Abuja — The Senate has commenced moves to establish a Federal Road Authority (FRA) for the maintenance of the over 36,000 federal roads across the country.
Chairman of the Senate committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Senator Gershom Bassey, who disclosed this at the weekend said a bill to that effect is already before the upper chamber for necessary legislative action.
According to him, the new legislation that the Senate is working on now seeks to move road construction and maintenance off the federal budget and encourage the private sector participation.
"There is no rocket science here. This idea has been working in other parts of the world and it cannot be different in Nigeria. Money will automatically flow into our roads because the private sector will be willing and ready to invest since they know it's a thriving business and they would recoup their money.
"We have seen now that funding roads from annual budgets is not the best way to go because it is not working. We must find a solution".
Bassey stressed that the bill has made provisions for the creation of the Federal Road Authority which will absolve FERMA.
"FRA will be owners of the roads with full authority to deliver good roads by whatever means, the second is the Infrastructure fund. There will be contributions from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) which has a template for sharing the Petroleum Fund Tax and the five per cent payment to FERMA is there.
He also disclosed that the Senate had mandated its Committees on FERMA, National Planning and Petroleum Resources ( Downstream), to look into why the PPPRA was not remitting the money due to FERMA from the Petroleum Fund Tax.
While expressing hope that by the time Senate resumes plenary in January, the joint committee's report will be ready, the legislator stated that the PPPRA is supposed to be remitting five per cent to FERMA and states road maintenance agencies as stipulated in the FERMA Act (As Amended) in 2007.
"FERMA looks after 36, 000 kilometres of roads across the country while the rest are state roads. The essence of the five per cent is to ensure that the roads are maintained regularly. The PPPRA has not remitted any amount to FERMA or to the state agencied since the law was signed.
"The last figure we had when we started our investigation was that the unremitted funds had accumulated to N870 billion which is due to both FERMA and the state roads agencies. The money would have gone a long way to fixing the deplorable roads in Nigeria and this has created incalculable losses including accidents, kidnapping, banditry and other social ills. It is unfortunate that both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress governments since 2007 till date have ignored the legislation which would have instil sanity to our roads.