continues on the road. Our correspondents also observed that some FRSC staff were put at strategic points on the road to guide traffic flow.
The slow movement of heavy trucks also contributes to congestion. A driver at Kawo Garage in Kaduna, Malam Hassan, who plies the road daily, said drivers were not finding it easy.
He said the ongoing construction and impatience of drivers were causing a lot of stress. “We have not been finding it easy plying the road since the construction began. Hardly does a week pass without a serious gridlock along the route. Just three days ago, I was stranded in gridlock from 3 pm to 5 pm the next day,” he said.
He said the FRSC staff could further help by quickly removing broken down vehicles. Another commercial driver at Ungwar Sarki park said if the work is not completed before December, the stress would increase as the festive period approaches, with the many diversions along the highway. “We have a diversion at Rigachikun, another one at Maraban Jos, then Birnin Yero, Jaji and Kwanar Farakwai,” he said. Another driver, Bashir Adam, said it is difficult to ply the road on high speed because is just a lane being shared amidst many potholes.
“Accidents occur on the road every day, today I saw five accident scenes while I was coming. It all comes to prayers and patience. At times, I have to pacify some passengers who put pressure on me to drive at high speed. I try to let them know that is not death that we should be afraid of but the damage that will be done to properties and our bodies,” he said. Another driver, Suleiman Jaji, says he always get caught in gridlocks from Rigachikwu to Birnin Yero.
“That area has always been a cause of concern to us, it reduces the number of times we shuttle between Kaduna and Zaria. Before the construction started, I used to travel 3 to 4 times with passengers, but now I only travel just twice and it affects the money I make per day,” he said.
A commuter, Johnson Adedire, said it is taking too long to complete the repair work, just as Shittu Ibrahim said the pace of repair works need to be increased. “I dropped my car at home due to the poor state of the road because I know commercial drivers can navigate the route easier than me. I would have preferred them not to start the repair now,” he said.
A driver, Yunusa Ahmed, appealed to commuters to be more patient to enable the company to complete the repair.