Senate mulls bill to establish Federal Road Authority

Motorists try to avoid waterlogged potholes on Apapa Oshodi expressway that leads to Apapa ports, West Africa's busiest and largest container terminal on October 20, 2014 in Lagos. Many roads lack proper drainage, turning them into swimming pools within minutes of a downpour, roadside culverts overflow, tarmac disintegrates, traffic lights and road signs are often absent. The poor state of Nigeria's roads is an exasperating joke for the country's long-suffering population but there are still hopes that improvements can be made. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

A bill to establish a Federal Roads Authority scaled second reading at the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill seeks to give the agency powers of ownership, regulation, management and development of federal roads networks.

Also, part of the intentions of the bill is to repeal the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) Act 2002, the Federal Highways Act, 1971 and the Control of Advertisement Act 1986.

The bill was passed by the eight National Assembly but President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to it.

“The establishment of the road sector regulator as a separate and distinctive body in Part 6 of the bill is capable of rendering the entire technical workforce of the supervisory ministry redundant,” the president said as he gave his reasons for rejecting the bill.

“The supervisory power of the ministry over the road sector would be taken over by the road sector regulator and will leave the ministry without the power to exercise its supervisory role.”

Leading the debate, Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River South) who sponsored the bill, said Nigeria’s road sector should be “oversight[ed] by the ministry of works, managed by the federal road authority, delivered by the private sector, financed by both government subventions and revenues that are outside the national budgetary system.”

This is even as he decried the “tremendous pressure” on Nigerian roads because of other means of transportation like “waterways are underdeveloped and air transportation is too expensive for most Nigerians.”

The N870 billion meant for road maintenance has not been disbursed by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) as mandated by the law, he explained.

“The road development and maintenance in Nigeria seems uncoordinated hence the need to pass the bill to create a framework that allows other revenue streams to support government budgetary efforts on roads.

“It further seeks to manage the road networks so that they are safe and efficient in a view to meeting the socio-economic demands of the country.

“Facilitate the development of competitive market and promotion of enabling environments for private sector participation in the financing, maintenance and improvement of our roads in Nigeria.”

Mr Bassey said the Federal Road Authority in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Corps will advise the federal governments of effective efforts in curbing accidents, enforcement of road traffic regulations, reparation of damaged roads and promotion of road safety.

“It is time for Nigeria to have a road authority that is in sync with international best practises on road management and maintenance, a road authority that will measure up with countries like Australia, Denmark, Switzerland etc.

“We have to immediately ensure that the 5 per cent user pump price of petrol and diesel accruing to road maintenance agency from PPRA is related for that purpose and also pass the federal road authority bill into law,” he said.

Some senators took turns to contribute and support the bill.

In his contribution, Sani Musa (APC, Niger) said construction of roads ought not to be done by the federal government.

“Industrialisation cannot happen without adequate road network”, he noted.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said “the government alone cannot find the construction of roads across the country”, proposing that such should be done by Private- Public Partnership.

On the non-disbursement of funds by PPRA, he said the matter would be looked into separately but “cannot be swept under the carpet.”