Nigeria’s roads carry about 95% of all freights and passengers nationwide, against the background of other modes of transportation being in a crippled state. Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen stated this during in Benin while flagging off the South-South zonal sector of the programme along the Benin-Asaba dual carriageway. He said that the preventive maintenance and road surveillance programme recently embarked upon by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is the best programme yet by government for improving year-round serviceability of all arterial Federal roads as well as reduce the cost of road repairs.
The Minister said that on assumption of duty, he directed FERMA to embark on massive patching of potholes as well as develop a template for sustainable maintenance of all Federal roads. He expressed his satisfaction that the Agency has been quick and effective in getting the programme off the ground.
Onolememen said time has come for Nigeria to declare a state of emergency on our roads, given their key role as prime drivers of economic development. “Considering that these roads were left unattended and unmaintained for several years, it is impossible to achieve a meaningful turnaround in the level of serviceability of our roads without dealing with the difficult challenge FERMA faces in delivering its mandate, especially the issue of insufficient funding.” The solution, he averred, lies in taping into alternative sources of funding, as spelt in the FERMA amendment act, indicating that the current funding mechanism based appropriation has proved grossly inadequate.
Earlier in his opening remark, the Managing Director/CEO of FERMA, Engr. Gabriel Amuchi, stated that in line with his briefing and blueprint, the new thinking of the Agency for effective road maintenance under his management include: Commencing and promoting a sustained road maintenance programme that will keep critical and economically viable roads in fair condition all year round; nipping in the bud, cracks and other failures and prevent them from developing into large potholes, gullies or washouts; being proactive in all areas of road maintenance culture and ensuring the effective surveillance of over 30,000km of Federal roads nationwide and closely monitor them such that roads are in fair condition, well managed, secured and made safe for road users
Engr. Amuchi said to ensure effective management of our roads on day to day basis, FERMA also considered the need to employ the cold asphalt technology to be used for quick patching at distant locations, which was demonstrated at the flag off.
The Economic Confidential gathered that necessary arrangements for ensuring the programme’s success, including acquisition and deployment of machinery and equipment, identification and deployment of experienced engineers and technicians, as well as other logistical support have been made.
The first phase of the programme is targeted at nodal roads, i.e., roads which convey most of the nation’s economic activities across the country. Critical machinery and equipment acquired and deployed to the Zone for the programme include 2 Bergkamp Pothole patchers, drum and tapping rollers, two 14-seater buses and sundry road maintenance tools and materials.
In keeping with the objective of improving the capacity of the roads to play their pivotal role as agents of economic growth, income distribution, employment generation and poverty reduction, the programme youths from communities along the targeted roads would be engaged and trained in basic road repair and maintenance techniques under the supervision of experienced and skilled engineers and technicians. This way, he said, the youths are not being given a means of livelihood, but they will also develop a sense of ownership of roads as public assets from which everybody benefits.
Engr. Amuchi averred that it is much cheaper to maintain any asset, including roads, than allow it collapse, as have most roads in the Federal Highway network before embarking on repairs; as the latter is much more expensive, wasteful and time-consuming.
About 150 youths drawn from various communities along the Benin-Asaba dual carriageway will be engaged to maintain the road on a daily basis, while youths from communities along all affected roads will be similarly engaged.