Gershom Bassey, the chairman senate committee on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, on Saturday, December 14, 2019, called on the federal government to stop funding the construction and repairs of its highways from annual budgets.
Bassey, who represents Cross River South in the upper chamber, made the assertion during an interview in Abuja.
He said unless the government attracts private sector investors to fund roads in the country, fixing the deplorable state of both state and federal roads in the country would remain a major challenge.
He noted that Nigerian roads are viable to attract reputable investors who are willing to invest in repairing them and later recoup their capital.
He added that the objective of the Federal Roads Authority Bill sponsored by him is to ensure that the necessary structure and funding arrangements that would allow private sector to fund Nigerian road is given legal backing.
Bassey said: “We have seen now that funding roads from annual budgets is not the best way to go because it is not working. We must find a solution.
“The new legislation that the Senate is working on now seeks to move road construction and maintenance off the federal budget and let the private sector come in.
“There is no rocket science here. This idea has been working in other parts of the world and it cannot be different in Nigeria.
“Money will automatically flow into our roads because the private sector will be willing and ready to invest since they know it is a thriving business and they would recoup their money.
“The bill has made provisions for setting up the structures. The first is the creation of the Federal Road Authority which will absolve FERMA.
“The FRA will be owners of the roads with full authority to deliver good roads by whatever means.
“The second is the Infrastructure fund. There will be contributions from the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA. The agency has a template for sharing the Petroleum Fund Tax and the five per cent payment to FERMA is there.”
He noted that Nigerian roads are viable to attract reputable investors “because 80 per cent of our goods and services are delivered by road. So roads in Nigeria are very viable in most of the major roads particularly the Trunk A Roads.”
He added: “You know one thing that we fail to realize, because some people complain of tolling, is that that toll that you are avoiding, you are paying for it in repairing your car.
“You are paying for it in fixing your tyres. So a tyre that would have lasted for five years, because of bad roads it is lasting six months.
“The car, even if it is a tukubo car, that would have lasted for five years, you end up with that car in the mechanic all the time because of that bad road.
“So, when you look at it, it is better to deliver that good road than to be managing that bad road and if it means paying a little bit more from that mechanic’s fee just to be driving on good roads, it is worth it.
“I hope that somebody one day will come up with that study so that we can really explain the numbers to Nigerians.”
He said that the Committees on FERMA, National Planning and Petroleum Resources (Downstream) which have been mandated to look into why the PPPRA was not remitting the five per cent Petroleum Fund Tax to FERMA would submit its report in January after resumption from the Christmas and New Year break.