By Nuel Suji – The Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has stressed the need for a planned and sustained N250 billion expenditure on the roads, in addition to N140 billion maintenance expenditure for the next 6 to 7 years.
Even as he urged for an Infrastructure Bond for funding road infrastructure in the country, in order to solve the problem of huge debt owed to local road contractors.
Mr. Dogara spoke when he received the report of the Technical Committee for the Review of the Roads’ Funds Bills in his office, Wednesday.
“Nigeria needs at least 300, 000km of sound road network to actualise the Vision 2020. The country’s road network stands at a meagerly 194, 200km as at April 2016, with federal roads accounting for 34, 120km, while the local government account for 129, 580km and of that number, only 9,212km are rated as good, while 13,307km are rated fair and and 11,601km are rated bad.”
“If we must meet the self appointed benchmark of becoming one of the 20 largest economies by 2020 or in the near future,we must work to increase total road network from 194,200 we have today, to at least, 300, 000km by 2020. It means that we have to provide a minimum of 21, 000 km per annum.
“In fact, we need to make a planned and sustained N250 billion expenditure on the roads, in addition to N140 billion maintenance expenditure for the next 6 to 7 years. And we cannot do all these with government funding alone, hence the import of the Roads Fund Law.”
The Speaker noted that it is very important to ensure that these debts that have led to countless loss of jobs for Nigerians are settled for good.
According to him, “There is this existing humongous debt owed firms constructing roads. How do we exit from these debts so that the contractors and their workers can go back to work?”
“I think we have to look inwards. I think we should think about floating an Infrastructure bond that will capture road infrastructure. We should just start on a new slate,” Mr. Dogara said.
The speaker further observed that countries with good road network develop faster than those that with bad roads.
Adding that, “Nigeria’s road funding has been strictly through fiscal allocation since 1970; and whereas the recommended expenditure plan for road is 3.0 per cent of the annual gross domestic product (GDP), we currently spend an infinitesimal 0.5 to 0.1 percent GDP.
“The burden of these long years of inaction on our road is high because for every N1 we fail to spend on road infrastructure, the country loses N5 in return. The loss in the man-hours per annum is put at 10 billion hours or N1.0 trillion. These are apart from cost of impairment, trauma, and loss of lives resulting from road crashes.”
The speaker also decried the high toll of inadequate and poor road infrastructure in Nigeria.
Giving assurance of the commitment of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly to revamp the nation’s existing road networks and building of new ones through the Road Fund Bill, to provide alternative, adequate and sustainable source of funding, Dogara said the country could not talk about economic diversification or joining the industrialised world without a sound road network.
He commended the House Committee on Works and members of the Technical Committee for a job well done and promised expedited action on the recommendations.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the 27-man technical committee, Engr Chris Okoye, said the committee researched road development plans across many continents to come up with a workable plan for the Nigerian environment.
He said the committee recommended toll fees, fuel levy, axle load control charges, among others, as reliable sources of funding for road development and maintenance.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Committee on Works, Hon Toby Okechukwu, assured the speaker that they will put in all the necessary efforts to ensure that the House’ vision for quality road network for the nation was realised.