When countries with deplorable road networks are called, Nigeria will be among the nations that occupy the front row seats. Daily, accidents occur on these major and minor arteries; bandits have their field days on them and farmers cannot bring their produce to the urban centres for sale. However, Nigerian leaders, not wishing to be affected by dangers on the roads, fly over the poor masses, from one state capital to the other.
The matter is so serious that the House of Representatives has commenced a probe of the poor state of roads across the country. Investigation revealed that N4.14 trillion was appropriated by the National Assembly for the sector since 1999 till date. This revelation came to the open during a four-day public hearing by the House Committee on Works in Abuja. The theme was: “Urgent Need to Address the Near Total Collapse of Federal Roads Across the Country and a Bill for an Act to Provide for the Maintenance of Public Infrastructure.”
Apart from the debilitating effects on the national economic growth and loss of lives and properties arising from road accidents, the legislators lamented that armed banditry arising from the poor state of our road network “evoke a sense of national outrage and mourning.”
In fact, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, also recorded 1,936 fatalities in the first half of 2012. This, as the commission argued, was as a result of the poor state of Nigerian roads.
As the committee will examine all the issues and factors involved in the matter, we submit that first, it should look into what the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, said about the poor release of money by the appropriate quarters. He said: “The finance of road projects has been through fluctuating budgetary provisions which have proved inadequate to fund the projects. For example, the amount being owed on Interim Certificate for the Lagos-Ota highway is about N1.74 billion, yet, only N742.5 million was provided in the 2012 appropriation.”
He revealed further: “From past experience, budget provisions are not fully released. In 2011, out of a budgetary provision of N130billion for highway projects, only N88.7 billion was released with a shortfall of N41.3 billion. And in 2012, out of a total budgetary provision of N143b, only N110b was released.”
Secondly, the National Assembly should, as part of its oversight functions, do follow-ups on road contracts to make sure that they are executed. We assume here that our legislators will not succumb to bribery. Contractors that collect money without doing what is appropriate must be sanctioned. We also submit that state governments that wish to fix federal roads should be encouraged to do so. There have been stories flying about on how the works minister himself was playing politics with states that repaired federal roads, thereby delaying their reimbursements. Also, public-private partnership should be encouraged. This is because the roads are too many for the government alone to handle.