Current State of Infrastructure

Transport infrastructure includes roads, air transport facilities, railways, maritime infrastructure (inland waterways and ports) and urban transportation (which spans across the other sub-sectors). A transport sector with adequate infrastructure in good condition is critical for any nation’s success. In particular, transport infrastructure plays a critical enabler role, increasing the impact of nearly all other sectors of the economy.

Against this backdrop, Nigeria’s current transport infrastructure is not aligned with the country’s aspiration to become one of the world’s 20 largest economies by 2020. Increased maintenance and capacity expansions are needed to improve the current state of Nigeria’s infrastructure. A focus on linking the various forms of available transport, so as to strengthen the intermodal transport of goods and passengers, would improve the safety, convenience, travel time and cost of Nigerian transportation and reduce carbon/particulate emissions.


Adequate road infrastructure is central to Nigeria’s economic growth; it is at the core of good governance and public welfare. Any improvement in road infrastructure positively impacts the nation’s GDP.

Nigeria has a national road network of about 200,000km. Of this total, federal roads make up 18 per cent (about 35,000km), State roads 15 per cent (about 17,000km), and local government roads 67 per cent (about 150,000km), with most local government roads being unpaved.

The road sector accounts for about 90 per cent of all freight and passenger movements in the country. Although the federal road network constitutes 18 per cent of the total national network, it accounts for about 70 per cent of the national vehicular and freight traffic.

As at 2012, an estimated 40 per cent of the federal road network is in poor condition (in need of rehabilitation); 30 per cent in fair condition (requiring periodic maintenance); and 27 per cent in good condition (requiring only routine maintenance). The remaining 3 per cent consists of unpaved trunk roads that need to be paved.

In the case of state roads, 78 per cent is in poor condition, with 87 per cent of local government roads also considered to be in poor condition.

The poor state of Nigerian roads can be attributed to the following challenges:

  • The current institutional structure for the management of roads is inefficient. A Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been established as an interim measure before instituting more substantive sector reforms, as Nigeria continues to rely on traditional general budget allocations to fund road maintenance and rehabilitation.
  • Current maintenance levels are insufficient to preserve the quality of the existing road infrastructure, resulting in annual deterioration. Ample resources have been allocated to federal road rehabilitation, but not enough of these resources are reserved for preventive maintenance.
  • A historical trend of prioritising new road construction over maintaining existing roads further exacerbates deterioration of existing road infrastructure.
  • A shift in inland transportation from rail and waterways to roads has increased the burden on roads as they have become the nation’s primary mode of passenger and goods transport. For example, the high volumes of petroleum products transported on the national roadways, which are meant to be transported via pipelines, diminish the already limited lifespan of the roads, resulting in higher maintenance needs.
  • The budgeting cycle limits the use of funds during the dry season (the season most favourable for construction).
  • Overloading, blocked drainage structures and the parking of heavy axle vehicles on carriageways contribute to additional deterioration of road infrastructure.

The Federal Ministry of Works is currently working to improve various sections of the Federal highway network. This effort includes 194 on-going projects which will involve a total cost of about USD 9 billion. The Public Private-Partnership Department, a department of the Ministry, has developed outline business cases for viable and bankable major highways (brownfields) and proposed new alignments (greenfields) to attract the private sector and foreign direct investment (FDI).

However, challenges still remain. Two pilot PPP projects initiated by the Ministry (Lagos–Ibadan Expressway and Gutto–Bagana Bridge across the Benue River) were stalled due to the concessionaires’ inability to obtain the stipulated funding required. Government is currently making efforts to revive the projects.


The 1970 Federal Airport Development Plan (ADP) served as the basis for the growth and development of airports in Nigeria. Government’s main objective was to open up the country for easy access and development by creating airports in each state capital. This provided the industry with a conducive and promising environment for growth and stabilisation, especially during the oil boom of the 1970s. Operator, airports and passenger traffic grew in number. Today, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria operates five international airports, located in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu as well as 18 domestic ones.

There is need to improve management practices, raise the quality of policy initiatives and ensure a more friendly investment environment. The sector’s challenges include the need to modernise and upgrade infrastructure and equipment such as terminal buildings, control towers, conveyor belts, instrument landing systems, communication equipment, runway lighting, fire tenders, etc. Other challenges include manpower development and training on equipment handling and maintenance.

Overcoming these challenges will require a holistic and comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the interrelation of seaports with other sectors of the economy. The planning of port infrastructure and its regulation therefore should be achieved in the context of integration and intermodalism in order to accomplish the desired transformation in the sector.

For inland water transportation to meaningfully impact the national economy in terms of cheap and affordable transportation, it is imperative to ensure that about 3,000 km of seasonally navigable waterways are made operational all year round.

Since 2009, government has embarked on a transformation process for inland waterways that includes:

  • Dredging the lower River Niger from Baro (Niger State) to Warri (Delta State), a distance of 532km, and provision of buoys for the dredged channel
  • Establishing an Inland Waterways Police Command
  • Procuring 14 security patrol boats
  • Initiating the construction of 6 new river ports in Baro, Lokoja, Makurdi, Owerrita, Degema and Oguta
  • Developing 3 deep seaports in Lekki, Olokola and Ibaka
  • Developing the draft bill for reform of the National Inland Waterways Authority which is currently undergoing final review
  • Ongoing year-round maintenance and clearance of all navigable waterways


  • Policy stability;
  • Elimination of the multiplicity of government agencies at the ports;
  • Improvement in power supply and security for effective port operations;
  • Improved regulation;
  • Improvement in infrastructure to accommodate current and emerging traffic in seaports;
  • Encouraging the development of infrastructure to cater for increased port activities; and
  • Government support in terms of guarantees to enhance the viability of projects in the sector.

 Urban transport

Urban transportation in Nigeria is largely an unregulated, small-scale market using a combination of para-transit modes consisting of shared taxis, mini-buses, motor-cycles and converted motorcycles known as keke napep. Only in Lagos and Abuja are conventional buses similar to those in most cities worldwide in use, but even here the use of para-transit modes is clearly dominant. For this reason, Nigeria remains the only country in the world with densely populated cities of over six million people that do not have an organised urban transport system.

City roads are in general narrow, consisting of one lane that is poorly maintained, and prone to flooding due to poor drainage. The result is inadequate capacity and poor conditions, leading to traffic congestion, reduced vehicle productivity, loss of man-hour and increased vehicle operating costs. Nigerian cities also feature inadequate road furniture such as pedestrian facilities and bus stops/shelters/public conveniences and lack of other infrastructure such as towing vehicles and traffic control devices.

Many cities are seriously challenged by growth in urban population which is rising rapidly. More than half of Nigeria’s population is already estimated to live in urban regions. Lagos alone is growing at six per cent annually, and will continue to be one of Africa’s largest cities.

Demand is high in most cities relative to the capacity of the system to accommodate traffic flow. Traffic congestion in cities is widespread, with travel times in excess of two hours in Lagos and Mararaba – Abuja corridor, among others. Traffic control devices need substantial improvement in some cities, due to high congestion levels, with traffic standing still for up to 30 minutes at a time. In Lagos alone over 1 million trips are made daily. Car ownership is low, but congestion levels are still high, implying that saturation levels of car ownership in the cities have already been exceeded.

Reforms are thus needed in the urban transport sector to institute an effective mass transit system and develop capacity for public transport planning, operation and regulation. Furthermore, a key requirement is the development of integrated spatial planning and urban transport policies as the basis for determining infrastructure and public transport service development needs/priorities.