Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Works, Rep. Toby Okechukwu has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Federal Roads Authority (FRA) bill into law as the legislation will rapidly transform the country’s road sector.
Rep. Okechukwu, who gave the advice in an interview with journalists at the weekend, said that Buhari stands the chance of re-writing the history of the Nigerian road sector if he endorses the bill immediately.
The PDP lawmaker from Enugu state, added that “this piece of legislation has been on a legislative sojourn since 1971 and has failed to see the light of day until we decided to hold the bull by the horns and passed it just last week.
“As a committee, we are grateful to Speaker Yakubu Dogara because he had to take the bill himself in the absence of the deputy speaker.
“We actually had to amend our rules for him to be able to sit as chairman of the Committee of the Whole to consider the report.
“The Federal Roads Authority Bill is one of the reform bills that have passed through the House; actually we are concurring with what the Senate has passed.
“We had earlier on passed the Roads Fund Bill. These are fundamental reform bills that will make it possible for us to perform in accordance to what happens in other jurisdictions.
“It means the road sector will now be functional; they would be able to raise funds through other sources. They will be able to commercialize the roads, they would have road user charges that would eventually seed capital for funding the road sector.
“Essentially what we do annually is to intervene through appropriation and most of the times you will find out the contractors know the budget more than you who is preparing it.
“Once the road is not in the budget they will disappear. They will down their tools but with the seed capital which you can get from the roads fund, it will now be possible for you to have funds even if you are raising about a N100 billion.
“The combined effect of that with the annual appropriation bill will be significant in such a way that you would be able to maintain your roads and be able to develop new ones.
According to him, what nation has presently is a situation where because of the short life span of existing roads, “a road that is supposed to be constructed within two years, is constructed in a five to 10-year period.”
He added that “by the time you are finishing, you are due for maintenance, meanwhile the road is an ongoing project. So you begin to have pot holes developing from kilometer zero to the portion where you have finished.
“Actually, my own understanding about reforming or giving momentum to any sector is that once you want to do that, you must get the necessary instruments based on which you can operate.
“It is not subject to the whims and caprices of men; it is not a matter of you depending on the dynamism of the person who is there, you make it a matter of law that once you come you abide by the regulations set by the government and parliament.
“We need to create entities that become vehicles for improvement in the sector.
“So if we are able to raise some funds that people can invest, that the authority can invest in the development and maintenance of roads, now when government intervenes, you will find out that it is an addendum to what is existing.
“And based on that, you can even give an oral contract and people would be running around wanting to participate in the road sector.”
The highlights of the bill, he asserted include the proper management of federal roads, to enhance safety and efficiency with a view to meeting the socio- economic demands of the nation and promote the sustainable development and operation of the road sector.
Also, it will facilitate private sector participation in the development, financing, maintaining, management and improvement of roads in Nigeria and set guidelines for road concession contracts and other forms of Public Private Partnership.