By Muyiwa Lucas, The Nation
• Nigeria estimated it lost N300 billion to bitumen importation.
• Flexible pavement in the form of asphalt paved road makes up more than 99.9% of all paved roads in Nigeria today
• The boundary between rigid and flexible pavement costs have been pushed ever closer because the cost of bitumen
Some years ago, Nigeria was estimated to have lost N300 billion to bitumen importation. Now, with biting foreign exchange scarcity, dwindling revenue, and prevailing economic recession, experts have called for the use of concrete to build roads rather than bitumen, reports.
The figures and presentations were quite revealing. Turn by turn, officials of cement manufacturer, Lafarge Africa, took time to make presentations to members of the House of Representatives Committee on Roads. The presentation was led by Bukola Adebisi-Large Africa, Technical Services Engineer, who painted a sorry state of the asphalt roads and the drain it constituted on government revenue.
Adebisi stated, “Flexible pavement in the form of asphalt paved road makes up more than 99.9% of all paved roads in Nigeria today. With the massive investment in the cost of maintenance, repair and reconstruction of these roads, a shift to a more sustainable alternative is inevitable.”
MEAGRE ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT
In 2015, the budget for the Federal Ministry of Works for roads and road infrastructural development was a meager 11% of the total budget—N11 billion of a total N100 billion (with zero allocation for needed maintenance of existing roads, as well as planned road construction). Mike Onolememen-Minster of Works at the time, said Nigeria needed a yearly investment of minimum of N600 billion to meet the Vision 20:2020 targets, and to increase the paved road from 65,000km to 200,000km by 2020. There was also zero allocation for Federal Emergency Road Management Authority (FERMA).
The boundary between rigid and flexible pavement costs have been pushed ever closer because the cost of bitumen—the binder in asphalt—has risen considerably, due to the rise and fall of global oil prices in the last decade; and the oil refining challenges Nigeria has been experiencing creating a deficit in importing. Also, since the backward integration policy of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2002, the cement industry has witnessed tremendous growth in installed capacity, production, consumption, and export.
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These developments, experts contended, were enough reason Nigeria should consider the cement alternative in road construction. Their argument was that with a massive local cement production capacity, the comparative cost advantage factor will eventually set in, thus making it economical over asphalt road.
Currently, the average cost of paving a meter square of road at 50mm (2-in) for asphalt is put at N5,493.07 compared with a 150-mm (5.9-in) thick concrete, which is said to be at 3% differential.
‘RIGID PAVEMENT IS NO LONGER AN ALTERNATIVE’
“We are not only advocating the usage of concrete in the construction of pavement for roads, but adopting the same because of the sustainability and much lower maintenance,” Adebisi said. He added that rigid pavement is no longer an alternative, but the way to go in sustainable road development, that will see real values in terms of increase in the volume of paved road with less need for huge annual budgetary allocation for road maintenance cost. During a tour of the project, Mark Aibangbee-Project Manager, United Cement Company Limited (UNICEM), said the choice of the concrete was to showcase that it has a better advantage and more durable and cost effective on the long run than asphalt road. For Aibangbee, if the use of concrete in road construction is widely embraced, it will lead to further development in the local cement industry and in turn boost the economy.
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Adebisi said, “Nigeria has to take a cue from other developed countries that have succeeded in road construction process—for example, the United States interstate road system. Concrete is better at withstanding heavy traffic loads. Because of its rigid nature, it can withstand heavy loading without noticeable deformation unlike asphalt which, with continuous deformation, ends up with ruts and eventually pot holes that requires constant maintenance.”
Adebisi listed the advantages of concrete roads:
• Longer life
• Less need for maintenance and repair
• Withstands heavy traffic loads
• Not susceptible to deformation with daily temperature cycle variation which leads to rutting—making it pot-hole proof
• Costs less for road users
• Provides a better rolling resistance for heavy trucks due to non-deflection under loading
• Reducing energy consumption by as much as 20%
• Better long-time performance also means fewer interruption and lower costs
• Resistant to oil and lubricant damage and a host of other chemicals—no structural bond damage, no pot holes
• Reflects more light—better surrounding visual awareness, resulting in reducing accident costs
• Recyclable and 100% re-usable: Concrete is the most recycled construction material in the world
• 100% local supplies from locally available resources—rock, sand, cement, and water, slag from iron manufacturing, and fly ash from energy production
COMPARATIVE COST ANALYSIS
The American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) did a 90-year comparative cost life-cycle-cost analysis. Despite a 15% difference in initial investment on concrete pavement in comparison with asphalted road, by the end of a 90-year analysis, the cost differential was over 230% more for the asphalted pavement.
Indeed, several other stakeholders have called for the full adoption of this option for road construction. For all of the details and to read the full article, please go to “The Nation” Online News article by MUYIWA LUCAS: http://thenationonlineng.net/x-raying-concrete-alternative-road-building.