By Chief Emmanuel I Obasi JP (Abakaliki).
The appointment of Senator David Umahi, the immediate past Governor of Ebonyi State among the newly appointed Ministers in president Tinubu’s cabinet was widely adjudged as a round peg in a round hole due to the massive infrastructural innovation and development David Umahi brought to Ebonyi State.
As the current Minister of Works, It is hoped that if President Tinubu and Nigerians buy into the concrete road option also known as rigid pavement technology as canvassed and has been widely implemented in Ebonyi State., the Roads will last 50 years or more. Thus, the highest technology, resources and experience gained by Senator Umahi would be deployed in the construction of Nigerian Roads.
In affirmation of the confidence, trust and quality Senator Umahi has for his works, he has repeatedly said on record that he did 3,500 kilometres of concrete Roads in Ebonyi State, and they are maintenance-free for the next 50 years.
Senator Umahi has also advocated for the need to look at the new method of constructing Nigerian Roads based on the county’s climate conditions.
With Senator Umahi’s wealth of experience and professionalism in the engineering field, President Tinubu is left with the option of proper funding of the Ministry of Works in order to activate quality Road construction in the country as well as introducing new innovations that will reduce cost in Road construction projects in Nigeria.
Judging from the number of road projects done by Senator Umahi in Ebonyi State as Governor, it appears Ebonyi State may have taken the lead in making the required switch from asphalt to cement technology in road construction.
As part of the take-off projects, the State carried out some experiments with this Concrete Pavement Technology in Road construction on over 10 major Roads by successfully completing the 23.7km Hilltop-Agbaja-Nwofe State Road in Ebonyi North Senatorial Zone, 15.5km Ehamufu-Umuhuali Federal Road and a section of the 23.5km Okposi Amasiri-Uburu Federal Road. The technology was later extended to other parts of Ebonyi State.
Other Road projects on rigid pavement in Ebonyi State include; 198km Abakaliki Ring Road which is almost 95% completed, Ebonyi International Airport Runway, the first in Nigeria, Ezzama-Oshiri-Onicha-Uburu Road, Amasiri-Nguzu-Owutu Edda Road, Ntezi-Agba-Isu Road, Ndufu-Alike AE-FUNAI, massive internal Road networks in Abakaliki City, Onueke and Uburu, and a host of others.
The construction of these Roads on concrete pavement is cheaper, faster and easier than Asphalt Roads while materials, equipment and manpower for concrete Road construction are also readily available unlike bitumen that is always in short supply in Nigeria.
Concrete Road construction was done with a mixture of crush rock-based materials and other items to achieve a thickness fill and compaction to the level of 300mm and then cast with concrete reinforcement with 8mm to 10mm high tensile (mash of wires) reinforcement bars over the stabilised base course before treatment with prime coat and asphaltic concrete. Concrete Roads can be constructed all year round unlike Bitumen/Asphalt Roads that can hardly be constructed during rainy season.
As well known, Federal Roads are gateway to other states and heavy duty vehicles ply the Roads, thus, cement technology can be used for solid construction.
Rigid pavement technology remains the best option for airport run-ways, tarmac and places that carry high load bearing capacity, machines and equipment. It is a good solution for achieving sustainable Roads in the country. It is better and of a higher value than the conventional method of using only asphalt.
Concrete Roads do not require frequent repairs or patch works like asphalt Roads. Besides, advancements in concrete technology have reduced the cost of concrete paving while improving performance greatly. For instance, the life span of concrete pavements is between 20 to 50 years before repair, while asphalt pavements have life span of between 4 to 10 years before repair.
Furthermore, researches have confirmed that vehicles consume less fuel on concrete Roads. Specifically, a vehicle, when run over a concrete Road, consumes 15-20 per cent less fuel than that on asphalt Road. This, according to experts, is because a concrete Road does not get deflected under the wheels of loaded trucks. Unlike asphalt Roads, concrete roads do not get damaged by the leaking oils from the vehicles or by the extreme weather conditions like excess rain or extreme heat.
Senator David Umahi is obviously the round peg in the round hole. He needs to be supported by President Tinubu to achieve a lot and turn the fortunes of Nigeria through concrete Road construction.
By Chief Emmanuel I Obasi JP
Immediate Past Principal Secretary to Governor of Ebonyi State.