Senate advances bill to improve Nigerian roads

By Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Nigerian National Assembly building in Abuja.

The Nigerian Senate, in line with its determination to improve on the conditions of roads across the country, on Wednesday, passed for second reading, a Bill for an Act to repeal the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FEMA) Act, 2002 (as amended) and to establish Federal Roads Authority (FRA) as a replacement.

The Bill passed for second reading following a clause by clause consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Works, presented by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya.

Leading the debate on the general principles of the Bill, Senators Gaya explained that the legislation was designed to promote a safe, efficient and cost effective management of roads network in Nigeria. 

He noted that the Federal Roads Authority which would be a semi-autonomous road agency, would be responsible for the professional management of federal roads in the country, involving planning, design, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance.

The lawmaker pointed out that if passed into law, the proposed road authority would end the current duplication of functions between FERMA and the Highways Department of the Ministry of Works. 

Persuading his colleagues to pass the Bill for second reading, he noted that over the years, the country had established Maritime Authority, Inland Waterways Authority and Airports Authority lamenting that the road, which according to him is the most essential link for all other transport modes, had no Authority to take care of it.

He argued that any country that needed to attain meaning growth in all facets of her national life must be responsive to her infrastructural development needs.

Gaya also stated that the proposal for creation of FRA was in line with international road management practice, noting that some countries had brought their many road agencies together as one formidable road authority.

“The creation of the FRA is in line with international road management practice. It is obvious that any country that needs to grow must be responsive to its infrastructural development needs. Nigeria’s intention of being among the top 20 developed countries by the year 2020 will be a mirage if the infrastructural potentials of the nation (especially roads) are not harnessed, developed and sustained. 

Road transportation remains the cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy, accounting for about 95 percent of cargo and passenger traffic. There is therefore the need for a sustainable development and maintenance of our country’s road transportation infrastructure as to provide a safe, reliable and free flowing system for motorists and other road users in order to facilitate economic activities in the country. 

Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, best practice around the world indicates that Nigeria cannot overcome its road infrastructure development challenges unless reforms are embarked upon to reposition the road sector and bring it in synchronies with its peers in the developed and developing nations of the world”.

The Agency when enacted into law would amongst other things be responsible to manage the federal roads networks to make it safe and efficient with a view to meeting the socio-economic demands of the country.

It will also help to promote the sustainable development and operation of the road sector, as well as facilitate the development of competitive markets and the promotion of enabling environment for private sector participation in the financing, maintenance and improvement of roads in Nigeria; 

The proposed road authority will further ensure the efficient and effective construction, rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance of all federal roads, provide measures for preventing damage however caused by any person to any road or any part thereof, and for recovering, in full or in part, the cost of repairing the damage from such persons or his insurers.

The agency will also advise the government in conjunction with the Federal Road Safety Corps and other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, on appropriate and effective methods of enforcing road traffic legislation for the purposes of preventing damage to roads and promoting road safety; among others. 

Senator Gaya told the apex Chamber that the federal highway network of 34,000 kilometres constituted part of the nation’s assets, stressing that there was nowhere in the world such a long stretch of roads was administered within a bureaucratic structure. 

He therefore, posited that the passage of the Bill would bring permanent solution to the challenges of funding and management of roads in Nigeria. 

Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in his contribution, supported the passage of the Bill for second reading, saying that it would serve as a booster to the nation’s highways.

Similarly, most Senators in attendance supported the bill and the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, put it to voice vote and it was read a second time.

It was then referred to the Committee on Works for further legislative action. Senator Saraki also mandated the Committee to report back to the Chamber in three weeks.