Nigeria has a fairly extensive infrastructure of roads, railroads, airports, and communication networks. The road system is by far the most important element in the country’s transportation network, carrying about 95 percent of all the nation’s goods and passengers. Currently, many of the roads are in disrepair because of poor maintenance and years of heavy traffic.
ROADS. The road system was started in the early 1900s under British colonial rule essentially as a feeder network for newly completed railroads. Two trunk roads running from Lagos (southwest) and Port Harcourt (southeast) to Kano (north central) were built. These were followed by the construction of several east-west roads, 2 north and 2 south of the natural division created by the Niger and Benue Rivers. The major purpose was to transport goods from the interior to the coast for export.
After independence in 1960, expansion of the road system to facilitate access to state capitals and large towns became one of the major areas of government investment. In 1978, an expressway was constructed from Lagos to Ibadan. Later, a branch of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway was extended to Benin City. By 1980 another express-way connected Port Harcourt to Enugu. Similar express-ways connected major cities and commercial centers in the north. Thus, by 1990 Nigeria had 108,000 kilometers (67,112 miles) of roads. Of this total, 30,000 kilometers (18,642 miles) were paved, 25,000 kilometers (15,535 miles) were gravel, and 53,000 kilometers (32,935 miles) were unimproved earth.
Much of the road system is in disrepair and barely useable. Massive traffic jams are very common in the large cities. There are also long delays in the movement of goods. Highway accidents and deaths are frequent, and number more than 30,000 and 8,000, respectively.
RAILROADS. Railroads provide Nigeria’s second means of transportation. The rail system consists of 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) route of 1.067 meters (3.5 feet)
gauge. Two main lines of the single-track railroad system connect the coast with the interior. One line runs from Lagos (southwest) to Kano (north). The Lagos-Kano line was extended to Nguru, a cattle-raising region, in 1930. The other line runs from Port Harcourt (south-east) to Kaduna (north). A branch line runs from Zaria to Kaura Namoda, an important agricultural area in the northwest. The Port Harcourt-Kaduna line was extended to Maiduguri (northeast) in 1964. The rail system is operated by the Nigeria Railway Corporation. The system suffered a progressive decline because of inadequate funding, poor maintenance, and declining profit.