BY: Vitalis Ugoh, Calabar
.The Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Roads Agency (FERMA), Senator Gershom Bassey, has cried out to the presidency to clear the outstanding N1 trillion owed the agency as backlog noting that the agency needs about N300 billion annually to fix roads nation wide.
The remarks was contained in a statement to some newsmen in Calabar during his contributions in the Upper Chambers recently.
Bassey said “these issues had come up in the senate and while concuring with the presentation of the Chairman of Works committee, Senator Adamu Alero, “I also add that at a time in this senate, we have proffered so many solutions to the executive on road maintenance in the short, medium and long terms. Some of those issues are on the President’s table for accent, issues like the Federal Road Authority, which are sustainable solutions to this road problem and I hope that he would sign and accent those bills that are on his table”.
According to him, “at a time when we are having serious problems with our roads as attested to by many of my colleagues, it is curious and I want this senate to intervene in this…So while we had done an investigation in this senate, where we agreed that FERMA would require a minimum of N300 billion every year just to maintain our roads and there was a backlog of over N1 trillion that had not been paid on the law that was passed in the senate in 2009 on FERMA”.
“The budget for FERMA has been slashed to N18 billion from N45 billion it was last year. It is an issue of prioritization. We need to maintain the road infrastructure that we have. My colleague has talked about rehabilitation but that is very different from maintenance. We need to maintain the road infrastructure we have and the maintenance contracts are for six months typically and this goes straight to the heart of the matter”.
Bassey who is also the Cross River Caucus Chairman in the National Assembly, stated, “I think we need to do something about it and prioritize our roads, especially when it is probably the only means of moving goods, services and people from one point to another. Air fares are too high and we don’t have inland water ways, our only way of moving goods, people and services from one point to another is by road, therefore we must prioritize road maintenance and i want this senate to urge the President to take another look at the budget for FERMA because we need money to maintain our roads”.
Commending the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director (GMD), Mr. Mele Kyari on what Nigeria is doing to exploit the opportunities that have now arisen in Europe with the supply of gas as presented on the floor of the Senate when the GMD appeared, Bassey said, “I am happy NNPC is proactive in trying to exploit those opportunities which will have serious consequences for foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria”.
Reacting to comments by the GMD confirming that the company has line of sight to all the tankers, oil and everything in Nigeria and knows every single tanker that leaves Nigeria and what quantity they carry but, Bassey asked the GMD to explain “why is it so difficult for us to identify those involved in crude oil theft? If we know all the legal tankers and badges leaving our shores, and we have the control room that monitors all of these, how is it that we cannot name and shame every single illegal operator in our waters?
“I would have liked a situation where, as a result of all these monitoring capacity, trackers and so on, we could sit down and identify the legal and illegal tankers and name the ships, owners and operators”.
He said the GMD also said that there is no crude oil transaction that can be done without the banks, “which means we even have more information on these people but why is it that we cannot publish their names and the quantities leaving our shores?”
Besides crude oil theft and other issues that account for the problems that Nigeria has in terms of meeting our quotas in oil production but for the ones that are stealing the oil, the lawmaker charged the NNPC “to explain to us why we cannot name and them, given all the technology that we already have in place”.