…Says S/East, S/South Roads worst in the country
BY AHURAKA ISAH AND SOLOMON AYADO, Abuja
The federal government, through minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), hinted yesterday that it had concluded arrangements to reintroduce toll gates at 38 points across the country after the completion of works on the highways.
This was just as the federal government has admitted that the worst roads in the country are located in South South and South East geopolitical zones, with some of the major federal roads in the 11 states constructed before the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War.
Fashola, who appeared before members of the Senate Committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), headed by Senator Magnus Abe, said efforts were in top gear to fix the roads.
He also revealed that the N100 billion sourced through the Sukuk bond was yet to be released to his ministry to carry out 25 major road construction projects in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
On the issue of the toll gates, Fashola said when the toll gates are erected, they would be managed by the private sector but that government would design a software to monitor vehicles passing through the roads. He added that road users would be able to pay toll using their phones.
Defending FG’s action, Fashola said that the toll collected would be used to maintain the highways.
“We have concluded plans to reintroduce toll gates across the country and we have finalised the design. It will be managed by private sector and it will be located in the old places – 38 point across the country. We are only waiting for the completion of those roads before we introduce the toll gates,” Fashola said.
Meanwhile, the minister also appealed to the committee to revise the procurement law in order to fast track contract approval by the government.
Chairman of the Committee on FERMA, Senator Abe, complained that lawmakers, who are the true representatives of the people, were usually sidelined by heads of ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government when siting projects.
Abe said: “As elected representatives of the people, if the federal government is doing anything in our areas, our inputs are hardly needed. We will then have to fight for relevance.”
Fashola, in his speech, said: “When we did the audit of our roads, we discovered some sections are bad. Many roads have outlived their lifespan. Many roads in the South East and South South were built before the Civil War. They are among the worst in the country. They need to be replaced.
“Funds generated from Sukuk have not been released because of the conditions tied to it. We will try and repair the roads before people start travelling for the festivities in December. We are doing something about that.”
Speaking on challenges facing FERMA, Fashola noted: “One of the reoccurring stories of underperformance which we inherited is that of ministerial interference. We have tried to supervise without interfering. As best as possible, we try not to.
“I have tried to enable government see what it is spending in each of the parastatals under my ministry. In the past, FERMA spent money on areas it had no business with. That had to stop. If you allocate money and it is spent on local government roads, it means something is wrong. The core mandate of FERMA is to repair federal roads.
“FERMA can be the largest construction company in the country. It depends on what we are willing to put into the agency. In the past, FERMA collected monies for roads they did not construct. That has to stop in this government.
“FERMA can be biggest construction firm. The unemployment challenges we have can be reduced if FERMA is busy is every state.”
The minister revealed that the ministry was working with the Army Corps to see how it can develop local content.
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