We are delighted to throw our full weight behind the campaign for our federal, state and local governments to adopt concrete/cement for the construction of roads throughout Nigeria as opposed to the current emphasis on asphalt/bitumen.
The Dangote Group has recently been at the forefront of this campaign, with one of its Directors, Mr Devakumar Edwin, making several media rounds sensitising the nation on the need to make this technological switchover, especially at this period of dire economic distress when we need to conserve scarce funds. They demonstrated what they preached by constructing a 24-kilometre road from their factory in Ibeshe to Itori, Ogun State, free of charge and in record time.
A cursory glance at the checklist of advantages of concrete over asphalt leaves one wondering why the hordes of top engineers employed in the various federal and state ministries of works have not thought of championing this hugely more durable and cost-saving innovation before now.
For instance, concrete roads last between 30 and 40 years compared to asphalt roads which require major resurfacing within the first ten to fifteen years. Concrete roads are also cheaper and faster to construct.
According to America’s Federal Highway Administration Advisory, it takes five times more diesel to construct a kilometre of asphalt roads than concrete ones. Devakumar disclosed that a German-built construction machine has proved capable of constructing one and half kilometres of roads per day using concrete technology.
Asphalted roads soon develop potholes, which is not the case with concrete ones. It has been proved that motorists who use concrete roads spend far less on fuel, tyres and general maintenance costs.
Concrete roads are also environmentally-friendly, as damaged concrete roads can be uprooted and recycled for further road construction unlike bitumen-surfaced roads. Also, asphalted roads, because they are dark, absorb more heat from the sun. They not only require more fuel to operate the cooling systems in vehicles plying on them but also predispose weaker tyres more to bursting at top speeds. Concrete is, therefore, safer for motorists.
Fortunately, Nigeria has now become a net exporter of cement, the main raw material for concrete construction, which means there is no limit to job and wealth creation if we adopt concrete for road construction as a state policy. We would be looking inward and saving foreign exchange.
The Lagos State Government has already switched to concrete in reconstructing the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lanes, as most developed countries in America, Europe and Asia have long ago done.
We call on governments to look into this advocacy for a shift to better, faster, cleaner, cheaper, easier-to-maintain, more environmentally-friendly and abundant resource as a strategic means of closing the infrastructure gap in our economy.