By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—MEMBERS of the House Committee on Works, Monday, disclosed that between 1999 and 2012, the National Assembly has appropriated about N1. 414 trillion for the road sector alone.
Meanwhile, Works Minister, Mr. Mike Onolememen, attributed the poor state of roads in the country to inadequate fund releases from the appropriate quarters.
Speaking at a four-day stakeholders public hearing on the need to address the near total collapse of federal roads across the country, Chairman of Works Committee, Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, said: “The truth must be told. The state of our roads is alarming.
“Statistics show that from 1999 till date, about N1.414 trillion has been appropriated to the road sector. Yet, out of about 34,400 km of federal road network, only about 35 percent is paved and substantial percentage of it in varying degree of distress and or potholes-ridden.
State of emergency
“In a country of about 160 million people with an approximate land area of 910,768sq km, in which over 90 percent of the passengers and freight movement are done by road due to almost non-functional water-ways and rail transportation, the situation assumes even a status of national emergency.
“The debilitating effects on the national economic growth and loss of lives and property arising from road accidents, armed banditry arising from the poor state of our road network evoke a sense of national outrage and mourning.
“The Federal Road Safety Commission statistics for Accidents in the first half of 2012 puts the figure at 1,936 fatalities and substantial part of it attributable to the poor state of our roads.
“In addressing the critical national emergency before us, the committee looks forward to the stakeholders to examine all myriad of issues and factors as comprehensive and extensive as possible.”
He listed such issues to include the need for appropriate legal and institutional framework for road infrastructure, funding options (government budgeting), its adequacy or lack of it, multilateral borrowing, augmentations, variations and delays in payment of earned certificates; private sector investment in the road sector through PPP, amongst others.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who was represented by the Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, noted that the state of roads in the country was horrendous, stressing that there was urgent need to fix them.
Onolememen, in his presentation, also noted that poor releases of funds had in many ways affected road development in Nigeria.
He explained that the finance for road projects had been through fluctuating budgetary provisions which had proven inadequate to fund the projects.
He said: “For example, the amount being owed on Interim Certificate for the Lagos-Otta highway is about N1.74 billion, yet only N742.5 million was provided in the 2012 appropriation. This often leads to delays and abandonment of road projects across the country.
“From past experience, budget provisions are not fully released. In 2011, out of a budgetary provision of N130 billion for highway projects, only N88.7 billion was released with a shortfall of N41.3 billion. In 2012, out of a total budgetary provision of N143 billion, only N110 billion was released.
“The average budget of about N100 billion for road development is grossly inadequate for the nation’s 35,000 km of federal road network and for a country that budgets N300 billion and N150 billion for its central bank and deposit insurance corporation, respectively.
“What is needed is about N500 billion yearly in the next four years to fix the country’s ailing road infrastructure and bring it in sync with road infrastructure development in other thriving nations in the world.
“The ministry is, therefore, recommending alternative ways of funding highway infrastructure by the Federal Government.”
According to him, this include adoption of annuity contracts for key arterial routes; borrowing from multilateral agencies and pension fund for key highways infrastructure and floating of road bonds for highway projects.
Other ways are viability gap funding (through the proposed road fund), implementation of the 5 percent fuel surcharge; user-related charges (tolling, heavy-user charges for haulage companies) and conventional PPP finance for road infrastructure.