Government rolls out strategies capable of transforming the road sector in Nigeria in line with global best practices
By BOYE AJAYI
Over the years, there have been concerns over the poor state of roads in the country and the fact that government has done very little to rehabilitate them or provide good ones. However, it appears there is hope on the horizon with government’s resolve to give most of the dilapidated roads a facelift.
The importance of the road sector cannot be over-emphasised. Bukar Goni-Aji, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Works, disclosed that the sector contributes about 90 per cent of the movement of goods and services, thereby accounting for about 60 per cent of development initiatives in all sectors of the economy. But the sector has been witnessing rapid decline thus impacting negatively on the country’s economy.
At the recently concluded 19th meeting of the National Council on Works, NCW, with the theme, Reforming the Road Sector for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation, held in Lagos, the issue of roads was brought to the fore. The federal authorities assured that it would carry out sustainable reforms in the road sector and strengthen institutional frameworks in line with global best practices with a view to attracting private sector investments into the roads infrastructure development.
In line with tradition, the NCW meeting was preceded by a two-day meeting of professionals and one-day meeting of Committee of Permanent Secretaries. In his welcome address at the meeting of permanent secretaries, Paul Bamgbose-Martins, an engineer and permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, challenged members to evolve a roadmap that is visionary, realistic and ambitious, but achievable in the quest towards attaining a vibrant road sector at both national and state levels.
Gabriel Amuchi, managing director, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, traced the root of the problems with Nigerian roads. According to him, “Road construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation was the major concern with little or no attention given to maintenance, which led to most of the roads faced with the danger of total collapse.” Amuchi said FERMA, in the bid to achieve its mandate as well as the federal government’s Transformation Agenda, has developed the preventive maintenance strategy with the establishment of surveillance units to ensure that roads constructed, rehabilitated and newly constructed are kept under adequate surveillance in order to identify minor signs of failures and prevent them proactively. The programme, according to him, “is very cost effective compared to corrective maintenance contracts.”
At the meeting of NCW, a total of 13 memoranda were considered and they include the use of bitumen emulsion in place of cut-back bitumen in road construction; gazetting and distribution of roads to the three tiers of government; cost of road projects in Nigeria; issuance of permits to information and communication technology, ICT, service providers on Roads Right of Way, ROW; and road sector reform; reimbursement of funds to state governments for intervention on federal roads; public-private-partnership, PPP; among others.
With government’s resolve to finance six critical road infrastructure projects in the six geo-political zones through the proceeds accruable from the partial deregulation of the oil sector by way of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment, SURE, programme, it will guarantee creative funding models that are global best practices. The proposed SURE intervention road projects include the rehabilitation of Sagamu-Ore-Benin dual carriageway; rehabilitation of Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway; dualisation of Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road; construction of Oju-Loko-Oweto bridge linking Nasarawa and Benue states; dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri road and construction of the second Niger Bridge in Delta/Anambra states.
Interestingly, this new strategy was endorsed by the NCW. Under the road reform initiative, projects currently being procured under the PPP arrangement include second Niger Bridge, the expansion and reconstruction of the road to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, and the River Niger bridge at Nupeko, Niger State.
Another significant outcome of the meeting is the proposal to cede all federal roads within five to 10-kilometre radius from the centre of state capitals. Such ceded roads will form part of the respective states road network and will be controlled and maintained by the states. However, bridges across major rivers and interchanges within the ceded radius will be controlled and maintained by the federal government.
Mike Onolememen, minister of works, who presided over the meeting, noted that “only about 35 per cent of the paved roads in this country are in good motorable condition. Yet, to meet the demands of Vision 20:2020, we need to achieve a marked improvement in our roads infrastructures by ensuring that about 80 per cent of our paved roads are in good condition, quite apart from investing heavily on the expansion of existing major arterial roads (Brown Fields), and developing new super highways (Greenfields).”
According to the minister, the indices point to huge investment opportunity in road infrastructure development in Nigeria, where creative collaboration between the federal and state governments as well as the private sector can help bring about desired results.
Consequently, the council urged state governments to set up the PPP unit/department in their respective states and Federal Ministry of Works to expedite action on the creation of a roads fund and Federal Roads Authority in line with the ongoing reforms to attract private sector in view of paucity of funds for infrastructural development in the country.