Sunday, 13 June, 2021

Funding and maintenance of federal roads


Once again, the face-off between the Minister of Works and Housing and the Senate Committee on Media highlighted the major challenge of adequate funding and administration of roads in Nigeria. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) was summoned to make clarifications, about remarks alluded to him when he received a delegation from the Middle Belt on the state of roads in that geo-political zone. The minister was reported to have implored the delegation (led by Retired Air Vice Marshall Morgan Monday) to lobby their National Assembly members for favourable allocations to roads. That was construed, rightly or otherwise, by the law makers as an accusation that the Red Chamber slashed votes for capital projects, especially for highways.

Beyond their occasional wrangling, however, the minister and the lawmakers are faced with the problem of insufficient funds for road programmes. Budgetary extractions are inadequate for administration, maintenance and upgrading of the nationwide network of 34,000 kilometres. In 2018, the National Assembly passed a bill for establishing the National Road Fund and the Federal Roads Authority; which was adjudged by stakeholders and experts as a permanent solution to the problem of funding roads in the country. However, President Muhammadu Buhari did not sign the bill into law. What was Fashola’s input to that decision by the President?

Beyond their occasional wrangling, however, the minister and the lawmakers are faced with the problem of insufficient funds for road programmes. Budgetary extractions are inadequate for administration, maintenance and upgrading of the nationwide network of 34,000 kilometres. In 2018, the National Assembly passed a bill for establishing the National Road Fund and the Federal Roads Authority; which was adjudged by stakeholders and experts as a permanent solution to the problem of funding roads in the country. However, President Muhammadu Buhari did not sign the bill into law. What was Fashola’s input to that decision by the President?

In 2013, Fashola’s predecessor, Mike Onolomehmen, announced the government’s decision to establish the road agency that would eliminate the duplication of functions by Federal Roads Maintenance Agency and the Highways Division in the Ministry of Works and Housing. The Orasanye report on reducing government expenditure also recommended merging the two agencies handling federal roads.

The consequence of official prevarication on roads is the dilapidated federal highway network. Motorists are suffering on federal highways nationwide. The malaise in the federal road network cascades to state roads and local government routes. The third tier of government is responsible for rural roads and streets in towns and cities. Better roads indicate better living. An unpaved street is the primary indication of squalor which goes with lack of drainage, water supply and sanitation.

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