Aging Underground Infrastructure in Nigeria, the dangers Posed and Lessons from USA: A Reader’s Comment

Hi Depo,
Thank you for serving this. It is an eye opener for those in the industry. Awareness needs to be created especially among our legislators, such that when it comes to allocation of funds, there will be better appreciation of the need to set aside funds for the maintenance of infrastructure.
The question is, who should be responsible for the maintenance, the federal, state or local government? My take is that the local government should be in charge. I am aware of the usual argument that the local government has no capacity for this kind of assignment. But this is because that is the way we want it. If we build and reinforce the capacity of the local government administration, it is best positioned to maintain these infrastructural facilities. This will also open up a lot of jobs for our young ones who now gravitate to the state capitals looking for jobs that are not there.



Thank you Mr. Hanidu for raising the question of “… who should be responsible for the maintenance of infrastructures” and for proffering the answer that maintenance of infrastructures should be the responsibility of local governments.
I agree with you in part because some of the infrastructures, especially small-scale ones, could be better managed by those directly benefiting from them; since they have the advantage of noticing damages to these infrastructures at their inception because the communities in the local governments could see them when they are still manageable – the proverbial ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is appropriate here.
Actually, maintenance of infrastructures should be shared by all tiers of government, each level taking on the responsibility of the scale of infrastructure appropriate to its capacity in every respect. In assigning responsibilities for maintenance, there is the need to classify infrastructures into small, medium and large scale. For example, earth dams are small scale infrastructures but there are medium scale and large scale dams. Communities and Local Governments should jointly bear the responsibility to maintain earth dams. Communities will notice the beginning of any seepage at a dam face before any other institution that is remotely-located. In essence these two institutions – the communities and the LGAs – are better placed to monitor the performance of such an infrastructure. Large dams should be maintained by the Federal Government while medium dams should be the responsibility of states.
Another infrastructure that can be discussed on the basis of scale is water supply borehole. The depth of the boreholes can be used in scaling, thus those water supply boreholes in the large sedimentary basins such as Chad Basin and Sokoto Basin, for example, may be considered medium/large scale infrastructures, while shallow boreholes that are common in the Basement Complex parts of the country can be considered small scale. Deep water-supply boreholes’ maintenance should be the responsibility of the Local Governments, who should benefit from the State Governments’ technical assistance whenever there is the need for such. In like manner, communities should be responsible for the maintenance of shallow boreholes and in cases where they cannot handle any fault on their own, they should be given technical assistance by the states.
Maintenance of infrastructures require regular monitoring as well as holding people put in charge of all infrastructures accountable for their failures whenever such occurs. In colonial days and in the early days of Nigeria’s independence, there was a Public Works Department (PWD) located in each urban centre and headed by a qualified engineer which were placed under the Regional Ministries of Works. These PWDs had a road maintenance department and intervened at the early stages of problems.
The trunk A’ roads then belonged to the Federal Government while feeder roads belonged to the regional governments. Each PWD had a ‘road overseer’ for long stretches of the roads who supervised an army of road maintenance workers. The road overseer usually monitored sections of the roads assigned to him and ensured that potholes are fixed as soon as they developed. He also ensured that road shoulders were maintained and bushes that may obstruct the views of motorists were usually cleared.
In those days there was maintenance culture. The current practice of having political appointees heading agencies that should be responsible for our infrastructures has resulted in the death of this maintenance culture because of corrupt practices of politicians. Thus, our so-called express ways have huge potholes, that ought to have been fixed at their inception, but that have become so huge some could swallow small vehicles up.

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