10 February 2012

Nigeria: FG Advises States On Refunds for Federal Roads

The Federal Government yesterday listed conditions to be met by states that used state fund to repair federal roads in their various states.

Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, told a gathering of journalists in Abuja, that for any state government to receive a refund for roads repaired, there must be evidence that the road really belongs to the federal government and that means it must be gazetted with a federal road number as stipulated in 1973 Federal Road Act.

In addition, the state governor must have sought and obtained in writing a permission from the President. Also, procurements and tender for such roads must be open and transparent in line with federal standards.

The analysis for the biddings must involve teams from federal technical department of the federal Ministry of Works. The technical experts from the Ministry must also be involved in the supervision of the project.

The minister, who disclosed that state governments have made a claim of N 350 billion from the Federal Government arising from federal roads claimed to have been rehabilitated by them, maintained that all the steps outlined by Federal Government must be followed and each state must carry along the Federal Controller of Works in the state to enable him quality control such projects after obtaining necessary approval.

He explained further that already, some of such bills submitted to the Federal Government were being assessed adding: "Very soon, states that qualify for reimbursement would be paid back their money."

Speaking on the second Niger Bridge, the minister stated that "the problems that have remained on the Onitsha Head Bridge to Upper Iweka have also been solved, assuring that very soon, the bridge would be completed.

Onolememen also said a high powered government delegation led by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is already in China discussing with some investors who have indicated interest to be concessioner of the federal highways.

"From the Head Bridge to Upper Iweka in Onitsha, which was also very bad, we took it up as a challenge and I went to the President and appealed for special intervention and he graciously approved N2 billion which helped us recover that road, built additional three lanes and properly constructed drainages on both sides of the road and as I speak now, that road is very smooth and people no longer experience the hardship they were used to on that road.

"We have done a tremendous work on three kilometers of that road. Now people can travel from Onitsha, Owerri, Aba up to Port Harcourt without much hitches.

"We also have two major bridges to be partly funded from the funds to be realised in SURE programme. They are the Oweto Bridge in Kogi state and the second Niger Bridge. We shall make sure that all the bottlenecks on the second Niger bridge are resolved as we are also discussing with some concessionaires to take over the bridged and am sure when it is completed, there will be real economic boom in that area," he said.

He disclosed that the private concessioner to handle the Niger second bridge at Onitsha, which he said would cost about N100 billion would soon emerge and that Nigerians would be proud of the concessioner.

The federal, the minister said, would provide N30 billion of the amount while the concessioner would provide the rest of the money.

Onolememen also disclosed that the Federal Government has decided to link all the six geo-political zones with dual carriage roads as a means of enhancing road transportation.

Some of the dual carriage roads affected include the Abuja- Lokoja, Kano-Maiduguri, Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt, and Shagamu- Ore-Benin roads.

Another priority of his ministry, according to him was to link all major seaports, airports and petrol refineries in the country because according to him, these entities are major points of heavy economic activities.

"Funding for these roads as well as the second Niger Bridge would come from the Subsidy Reinvestment Fund and in some cases, from private concessioners who would participate in the some of the projects," he stressed.

Onolememen stressed that in order to get things done federal government was going back to private public partnership (PPP) in roads' construction once again because it was convinced that if properly handled, it would succeed and wipe away the bitter memory of the last attempt at the policy.

He announced that the Federal Government has embarked on reforms in the country's road sector which would lead to the creation of a national road authority, roads fund and a board to manage the funds.

The reform, he went on, would not depend on money from toll gates to fund its operations and jobs as the ministry was planning to take advantage of opportunities along its right of ways on highways to generate money.

In the midst of this reform, Onolememen assured that the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) would still be left to function.

The minister disclosed that he has modernized FERMA and that the Agency can deliver better quality jobs now than before.

He announced that the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan would soon launch the Public Works Programme, meant to create jobs and tackle the problem of bad roads in the country.

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