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The reality right now in the country is that nobody is happy with the current state of roads in the country and the reasons for being sad over the situation are not farfetched, given the daily nightmares motorists are subjected to while plying the roads, avoidable carnages and colossal loses.

At the heart of it all is the entrenched issue of under budgeting for infrastructural development and faulty implementation of budget in the country.

Despite the pitfalls recorded in the past, a lot of Nigerians believe that there is silver lining behind the dark cloud that seemed to have enveloped the country for decades with the current administration in the country and its budgeting strategy.

Going down memory lane, available records from previous budgets showed that the last time the country budgeted over N200 Billion in a year’s budget for roads was in 2002.

Even if the income from oil prices increased over the last decade the tendency has been for the government to reduce its spending on roads and housing.

Going down memory lane, the Federal Government budgeted N18.132Billion in 2015 and the Ministry of Works got N13Billion for all roads and highways in 2015, although it has contracts for 206 roads, covering over 6,000km with contract price of over N2 Trillion.

The worst aspect of it was that as at May 2015, many contractors have stopped work because of payment, and many employed family bread winners were laid off by the construction companies they were working for.

In the present dispensation, the Federal Government seemed determined to tackle the age long problem differently with a view to achieving desired results.

The Minister of Works, Power and Housing Mr. Babatunde Fashola is not unaware of what has been done in the past that impeded road development in the country.

According to him,  this include not paying enough for road use and maintenance, overload of our roads with axle load and not growing the network as the population grew as well as not funding Road contracts properly.

To overcome this and achieve sustainable road infrastructure development, the Minister said the Federal Government has upgraded the budget to finance infrastructure adding that unlike the immediate past when the infrastructure budget was barely 15 per cent although Nigeria was earning $100 per barrel of crude oil, the present administration, with less resources from oil, has committed 30 per cent of a bigger budget to road infrastructure financing.

“This is the first step to sustainability. But it is not enough to budget. It is important to implement the budget and use the finances properly. Today, with about 206 road contracts already awarded in the past and not completed, it does not make sense to start any new roads when the amount needed to complete is about N1.7 Trillion and the budget for the 3 (Three) ministries is N433 Billion , as  proposed by the Executive,” he said.

Reiterating that the priority of his Ministry was to finish as many already awarded roads as possible, the Minister maintained that investors were welcome to invest on new roads and alignments under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

He said to be able to finish as many roads as possible, the Ministry “planned in budget 2016 to depart from the practice of yesterday, of giving every road the same amount of money irrespective of whether it is just starting or nearing completion.

“The Ministry of Works was to get N268 Billion, Power N99 Billion and Housing N66 billion. So instead of splitting N268 Billion over 206 roads in 2016 and not finishing any road, we plan to phase 206 roads over 3 years and ensure that we complete or substantially progress the completion of existing roads in each of the six geo-political zones”, he said.

According to him, “We have prioritized the roads that get attention to those with the heaviest traffic and economic strategic significance; the roads that evacuate farm produce, airport cargo and passengers, seaport cargo and tank farm petroleum products.

“We are working on the final details of road sector reform legislation that strengthens maintenance capacity, accelerates the negotiations and approvals of road concessions and provides legislative support for tolling for recovery of investment and reforms the Federal Highways Act which is 60 years old”, he said.

As a form of compliment for further motivation to achieve the ministry’s aims, the Minister lauded the Ministry of Transportation’s aggressive pursuit of the rail programme “which, in the fullness of time, will bring a lot of axle load relief to our roads and ensure that they reach their design life utility”, adding, “This is the road to sustainability in Road infrastructure”.

On the Housing Sector, Fashola, who noted that although there is no disputing the housing deficit in the country, the size of the deficit was still in dispute, added that although the country has had “a few initiatives by President Shagari and Governor Jakande in the second Republic, and a few starts and stops”, what is missing is  sustainability.

“Some of the records I have seen suggest that the Federal Housing Authority has delivered less than 40,000 homes in about 40 years. Apart from the fact that this number was not delivered on a consistent basis of 1000 homes per year, the long gaps between starts and stops clearly indicate the need to change how things .

Source: Leadership Newspaper

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