Nigeria’s Senate on Tuesday bemoaned the deplorable condition of over 33,000 kilometres of federal highways spread across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
It has, therefore, sought for N300 billion intervention particularly for the deplorable federal roads in Niger state alone.
This is coming just as the Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Tuesday directed contractors to move to sites to effect immediate repairs on some of the federal highways nationwide.
The Red Chamber had at plenary called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency make provision for N300 billion for rehabilitation and reconstruction of highly deplorable federal roads in Niger State.
The deplorable condition of Trunk A roads in the power state stretching over 2,000 kilometres was brought to the attention of Senators by the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi via a motion of urgent national importance he sponsored along with six other Senators.
Abdullahi, who cited Orders 42 and 52 of Senate standing rules to move the motion lamented that due to bad shapes of the roads articulated vehicles’ drivers used their trucks to block the roads from last Friday to early hours of Tuesday with attendant untold hardships on other road users.
Niger State, he explained, has the longest federal road network of 2,263km out of a total of 32,000km of national federal roads network.
According to him: “The federal roads in Niger state stretched from the Abuja – Kaduna end to the Jebba – Mokwa – Makera – Tegina – Birnin Gwarimpa – Kaduna road to the Mokwa – New Bussa – Agwara – Kigera end which lies to the border with the republic of Benin.
“Overall, the following are critical linkage roads within Niger state that provide logistical and vehicular movements between the North and South; especially the South West and North West Corridors.
“Because of the massive land area of Niger State at 76,363km (representing about nine percent of the total land area of the country), all movements from North to South substantially traverse the State.
“Indeed, the massive haulage of heavy industrial goods such as petroleum products, iron rods, cement, finished manufactured goods, machines and equipment, electronic materials and goods, building materials etc, in which trucks and tankers are overloaded pits great pressure on the roads and thus are seriously devastating to the state of the roads”.
The ranking Senator stressed that all the major link roads have totally failed with fatal accidents occurring on a daily basis with loss of lives, goods and vehicles adding that the current rate of funding of federal roads in the state is unfortunately dismal and cannot deliver, which has led to many of the projects abandoned by contractors.
He, therefore, called for emergency action from the federal government on the road in the mode of N300 billion special fund which was adopted by the Senate in its resolutions.
Senator Lekan Mustapha also moved a motion for urgent rehabilitation of all federal roads across the country noting that the problem of bad road is not peculiar to a zone but cut across all zones.
The Senate in response to the motion urged the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Budget to release funds for emergency repair of all federal roads nationwide.
Other resolutions adopted by the Senate as sought for as prayers in Abdullahi’s motion are that the Federal Government should declare a state of emergency on the critical roads in Niger state linking economic corridors in the North and South.
It also resolved that a National Legislative Roundtable on the State of Infrastructure for Economic Development be convoked, so as to bring all critical stakeholders in the transport and logistics industries together with a view to identifying urgent actions to address the current challenges.
The Red Chamber also urged the federal government to direct the Federal Ministry of Works to carry out emergency stabilization of the failed portions of Bida – Lapai – Lambatta road to ease the current suffering and rate of accidents and loss of goods and investments in the road.
Also on Tuesday, in what appeared like the government heeding to Senate’s motion, Fashola, directed contractors handling the various roads, to move to sites immediately.
Fashola in a statement signed by the Ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations, Boade Akinola, specifically directed the contractor handling the construction of Lambata -Lapai – Bida Road to immediately embark on remedial works with boulders on the critical section of the road in order to bring relief to commuters.
The minister noted in the statement that the inclement weather condition was adversely affecting the progress of work on the ongoing 124.8km thereby making the road unmotorable especially between Km 45 – 50 kilometres to articulated vehicles and trailers conveying petroleum products and others.
The ministry, according to the statement, has contacted the leadership of the Union of Truck Owners and Operators to appeal to their drivers to vacate the road to allow the contractor access to the work sites.
The Minister also appealed to Niger State Government to reconsider the decision to close Bida – Minna and Lapai -Paiko roads to articulated vehicles while construction is equally going on to decongest and distribute the traffic on Bida -Lambata road to the other adjourning state roads.
He reiterated the commitment of the federal government to continue to respond to the needs of the people, even as infrastructure development is given top priority just as he sympathises with all who have been adversely impacted by this development and urges them to remain hopeful as help is on the way.
Deji Elumoye and Juliet Akoje in Abuja