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Sambo, Onolememen and state of Nigerian roads
VICE-PRESIDENT Namadi Sambo and Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, were last recently locked in a meeting in the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja to explore new ways to tackle the perennial deplorable conditions of the nation’s important highways. At the end of the meeting, which also had the management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) in attendance, there was an agreement on the need to build a synergy between the Federal Government, the 36 state Ministries of Works and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Department of Works and re-position them to be able to care adequately for some of these roads. This is a departure from the past where the federal and the states governments had often been at loggerheads over the payment for the maintenance of some roads by states.
In the past, some state governments had taken it upon themselves to rehabilitate or reconstruct some federal roads that are of great importance to the states but have had difficulties convincing the Federal Government to refund whatever amount of money they had expended on such venture. In many cases, the Federal Government had been suspicious of the intentions of some state governors, some of whom could not be trusted not to utilise such opportunities to feather their own nests.
The present position to partner with the state ministries and the FCT Department of Works is in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s recently announced policy to allow states to handle the reconstruction and rehabilitation of certain federal roads and be reimbursed afterwards, provided the state governments satisfy some conditions to be spelt out by the Federal Government for the reconstruction or rehabilitation of roads by interested state governments.
The poor state of federal roads around the country is disgraceful, given the huge size of resources available to government. It is equally embarrassing that, in spite of the large amount set aside in the budget every year for their maintenance, they seem to be retrogressing all the time. This is what the Villa meeting between the vice-president and the Works Minister sought to change. Onolememen said at the end of the meeting that the country could not continue to do things the old ways, stating that his ministry was, therefore, particularly keen on evolving creative ways to deal with the long-running saga of bad roads in the country.
Onolememen is not short on creativity judging by his antecedents. He is a young man whose brilliance in his chosen endeavour has catapulted him to a position of pre-eminence in the nation’s polity. It is in recognition of his personal achievements that the president picked him to oversee a ministry whose performance is vital to the success or failure of the administration. It is vital because the state of roads provides lucid indices with which the populace can easily judge the effectiveness of government. That is why Onolememen insists that the bad federal roads must be fixed through whichever way possible.
Consequently, he is pushing for the establishment of a Road management Agency (RMA) which he believes will provide a platform for the Federal Government to partner with the private investors to mobilise funds for road projects round the clock, a creative initiative that has been successfully adopted by other countries, including Ghana, to manage economically viable roads and other social infrastructure. If this gets the president’s nod, it would have been another major step towards providing the much desired relief to road users across the country.
Sambo and Onolememen also agreed on the need to strengthen FERMA, increase its funding mechanism and improve its capacity to repair roads. Beyond this, they also plan to let states and FCT road maintenance agencies benefit from the gesture in order to maximise their capacities to deal with poor conditions of road as they occur in their various jurisdictions.
Everywhere in the country, federal roads are yearning for attention but Onolememen is confident that things are about to change in the sector as he has committed himself to providing visible improvement, before this year runs out, on some of them, including the horrible Sagamu-Benin Expressway and Giri-Lokoja Road. Commuters cannot wait to see this come to fruition and to begin to experience a new lease of life on the nation’s highways.Share