Nigeria considers road emergency in south east region

Minister of works Mike Onolememen

Mike Onolememen

The Federal Government will evolve and implement an emergency plan to fix federal roads in dire state in the south east and other parts of the country.

The Minister of Works, Mr Mike Onolememen, disclosed this while answering questions at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum in Abuja on Wednesday.

Onolememen, who acknowledged that some of the arterial roads in the south east were in bad condition, said that the government had done so much on roads in the region, noting that it had not abandoned roads in the region.

“ In fact, the road you are talking about from Umuahia to Ikot Ekpene, when I visited Abia State in December, I drove through the road and I noticed that there is about three kilometers stretch of that road that is actually in dire need of rehabilitation.

“I have not just heard about it, I have seen it; between the ministry of works and the agency which is under my supervision, we are formulating an emergency plan to recover that particular road; it has not been forgotten.’’

Onolememen dismissed insinuations that the Federal Government had not done much in fixing most of its roads in bad condition in the south east region.

Mike Onelememen
Mike Onelememen

He said that though the budgetary constraints had limited the ministry’s intervention in some areas, government had in the past few years tried to recover bad portions of the arterial roads.

“It is not true that all the federal government roads in the south east are in bad shape.

“It is in the same south east where you have the Obiozora-Iziagu road that is one of our best roads which is comparable to anywhere in the world. We have pockets of them here and there, the Enugu-Abakaliki road is part of the roads in the south east, these are very good alignments.

“Yes we have some challenges, for us to be able to drive these roads to the level Nigerians want; we need to be investing about N500 billion in road development in the ministry of works every year in the next four years,’’ he said.

The Minister added that the Obajana-Kabba road which had been in terrible state in the past 15 years and other critical roads across the country would receive priority attention before the expiration of the present administration.

The minister urged Nigerians to appreciate the work done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the area of road rehabilitation and construction after many years of neglect in the sector.

He said that government had done much in the sector despite the increase in vehicular traffic from 150,000 in the early 1980s to over 10 million as at Dec. 2013.

Onolememen said that the length of roads fixed by the present administration had improved from 4,000 kilometres in 2011 to 20,000 kilometres in Dec. 2013.

He said that a significant percentage of the remaining 15,000 kilometres of federal roads across the country would be made motorable before the end of the present administration in 2015.

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The minister also told his interviewers that Nigeria needs N500 billion annually for four years to have a sustainable road network.

“We need to be investing about N500 billion in road development in the ministry of works every year in the next four years. But a situation where what we get is not up to N100 billion you can imagine the predicament we have sometimes and we have to prioritise.

“It’s like you have a requirement that will for instance cost you about 500 billion naira and you have maybe 70 to 80 billion naira to play with.

“So funding, no doubt, is a limitation, but even within that limitation we are doing our utmost best to ensure that such critical fate section of the federal road are tackled within the little resource that is available to us,’’ he said

According to Onolememen, the budgetary allocation alone is not enough to stimulate the road development that would sustain the economy of the nation.

He said that was why it was mandatory for every country to have a special fund set aside for infrastructural development.

“That was what the National Development Plans were doing in the post-independent era and that was why they succeeded the way they did.

“Thus, waiting for the budgetary allocation alone is not enough in order to stimulate Private partnership fund into the sector and that was what necessitated the road sector reforms.’’

He said that the reform in the road sector would be exploited to woo Public Private Partnership investment into the sector.

The minister said the SURE-P was a blessing to infrastructure development in Nigeria because it had helped in scaling up most road projects it’s the country since its introduction.

He said that the ministry was able to upscale construction work from the Abuja-Lokoja way from the 18 per cent it met the project to about 72 per cent as at December 2013.

He added that the Benin-Ore road alignment had been fully completed while the Sagamu to Ajebandele road had been awarded for asphalt overlaying through SURE-P funding.

He said that about 10 to 12 billion naira had gone to the road sector and this had helped to award the contract of the construction of the Oweto Bridge in Benue and the second Niger Bridge.

Onolememen said no road project was abandoned or forgotten as the ministry was working with the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to ensure that most roads were put in good shape especially the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road.