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The Deadly Roads of Nigeria

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Infrastructure, Nigeria
Fatal crash
Fatal crash

My work as education adviser involves frequent travel around the old northern region, principally to meetings with programme staff and representatives of State Ministries of Education, but whenever possible to schools. Road travel in the north of Nigeria initially seems easy - straight, flat, tarmac roads that allow travel at Western motorway speeds and with no dangers from speed cameras or radar.

However a trip one recent Friday morning to Dutse, in neighbouring Jigawa State graphically illustrated the dangers of driving, even in the daylight on a dry, clear day. The busy road heading east from Kano is scattered with wrecks of vehicles providing clear evidence of the wisdom of getting quickly onto the hard shoulder when tankers and kamikaze minibus drivers attempt insane overtaking manoeuvres.

A recent tragic incident involved a fuel tanker crashing into a military bus convey and exploding. It resulted in over 40 Nigerian peace keepers being burnt to death, en route home from a tour of duty with the UN blue helmets in Darfur. No such drama on this day, but an improbable oxy-acetylene welding job being undertaken on a tanker's rear axle, right in the middle of a busy intersection, hinted at what was possible.

The main road towards Dutse, Jigawa is being slowly upgraded to a duel carriageway as part of a federal election promise. The very low volume of traffic suggests no cost benefit analysis was attempted, given the previous busy single carriageway stretch just driven.

Given the empty, flat, ‘straight as an arrow' nature of the highway it was a little surprising to see this morning's accidents. A modern saloon car with a badly mashed front section was askew on the new carriageway, being overtaken by an ox cart laden with crops. Further down the road there was the unusual sign of a police squad slowing down the traffic without having setup a proper roadblock.

Ten metres off the highway was the remains of a severely mangled minibus that must have rolled and tumbled into a thorn tree. The impact of the crash on the driver was graphically on display: his corpse was laid out on the side of the road, his skull completely caved in. A combination of speed, insane driving practices and a bursting tyre had probably combined to prevent this driver living to regret his actions.

Wreck minders
Wreck minders

Several hours later on the way back and the road side corpse had gone; burials happen within hours of death according to local Islamic custom. Now just another wrecked minibus alone in the bush waiting to be stripped of parts, prior to being left to rust. Further down the road the damaged saloon car was still present, but now full of 3 boys eating sugar cane and flashing dazzling smiles. They were resting in the shade and probably preventing the car being stripped of parts.

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  1. Comment by Temitope Olodo posted on

    Quite a sad story but a true reflection of the sorry state of Nigeria infrastructure and poor approach to policy implementation.Nevertheless, hope is now on the way!

    A group now exist within UK Civil Service that is eager to assist Africa address its approach on policy implementation known as Africans Diaspora In Civil Service (ADICS)

    Contact me if you require further information about this group and how they can assist you.

    Temitope Olodo

  2. Comment by Ian Attfield posted on

    Hi Temitope,

    Nice to here from you about the ADICS initiative and would welcome details by email.

    Keeping links with diaspora communities in the UK is great initiative and in education through the British Council there are DFID financed schemes to promote similar exchanges for schools and education professionals.


  3. Comment by Lauren Reed posted on

    Great and a very useful blog for me. I like reading this blog. Keep sharing.