BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar.
As the Senate Committee Chairman on Federal Emergency Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA),embarks on overnighting of the agency, its Chairman, Senator Gershom Bassey has said in a statement made available to some newsmen in Calabar at weekend that it needs over 400 billion Naira to fix all federal roads annually.
The statement said“we are oversighting FERMA and in order to maintain our roads in Nigeria, FERMA had told us that it needs at least N400 billion every year just to keep the roads in a good state”.
He said N82 bilion Naira project proposal was presented to the Senate committee and “we are waiting to see but we however recommended that, that budget should be increased because of the inadequate funding for FERMA and the budget is about N82 billion of which only N63 billion is going for capital projects”.
He deplored the state of federal roads in the country and the poor funding saying from all indications one can see that FERMA has inadequate funding and there is need for government to find ways to fund FERMA.
On the target for next year, Bassey who represents Cross River South Senatorial in the Senate said “we have two or three pieces of legislation that have gone through the Senate and National Assembly and are awaiting approval by the President and chief amongst those is the Federal Road Authority Bill which transforms the way in which we maintain and sustain roads in our country..
“If His Excellency, the President, can assent to that bill, it will go a long way in solving a lot of the road problems we are having in this country”.
He said the Senate had recently urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on federal roads as it also urged the Ministry of Finance to release adequate funds to FERMA as a matter of urgency so as to aid the agency in carrying out urgent road maintenance on all federal roads in the country.
Bassey who is also the Cross River National Assembly Caucus Chairman said he sponsored the motion titled: “Motion on Nigeria’s Bad Roads and NUPENG’S Impending Nationwide Strike” noted that the 36,000 km federal road network is the largest and most valuable single public infrastructure asset owned by the government of Nigeria.
He said, “the deplorable state of the federal roads in Nigeria have become a national shame and an unnecessary embarrassment as scores of innocent people are kidnapped by bandits, robbed, mutilated and killed daily in avoidable accidents on account of bad federal roads”
Bassey recalled that in 2019, he made a similar call through a motion for increased funding for maintenance and rehabilitation of the country’s federal highways, saying from 2016-2020, the actual funds released to FERMA by the federal government for road rehabilitation and maintenance was just about 17 per cent of the required sum, adding that poor funding and neglect of Nigerian roads have led to the country’s abysmal state of federal roads.