•Lawmakers: N’Assembly okayed N4.14trn in 12yrs
By Iheanacho Nwosu and Chuks Akunna, Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday began investigation into the poor state of roads across the country, even as it disclosed that N4.14 trillion was appropriated by the National Assembly for the sector since 1999 till date. The Lower House said the state of roads does not reflect the huge amount.
But the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, blamed the deplorable condition on poor releases by the appropriate quarters . He spoke at the opening of a four-day public hearing by the House Committee on Works in Abuja .
The theme of the public hearing is: ‘Urgent need to address the near total collapse of federal roads across the country and a Bill for an Act to provide for the maintenance of public infrastructure’. Chairman of the committee, Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, said that there was nothing on ground to justify the huge appropriation to the roads between 1999 and 2012.
He said, “the truth must be told, the condition of our roads are alarming and statistics attest to that and between 1999 till date, about N4.14 trillion had been appropriated to the road sector. And yet, out of about 34,400 km of federal road network, only about 35 per cent was paved and substantial percentage of it in varying degree of distress and or pot- holes ridden.
“In a country of about 160 million, with an approximate land area of 910,768sq kms in which over 90 per cent of the passengers and freight ‘movement are done by road due to almost non-functional water-ways and rail transportation, the situation assumes even a status of national emergency.”
The debilitating effects on the national economic growth and loss of lives and properties arising from road accidents, armed banditry arising from the poor state of our road network evoke a sense of national outrage and mourning,” he said. “The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) statistics for accidents in the first half of 2012 puts the figure at 1,936 fatalities and substantial part of it attributable to the poor state of our roads. In addressing the critical national emergency before us, the committee looks forward to the stakeholders to examine all myriad of issues and factors as comprehensive and extensive as possible,” he said.
The Speaker, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, represented by the Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, described the state of roads as “horrendous,” stressing that “ there is urgent need to fix them. “ In his presentation, Onolememen noted that the poor releases of funds too, had in many ways, affected road development. He said “the finance of road projects has been through fluctuating budgetary provisions which have proved inadequate to fund the projects. For example, the amount being owed on Interim Certificate for the Lagos-Otta highway is about N1.74billion, yet, only N742.5million was provided in the 2012 appropriation. This often leads to delays and abandonment of road projects across the country.
From past experience, budget provisions are not fully released. In 2011, out of a budgetary provision of N130billion for highway projects, only N88.7billion was released with a shortfall of N41.3billion. And in 2012, out of a total budgetary. And in 2012, out of a total budgetary provision of N143b, only N110b was released,” the minister said. “The average budget of about N100 billion for road development is grossly inadequate for the nation’s 35,000 kms of federal road network and for a country that budgets N300 billion and N150 billion for its Central Bank and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) respectively.
What is needed is about N500 billion yearly in the next four years to fix the ailing road infrastructure and bring it in sync with road infrastructure development in other thriving nations in the world. “The ministry is therefore recommending alternative ways of funding Highway infrastructure by the Federal Government,” he said.