By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate has said that the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), needs annual budgetary allocation of N4 billion to effectively put the 26,000km road network across the country in good shape.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on FERMA, Senator Gershom Bassey, stated this in Abuja at the weekend while briefing journalists on the 2021 budget report of the agency, which he submitted to the Appropriations Committee of the Senate.
Bassey explained that the N38 billion allocated to FERMA in the 2021 budget for capital projects was grossly inadequate, considering the dilapidated states of most of the nation’s roads, urging the Executive to evolve plan based budgets for roads maintenance in the country.
The lawmaker also stressed the need for the Federal Government to concession federal roads for effective maintenance, suggesting that government should come up with a concession modem, and then consider setting up a trust fund to complement the concession.
Consequently he observed that 80% of goods are moved by roads from one part of the country to another, which put a lot of pressure on the roads, with attendant loss of lives and goods in the process, arguing that more funds should be given to FERMA to address the challenges of road maintenance in Nigeria.
He said: “I think one thing missing, which is why you have not been seeing sign posts as you used to see before is the issue of funding. It’s a budget of N38 billion for capital. It’s really a paltry sum considering that we have 26000km of federal road network, and each one of them has one problem or another.
“If you really want FERMA to work, you are looking at a budget of in excess of N300 billion to N400 billion every year, just to maintain the nation’s road network as it is. You know the way we move goods and services in this country, you know that we don’t use train much, and we don’t use air; we use the roads. About 80% of goods are moved through the roads.
“So, it makes sense for us to invest heavily in our roads, particularly in the maintenance of those roads. If you are spending N300 billion to N400 billion every year on FERMA, it makes sense, so that the roads will be in good shape.
“Of course, we know the loss of lives we incur on our roads as well as the loss of efficiency. For instance, if a trailer load of rice takes off from one part of the country to another, a journey that should take one day takes four to five days because of the poor maintenance of the roads.
“So, I have always urged the Federal Government to pay more attention to federal roads because FERMA is key. How long does it take to build new road? It takes you two, three, four years but the one you have, you have to maintain.
“So, it’s important that more money is pumped into FERMA. N300 billion to N400 billion is not too much for FERMA annually, so that they can truly maintain our road networks and save lives, and also increase the efficiency of the economy”.