FG Seeks Re-categorisation of Some Federal Roads to State Roads

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Procurement process affecting infrastructure development
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The federal government yesterday gave indications that it would soon approach the National Assembly for the re-categorisation of some federal roads which had been taken over by municipal development.
Some of the roads include the Western Bye Pass in Kaduna, and the Umuahia- Aba road in Abia State.

Re-categorisation would mean that the host states would take over the maintenance of the roads, as they would no longer be funded by the federal government.
The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, speaking at the budget defence session for his ministry’s N529 billion proposal before the House Committee on Works, said such roads are in the middle of towns.

“The Western bye-pass, which the governor has already taken over,…the Umuahia – Aba road which is surrounded by shopping malls on both sides,” he said.
Speaking further, the minister called for the speedy amendment of the country’s procurement processes to accelerate infrastructure development.
Fashola said Nigeria, with its backlog of infrastructure requirements, cannot afford to take its time, with the procurement processes.

He added that due to the economic recession and the need to reflate the economy, the rate of mobilisation for awarded contracts should be more than the current 15 per cent, while the six weeks required for advertisement should be reduced.
“If we mobilise more, the contractor would buy more sand, more gravel and put more people to work, the local people are benefiting…these would help us out of recession,” Fashola added.

With the N301.8 billion allocation to works in 2016 and capital release of N139 billion, out of N264.1 billion, Fashola said a 53 per cent budgetary performance has been achieved.
He expressed optimism that more releases would be made before the end of the first quarter of 2017 and noted that some certificates are already due for payment, but are not included in the budget performance percentage.

When the payments are made, the percentage would be raised to about 60, he said.
The Chairman of the Works committee, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (Enugu PDP) however said an anticipated 60 per cent performance would be unsatisfactory, considering the importance of the sector, and its ripple effects on the economy.

“We must sustain pressure on the Finance Ministry, because works is a sector where we should have 100 percent release. People are returning to work as contractors are being mobilised, so there is a consequential effect on the economy,” he said.
Okechukwu added that progress is being made on the proposed Road Fund Bill, as the technical committee has submitted its report.
“If we can get other funding other annual appropriation, it would be good for our economy,” he added.

The Chairman of the Committee on Public Procurement, Hon. Wole Oke (Osun PDP), agreed that the rate of mobilisation fees for contractors should be increased, while the six weeks timeline for advertisement should be reduced.
He, however, noted that the bane of infrastructure development is lack of planning, monitoring and supervision by the executive.

“These roads are not new, so we must do more planning, monitoring and supervision, so that we can get value for money, but we should not employ fire brigade approach,” Oke cautioned.
In another development, the Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Pally Iriase (Edo APC) has called for more budgetary allocation to the Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority in the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

Iriase, while briefing journalists yesterday, lamented that only N755 million is proposed for the authority with N30.6 million as recurrent expenditure.
These, he said, is in spite of the fact that agency serves four states: Delta, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo, which are crucial to the success of the agricultural and diversification policy of the federal government.

“BORBDA’s catchment area is noted for such cash crops like rubber, palm trees, cocoa, cola nuts, cashew and several root crops like yams, cassava, fish farming remains an undeveloped gold mine,” the lawmaker said.