Abuja — As Nigerians continue to lament the poor state of roads in the country, Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, Senator Gershon Bassey has said that the increasing wave of kidnappings and armed robbery on the highways across the country, is as a result of bad roads.
Senator Bassey, who is representing Cross River South in the senate is also of the view that due to poor funding, the best way to have good roads with guaranteed security is through concessioning of the roads where there will be private partnership participation.
Speaking in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja, Senator Bassey noted that the Federal Road Maintenance Act had stipulated that the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, should take the responsibility of maintaining the federal highways, but the agency was yet to make any impact and was owing N870 billion on road maintenance.
Bassey, who is the sponsor of the Bill for the establishment of Federal Road Authority and repeal of Federal Road Act that has passed second reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Works, explained that the bill makes provision for ownership, regulation, management and development of federal roads networks.
He lamented that the present condition of federal roads across the country is horrible giving an instance with the Calabar/Itu federal highway linking Cross River State to Akwa Ibom which ordinarily should be a 55 minute journey but now takes between three to eight hours.
According to him, "The way we have been doing things with respect to our roads has not worked. Today, we have so many bad roads across the length and breadth of the country.
"These roads are claiming lives every day, kidnapping, all sorts of things are happening because of the bad state of our roads.
"The thirty six thousand kilometers federal roads network is by far the most valuable and single public infrastructure asset owned by the Federal Government.
" There is nowhere in the world this expanse of road network is managed solely by government but unfortunately, over 80 percent of goods and services are transported by roads leading to tremendous pressure on our roads since other modes of transportation like rail and shipping are under developed and air transportation is too expensive for most people.
"Road development and maintenance in Nigeria seems uncoordinated and vulnerable to extreme climate events. Funding is poor and comes in an unrealistic manner, making the cost of road maintenance in Nigeria one of the highest in the world.
" Despite the amendment of the FERMA Act in 2007 mandating the PPPRA to provide the funding for road maintenance, nothing has been released by PPPRA for the purpose of road maintenance till date.
" As a result, over N870 billion is owed by PPPRA for road maintenance as we speak. The Federal Road Authority Bill seeks to create a framework that allows other revenue streams to support government efforts on roads.
"It further seeks to manage the road network so that it is safe and efficient with the view to meeting the socio-economic demands of the country and promote sustainable development and operation of the road sector.
" It facilitates development of competitive market and promotion of enabling environment for private sector participation in the financing, maintenance and improvement of our roads."
He further said, "If you create a Federal Road Authority which now owns the road, the consequence of that is that more money will come to our roads. The federal government doesn't have enough money to build new roads, fix existing roads, solve all the road problems, we must partner with the private sector. "