It is a well-known fact that Nigeria has had to contend with deplorable road network in the country for many years due to lack of adequate investment in road infrastructure by successive governments to ensure the sustainable maintenance of national road network. The challenge posed by the deplorable state of road infrastructure has seriously impacted the cost of transportation of goods and services in the country.
Earlier efforts by Government to maintain, upgrade or modernise the existing highways to international standard did not yield the desired result. The reasons for this are not far-fetched; they include paltry budgetary provisions, poor project planning and design, poor supervision of works, road abuses, bureaucratic bottlenecks and lack of political will in the past to entrench institutional and legal frameworks that would transform the sector in line with international best practice.
But the minster of works, Arch. Mike Onolememen has said that this would soon be a thing of the pass as there has been an ongoing reform in the Ministry of works aimed at bringing about transformation to the road infrastructure and road network in the nation, particularly at this festive period. The ministry, he said, also believes that the importance of roads infrastructure to the economic well being of any nation cannot be over emphasised.
Speaking on the topic, “The Transformation Agenda in The Federal Ministry Of Works”, at the 3rd AES Excellence Club Annual CEO’s Dinner/Awards Nite held in Lagos recently, the minster explained that the connection between good roads and economic well being of a nation was made many decades ago by no less a figure than former President John Kennedy of the United States of America who stated, “America is having good roads not because America is rich, but America is rich because it has good roads”.
Onolememen, who wondered if Nigerians could say the same of the country today, noted that the obvious answer was “No”.
“We have come to this sorry state of affairs in the governance of our road sector because the leadership of our country in the past four decades failed to develop the right attitude like former President Kennedy of the United States of America to road development. Therefore Attitudinal Change in Management and Financing of Roads in Nigeria is needed to transform road development in our country. And I dare say that the time for this attitudinal change in the road sector is now. A paradigm shift has become inevitable in the development of roads infrastructure in our country, judging by our recent experiences of the near-collapse of our roads infrastructure. We need to reclaim our National Road Network from its dilapidated state and once again elevate it to an enviable state where it can help to promote national economic growth and prosperity”, Onolememen noted.
The minister said therefore that there was an urgent need to encourage attitudinal change in policy formulation, management and funding of the road sector is to promote the development of good roads that can truly serve as the economic arteries of the nation.
“Our country needs to make strategic investments in roads infrastructure if the objective of the transformation agenda of the Federal Government to be among the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020 is to be realised. It can therefore be seen that the current leadership of the Ministry was confronted with a situation that required urgent and far-reaching changes and reforms especially in the areas of policy, management and financing”, Onolememen said.
The Works Minister who said that look at some of the statistics in the Nigeria indicated the nation has an uphill task ahead of her, stressed that for the nation to overcome such challenge, the Federal Ministry of Works under his leadership, has pursued passionately the reform of road sector institutions in line with international best practice, as to be able to attract funding from the Private sector.
“We took this line of action in the Ministry because we truly believe that a paradigm shift is inevitable in the road sector if we are to develop additional 100,000km in about ten years. We need a shift in Institutional Structures that will lead to the creation of a National Roads Fund and a Federal Roads Authority by legislation”, he noted further.
Onolememen was named Minister of the Year, 2012 at the 3rd AES Excellence Club Annual CEO’s Dinner/Awards Nite. The dinner lecture also featured two eminent speakers who addressed different subjects to savour the interest of guests and members while former Head of state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, (GCFR) rtd, delivered on the theme, “Good Governance-Art of Nation Building”. High point of the event was the conferment of the prestigious AES Excellence Life-time Achievement Awards on Chief Dr. Alex Ekwueme, GCON, Dr. Christopher Kolade, CON, Alhaji Maitama Sule, CFR, Chief Sunny Odogwu, CFR and others.
Onolememen during his speech recalled that at the inception of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration and on his assumption of duty as the Minister of Works, he identified a number of challenges facing road development in the country.
“I moved quickly to address these challenges by restructuring the Ministry to provide the needed capacity through the decentralization of the bureaucratic project management structure which I inherited, for better delivery of road projects. Consequently, Mr. President approved the creation of six Zonal Directorates of Highways to better manage and supervise construction works on sites within the geopolitical zones. The administration also created the department of Materials, Geotechnics & Quality Control, to carry out continuous assessment of materials with a view to ensuring that contractors are deploying quality materials on our road projects. This has significantly enhanced the quality of works as well as better service delivery in the road sector”, he recalled further.
The ongoing transformation in the Federal Ministry of Works, Onolememen reiterated, has started to yield dividends, which are obviously impacting on the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of this country.
He said further that the challenges of repositioning the Federal Ministry of Works with a view to providing good motorable roads in the nation are enormous, noting however, that he was not deterred by the challenges but committed to ensuring that during his stewardship, there would not only be substantial evidence to show that development of road infrastructure can be executed in line with the transformation agenda of Mr. President, but to also ensure that efforts are institutionalized for the sustainable development of Nigeria’s road infrastructure.
“I assure all that we at the Federal Ministry of Works shall continue to work in ensuring that world-class roads infrastructure are developed in our country to help support real economic growth for the good of our people”, Onolememen said.