Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has assured Nigerians that they would experience shorter and more pleasurable travel time during the season, saying contractors have remobilised to sites across the country to repair and restore portions of the roads affected by adverse weather.
Mr Fashola, who spoke at the ministry’s conference room in Mabushi, Abuja, while hosting the National Executive Members and Trustees of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), said they had been meeting the contractors since September to plan against the coming season.
He added that the failed areas had been identified and contractors had been duly deployed to the areas to carry out special repairs and palliative works to facilitate better travel time for road users.
The minister, who recalled that there was also a meeting between the Ministry of Works and Housing and the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President, NARTO, Petroleum Tanker Drivers, the NNPC, DPR and other stakeholders in the transport value chain, added that the meeting was to assure those in the petroleum distribution value chain that all would be done to achieve a smooth and seamless operation during the season.
“We have seen a report of a meeting last week between our Ministry and the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President, NARTO, Petroleum Tanker Drivers, the NNPC, DPR and all of those that operate in the value chain that affects your industry, fuel supply, lubricants, just to ensure that all of these are in supply, not just here but at peak demand when you will have to run for the December season, Christmas and New Year,” he said.
Noting that the ministry was clearly on top of its game, the minister declared, “So we are prepared for you; we know you are there. That is why we are meeting with all these people.”
According to him, the same preparation informed the acceptance to host the association.
“We know that you will be under pressure and that puts us under pressure as well. We also know that the roads will be under pressure. It is a busy period for you and also an opportunity for those who want to make extra money. We are prepared for you,” he said.
Explaining that only specific portions of Nigerian roads are challenged, the minister, who urged road users to help report accurately where the roads had failed, said the ministry gets weekly reports from the controllers in all the states of the federation adding that such reports were expected to be accurate.
Fashola said with the heralding of dry weather, contractors on various road projects across the country were back to work either to finish work already started or repair and restore portions of the roads which suffered damage during the adverse weather, adding that on some of the roads, contractors were now laying asphalt.
Citing the Lagos-Badagry road project as an example, the minister said the contractor was now laying the asphalt on the road from Seme Border up to Okokomaiko and that on the Port Harcourt-Enugu section, some parts of Port Harcourt-Aba Road had been completed and the contractor was laying asphalt on it.
Encouraging road users to give accurate reports of failed sections of the road at all times, Fashola pointed out that if reports from controllers should differ from those of the road users there was always a means to interrogate such controversy in order to confirm the accuracy of the reports, adding that such accurate reports would enable the ministry to deploy the workforce in the appropriate sections where repairs and restoration were needed.
Emphasising the need for accurate reporting of failed sections, the minister declared: “When you tell me that the road between Auchi and Okene is bad, I will confirm it. So let us have more precise reporting from you. We don’t expect you to keep quiet but we expect that the reporting would be accurate.
“There is a difference between the fact that a portion of a road is bad and that the entire road is bad. It is therefore important that you identify the road; if you can’t remember it photograph it or identify it with the next village nearest to it so that we can send our people to where the problem is.”
Responding to the recommendation by the association that government should introduce tolling on the nation’s major highways as a means of generating funds to maintain the roads, Fashola said tolling would be introduced but that would be after the roads were finished.
Earlier in his remarks, President of the association, Isaac Uhunmwagho, told the minister that their visit was to declare their readiness, as fellow stakeholders in the transport industry, to collaborate with the ministry in the areas of enforcing laws and regulations that would protect the roads from premature damage due to excess loads.
The President noted with delight that the ministry, under the watch of Fashola, was doing marvellous work of building a functional road network across the country but regretted that most Nigerians have failed to show appreciation, choosing instead to harp on and pass adverse comments about the entire roads not being in order.
“We felicitate with the Honourable Minister and identify with the zeal with which Road Construction and rehabilitation are being carried out. We in PTONA thoroughly appreciate you for what we know about you in the past 12 years especially. We know you are an achiever and an exceptionally hardworking government top officer and acclaimed by most Nigerians as a very dedicated technocrat and bureaucrat,” he said.
He blamed axial loads and heavy-duty trucks for the serial damage on the nation’s roads and recommended that the only way to check such excesses was to introduce weighbridges on the roads to stop such vehicles carrying excess loads and applying sanctions against offenders.