At a one-day public enlightenment event on developments in the road sector held in Abuja, recently, stakeholders were urged to adopt a change of attitude to use of roads and comply with road use regulations and signs. ABAH ADAH reports.
Over the years, Nigeria has had no good record in terms of good motorable road network, so much so that the experience of road travellers around the country has always been nightmare.
The roads, to say the least, are very bad. Realising that the deplorable condition of the roads was a collective function of abuse and lack of maintenance, a 15-member Federal Roads Committee on Road Surveillance and Action Against Road Abuse was inaugurated in 2013 under the supervision of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) whose terms of reference include, monitoring of roads failure, induced congestion and road abuse, ensuring the reinstatement and replacement of damaged carriage ways and road furniture, among others.
Yet, the move seemed to have done little, if nothing. From the South to the North, cases of damaged portion of roads, over loaded and extra heavy vehicles plying the roads, indiscriminate parking of heavy vehicles, especially trucks and tankers along the roads and in some cases, on the pavement, as well as disregard for road signage abound in the country.
The Apapa Road in Lagos where the stationed trucks and tankers have resulted in gridlock and sometimes, accidents; the helpless situation at Tafa along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway where tankers are parked at both sides of the road for years now, among others, could be cited as examples of road abuse.
In the last quarter of 2017, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while admitting that some of the roads are bad but not all, said abuse and lack of maintenance of the roads amidst neglect by successive governments over time were responsible for some of the bad roads while others are in such dilapidated state because they had outlived their design life.
He noted that the President Buhari-led government was committed to massive reconstruction, rehabilitation and maintenance of roads, and has since swung into action.
The need to step up action at ensuring that road use regulations and signs are strictly adhered to, especially by heavy vehicle operators to enable roads live out their expected time dominated talks at the one-day enlightenment session held for stakeholders at the instance of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Abuja.
Addressing the gathering, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola presented an already gazetted regulation that will guide against overload and reckless disregard for road furniture on federal highways tagged, “Federal Highways (Control of Dimensions, Weights and Axle Load of Heavy Duty Goods Transport Vehicles) Regulation, 2018.”
Fashola, who applauded the complementary efforts of some state governments on road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance, said while the government is rapidly and aggressively addressing the issue of road infrastructure, the public ought to reciprocate the goodwill by ensuring the protection of the roads through compliance with both international local regulations on the use of the facility which, according to him, is key to prosperity of nations.
“For those of you who might not know, there are now existing treaty obligations within the West African Sub-region that regulates the amount of load any goods vehicle can put on a road pavement within the sub region. And I thank President Buhari for finally signing the Instrument of Ratification on this as soon as it was brought to his attention.
“Our compliance with these regulations will open a massive door of opportunities and prosperity of cross border trade for Nigerians who are engaged in road transportation businesses.
“Our ministry is convinced that voluntary compliance by stakeholders will take us further and nearer to the prosperity that we all long for,” the minister said, adding that the process of enforcing the unveiled regulations will soon commence.
In his keynote speech, the Special Guest of the day, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustafa, urged the stakeholders to play their own role in ensuring that the roads being constructed and rehabilitated by his administration across the country are not abuse to enable them serve the period of time they are meant to serve.
Stakeholders represented at the meeting by their heads included the various associations in the road sector as well as agencies such as the road safety corps, among others. All pledged to support the government in its effort to turn around the sector, while commending the federal government’s effort at constructing and rehabilitating roads across the country.
The stakeholders, who included the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), and Petroleum Tanker Drivers Association, among other road users, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, through the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, has done well to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the nation’s road sector.
In his goodwill message, President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Najimdeem Yasin, who congratulated the minister for his efforts in executing the 2017 budget, noted that “since the beginning of this democratic dispensation, the road sector in the country never had it as good as is being currently experienced despite the shortfall in the nation’s revenue generation.”
The NURTW boss, however, pointed out that as the efforts of the government towards improving the roads were being applauded, it was also necessary to direct its attention to a lot more of the roads that still needed urgent attention.
He urged the minister to put in place, a mechanism to institutionalise the culture of construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of federal roads as well as putting necessary instruments that would guide against the abuse of the roads by the road users.
The union leader urged that weighbridges, transit parks and other road furniture be provided to ensure safer use of roads, adding that as a transport workers’ union occupying the leadership of the International Transport Federation (ITF) and the Global Vice President, the leadership of the union had taken the sensitisation and training of its members very seriously as it could not afford to operate short of international standards.
On that same note, the President of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Kassim Bataiya, who was last week elected president of the African Road Transport Union in Marrakech, Morocco, represented by the executive secretary of the union, Mr. Aloga I. Okpobo, commended the minister for his efforts towards availing Nigerians of motorable roads, recalled that the unions had recommended to the minister that those constructing such trucks above 60,000 litres in the country be warned to desist forthwith.
He added that the unions also asked government to give a five- year moratorium to enable owners of such vehicles to recoup their investment before the final phase out.
Other recommendations, he said, included banning of the use of steel trucks which are to be replaced with aluminum trucks, adding that the issue of axle load, rehabilitation and expansion of roads would “go a long way in bringing relief to Nigerian roads”.
He, on behalf of the group, expressed total support of the association for the government in its quest to improve road networks in the country.
Presenting the keynote address, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustafa, urged stakeholders to do their own bit by operating on the roads being constructed and rehabilitated in line with the rules and regulations for the roads to live out their expected lifespan.
Others who presented goodwill speech included the minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, the national chairman of the Petroleum Tankers Drivers Association, Mr. Salimon Akanni Oladiti, the president, Road Employers Association of Nigeria, Chief Musa Osawre, represented by Comrade Henry Ejioffor.