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DETERMINANTS OF TRANSPORT PROBLEMS IN AUCHI AND ENVIRONS, NIGERIA
- ATUBI, AUGUSTUS .O. (PH.D)
Road transportation is a form of land transport which involves the movement of people and goods by motor cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and bicycles. it is the most popular means of transport (Areola, 1999; Atubi and Onokala, 2003; Atubi, 20005a). As a popular form of land transport, road transportation can contribute greatly to national development when made efficient. However, road transportation in Nigeria is far from being efficient. According to the Web (2006) poor maintenance and years of heavy freight traffic have made much of the road system in Nigeria barely usable.
In the same vein, Filani (1982; 2005) rightly observes that the socio-economic development of any society depends to a large extent on the nature and structure of the transportation networks of the society since it provides the arteries through which the economic life stream of society flows (the people, information, raw materials and finished products) which help to build and maintain the society.
Transport has been likened to the human blood circulatory system whose healthy functioning is a necessary condition for the sustenance of human life (Adeniji, 2000). Transport systems provide a key to the understanding and operation of many other systems at my different scales. At one extreme, inter-continental transport provides essential communication between the advanced and developing worlds, while local transport to rural markets in many parts of the third world is a vital component in changing dynamic socio-economic structures (Barke and O’Hare, 1984).
There is hardly any human society or human settlement system that can function efficiently and effectively without adequate reliable, safe and affordable transport systems. The most fundamental reason for this being the catalytic effect of transport development on socio-economic growth and development (NISER, 2001). Transport can also play a significant role in territorial administration, political development, the defence of territories as well as in promoting the import-export corridors of neighbouring countries). Precisely, transport development is central in the developmental process for the economy and society to grow healthily. This is because transport influences and it is influenced by other sectors that make up, not only the total urban system (Stopher and Meyburg, 1975), but the entire human settlements’ system. The importance of transport to spatial, social and economic growth and development has not been seriously questioned, although its exact role and influence have been subjected to periodic reappraisal (Button, 1982).
Despite all huge investments in the transport sector, it is disheartening to note that transport systems in most countries of the developing world is performing far below average thereby retarding their socio-economic growth and development. John et al (2005) opines that the use of the word “crisis” to describe transport problems in European and American cities seems a misnomer compared to what is experienced in the cities of the developing countries. The various associated problems of inefficient traffic flow such as environmental pollution, noise, traffic fatalities and injuries, etc are more severe in the developing world making the problem quite modest in the developed world by comparison (Gakenheimer, 1999).
According to John et al (2005), developing countries have several factors in common that contribute to the severity of their transport problems. Overall population growth and increasing urbanisation have led, especially, to the rapid growth of large cities, which have been overwhelmed by the sudden jump in travel demand. The supply of transport infrastructure lagged far behind demand. Public sector finances in general are so limited that funding for transport improvements is woefully inadequate. Commenting on urban transport problems in Lagos state, Nigerians, Atubi (2007a) opines that some of the most serious problems facing development planners and policy makers in the country reside in the transport sector.
John et al (2005) concludes that the nature and extent of transport problems obviously vary from one country to another, virtually all developing countries suffer from the following:
- Unplanned, haphazard development at the sub-urban fringe without adequate infrastructure, transport and other public services
- Limited network of roads, often narrow, poorly maintained and unpaved.
- Rapidly increasing ownership and use of private cars and motorcycles.
- Inadequate roadway accommodation for buses and non-motorized transport.
- Overcrowded, uncomfortable, undependable slow, uncoordinated, inefficient and dangerous public transport.
As documented above, Auchi and its environs shares nearly all these problems of developing countries and therefore the need to examine in details the most prominent determinants of transport crisis in the town. It is therefore, the objectives of this study to examine road network characteristics, transport and terminal facilities, land use characteristics and vehicular traffic flow and the existing traffic control measures, as they contribute to transport problems in the town.
Geographically, Auchi is located roughly between latitude 7o4’ of the equator and longitude 6o16’ east of the Greenwich meridian. It is situated in the northern part of Edo state, Nigeria. It serves as the headquarters to the Etsako West Local Government Area. However, as a town Auchi is specifically bounded in the east by Jattu community, on the North West by Ikpeshi and Ihieve Igben towns, on the north by Ayua, Iyaku and Imeke, while on the south by Ivbiaro and Warakpe respectively.
Auchi has road as its basic mode of transportation. There is a network of roads that connects Auchi to the surrounding settlements for instance the dual – carriage expressway leading to Jattu, the Auchi-Igarra road, the Jattu – Uzaire road and the Auchi – Okene Abuja expressway.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Data for this work were collected from the primary and secondary source. Personal observation method was used to collect data on road network characteristics in Auchi. During the exercise, emphasis was placed on the width of the major roads at intervals. Actual measurements were taken at intervals, areas riddled by pot-holes were examined and noted, drainage system among these roads were all examined and noted, materials used for construction of roads as well as the nature of the roads in terms of configuration and sharp bends were also examined, the proportion of road allocated for right – of – way (motorway), side walk – way or pedestrian walk-way were also measured and noted.
On existing traffic control measures along the roads that constitute the study area, personal observation and planning studies were used to collect data. The existing traffic control measures such as traffic wardens, channelization, zebra crossing, roundabout, traffic light etc were looked for along the major roads. Physical survey method was also used to collect data on transport and terminal facilities. Terminal facilities such as bus-stops, off-streeting parking lots and motor parks were examined and their locations and state noted.
Most of the roads in Auchi lacked pedestrian walk way or where they exist, are in dilapidated condition that always prevent people to put them into proper use thereby resulting to pedestrians struggling with motorists on the right of way that is too narrow for vehicular movement alone. As a result of lack of maintenance culture, nearly all the roads are in deplorable conditions. Things are made worse during the rainy season. Along the Jattu-Uzaire junction, the road has so much been riddled with pot holes that vehicles reduce their speed to approximately 0.5km/hour.
Apart from the pot-holes, these roads are also characterised by sharp bends and poor configuration. The drainage along these roads is nearly non-existent. During rainy season, flooding is a common phenomenon along these areas. The dumping of rubbish and the gully erosion menace have greatly hinders the functionality of these drainage system in Auchi. At times, water enters into the engine or vehicles which further delays movement of motorists. All the above mentioned characteristics of these roads contribute in no small measure to the vehicular traffic flow problems experienced in the town. These findings corroborate what Adefolalu (1977) and Atubi and Oriero (2004) in their study of urban traffic problems in the city of Lagos and importance of drainage systems to development in Lagos respectively.
Transport facilities refer to the vehicles that apply the major roads in the town. It is a fact concerning the characteristics of traffic flow and safety. The length, width and height are often limited by law so that vehicles can fit geometric standards of the roads. While passenger cars are well below this limit, commercial vehicles such as trailers and tankers often constitute problems. These commercial vehicles often find it difficult to negotiate curves because of their large turning radii and in the process cause undue traffic delay. The weight of vehicles must also be limited to suit structural designed standards of pavements. Mostly, pavements fail structurally because of over stressing due to these heavy vehicles.
All the identified vehicle characteristics and situation apply to Auchi. Tankers, trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles struggle for the limited space along the major roads in the town thereby compounding traffic flow problems. Furthermore, on several occasions, traffic problem is caused by motor vehicles having mechanical break downs. These breakdowns are in part caused by lack of inspection for adequate equipment such as break lights, tyres, fuel, etc.
Terminal facilities are facilities put in place to aid efficient and smooth flow of vehicular traffic on the roads. These facilities include: motor parks, bus stops, off street parking lots, on-street parking lots, etc. Where all these are adequately provided and properly put into use vehicular traffic flow is not always a problem. Fieldwork exercise revealed that the major parks for the on-loading and off-loading of passengers by commercial vehicles in the town are in most cases put into use. However, sometimes commercial bus/car operators in a bid to make quick and more trips per day abandon these parks and had turned themselves to nuisance in the city.
Landuses are the various ways by which land had been put into use. In Auchi, various land use types such as educational, residential, institutional, agricultural can be identified. From all indications, these dominant landuses are traffic generators and attractors as they are either places of residence, learning, working, shopping or transacting business which attract both vehicular and pedestrian traffic resulting sometimes in traffic flow problems.
It was also observed that on a daily basis, especially between Monday and Friday, the Auchi Polytechnic being an educational landuse attract and generate vehicular traffic both in the early morning peak when students and workers, majority of who live off-campus move to the Polytechnic premises and afternoon peak periods when they move from campus to town after normal activities. Apart from educational landuse in the town, residential landuse also attracts and generate traffic. The Uyisin, Ukphe and Constance Momoh quarters in Auchi town being places that are highly populated generates traffic and attract traffic on a daily basis. People from this axis move to different parts of the town for their normal daily business. Another notable landuse type in the town is the commercial landuse, and this abounds all over the town but more prominent where markets are located in the town. The Etsako central market at Aviele is an attractor and generator of vehicular traffic anytime of the day. Also markets such as Iyekhe market and Utukwe market also attracts and generates vehicular traffic commercial vehicles, motorcycle operators and private car owners comb these areas regularly for commercial activities.
Shop owners and potential buyers move in and out of this town in either private cars or motorcycles thereby resulting in vehicular traffic volume in the town. Apart from the commercial activities going on in this part of the town residential landuse also play a significant role. This area houses the palace of the Otaru of Auchi which is a place of attraction to the natives on a regular basis. Meetings and other traditional engagements around the town also account for traffic problem in the area.
FACTORS MILITATING AGAINST EFFICIENT ROAD TRANSPORTATION
The following factors have over the years militated against an efficient road transportation
- Years of heavy freight traffic: Over the years the road system has been subjected to heavy freight which were beyond the carrying capacity of the roads. This made the condition of the roads to deteriorate and the result is that much of the road system is barely usable. The heavy freight traffic is part as a result of the failure of the railway system. From the 1970 successive administrations have failed to redesign and modify the obsolete nm-row network to serve the new economy dependent on oil (Nwakamma, 2006). Hence roads were built to carry freight that could conveniently be carried by railways. Today, road transportation accounts for over 95 percent of passengers and freight transport (Ojabo, 2007).
- Traffic congestion: Traffic congestion have become a permanent feature of urban roads and some highways in Nigeria. This is in spite of many attempts to reverse the situation. During rush hours when people are going to work valuable productive time is wasted in traffic hold-ups. Hours that could have been utilized efficiently in work places such as companies, private organisations, and government offices are spent on the urban roads and highways. There is also environmental pollution caused by traffic congestion which affects the health of individuals and consequently their productivity. Though traffic congestion is a feature of urban centres throughout the world, the Nigerian situation is permanent due to the absence of an alternative means of transport such as railways.
- Highway armed robbery: Armed robbery is a major problem affecting road transport in Nigeria especially the highways. the robbers kill, injure and frighten their victims, terror generally unleashing on commuters/travellers. Highway crimes like armed robbery thwart efforts towards national development. Furthermore, the highway armed robbery give the country a bad image abroad. Foreigners proposing to come to Nigeria for vacations are usually advised by their embassies that “public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided” (The Web, 2007). Thus such people fear coming into the country as a result of the insecurity caused by the highway armed robbery.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
For effective traffic flow and perfect road transportation system in Auchi the following recommendations are indispensable.
- There is need for repairs and rehabilitation of all existing urban roads which are as at now riddled with pot holes and other problems.
- Investigation revealed that most of the mort parks in Auchi lack essential facilities that could confine traders, hawkers and passengers to the parks. Facilities such as shopping complex, eating places etc should be provided. This would make these parks attractive to users.
- Introduction of bus-stops in the town and the orientation of road users on their importance.
- Mass-transit is recommended for effective and smooth movement between residential landuses and employment centres in the town.
- The federal government should improve the security situation on the highways in a bid to eliminate the activities of armed robbery gangs on the road. Aerial and ground surveillance should be mounted around the operational areas of the gangs in order to put an end to their nefarious activities.
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