•Lagos-Kano-Calabar railway projects on course – Amaechi
• Fashola: Financial institutions to invest in road infrastructure
• 430+ buses financed by us driving Lagos BRT – Bank chief
By Favour Nnabugwu
Stakeholders, including the federal and state governments, and the private sector, gathered at Uyo, Akwa Ibom capital to tackle the problems facing roads across the country with a resolve to split the roads between the two tiers of government for effective maintenance and, in the process, ease the burden of the huge budget required on one tier.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, at the 2nd Annual Stakeholders Workshop, organized by his ministry, told participants that the objective of the workshop was “to explore more opportunities to effectively engage the public, the private sector, and other stakeholders in the development of the much-needed sophisticated transportation infrastructure, and the enabling environment that will make road transportation contribute immensely to the nation’s economy”
Amaechi said the objectives of the workshop were projected in the theme, ‘Role of Road Transportation in the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan’.
He recalled that the 2016 edition of the workshop assisted the Federal Government to achieve some policy milestones like the National Road Transport Operators’ Manual which is a guide to the safety, security, and regulation of commercial motor vehicle operations in the country.
Other achievements derived from the previous workshop, according to him, include the creation of a platform for the private sector to showcase their innovations in transportation; the encouragement of effort towards the Inter-State-Road Transit Scheme approved by the ECOWAS; and the partnership with World Bank on the latter’s Rural Access Mobility Project.
Udo Udoma, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, in his address, admitted that the country’s transport infrastructure remained inadequate for the size of its economy.
Udoma said the nation lags behind its peers in terms of scale and quality of road and rail transportation.
He identified poor sector governance and weak project execution as the major obstacles to expansion and improvement on the quality of infrastructure.
“It is in recognition of these that the Buhari administration has placed the development of transport infrastructure at the heart of its policy agenda,” the minister said.
“Beginning from 2016, we have continued to devote significant capital budgetary allocations in our annual budgets as government counterpart funding for the railways.
“In the 2018 budget proposals, a total of N162.28 billion is proposed as counterpart funding for railway projects including Lagos-Kano, Calabar-Lagos, Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Aladja (Warri), Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, and Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi in Niger Republic, among others”.
He added that government was planning to dredge 1,000 kilometres of inland waterways and reinforce riverbanks to increase the capacity of inland waterways.
Speaking on road and mass transit operations in Nigeria, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, said, “Roads were indiscriminately designated as federal roads through the corrupt influence of ministers, governors and their friends in the National Assembly.
“The consequence is that the length of federal roads is so overwhelming that they are impossible to maintain.
“And the roads were not built to specifications and they therefore fall into disrepair after two or three rainy seasons.”
While offering solution to the problem, the former governor said, “The answer lies in rationalization. This presentation visualizes a rationalization whereby only major interstate roads would be designated as federal roads. These roads would be built to the standard of the motorways in Britain, autobahns in freeways in America.
“The alignment of these roads would be such as to guarantee that all the 36 states of the federation, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, are traversed by at least one or more of these roads terminating in them.”
The President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Nojeem Yasin, commended the Minister of Transportation for his achievements.
Chairing the workshop, the Minister of Power, Works & Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola said, “Road is a public asset which should be used in accordance with the axle limits to derive maximum service and benefits to justify the expenditure of the tax payers’ funds.
“The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing will, within available resources, continue to ensure that the nation‘s road network remains serviceable at all times and also encourage the country’s financial institutions to invest in road infrastructure in order to complement the efforts of the Federal Government.
Speaking on why private participation is crucial in government, the General Manager of Sterling Bank, Mr Emmanuel Emefienim, who spoke on private sector intervention in road sector, said his bank had been active in the road sector.
“Well for us I think the private sector is key to driving the entire transportation business in Nigeria which is why we are here, which is why we are also supporting the initiative of the federal ministry of transportation because we know that they need private sector involvement”, he said.
But he said the Minister of Transportation opened the doors to all stakeholders in the transportation sector.
“Thank God for the minister, he has created the platform; some of us like Sterling Bank we have been fully involved in private sector initiative towards facilitating the transportation sector.”
“In Lagos, we have financed over 430 buses that are driving the BRT project and we want to do more. We are calling on other institutions to key into this initiative of government”.