By Emmanuel Addeh
The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) yesterday said many roads within the country had become impassable because they had outlived their in-built lifespan.
Speaking during a virtual stakeholders’ seminar, Managing Director of the agency, Mr. Nurudeen Rafindadi, stated that due to the paucity of funds, FERMA had continued to carry out palliative work on the roads instead of total reconstruction.
According to him, Nigeria’s national road network remains at about 200,000 kilometres, with about 36, 000 kilometres of them gazetted as federal roads, which is about 18 per cent of the total road network in the country.
Rafindadi stated that state governments are responsible for another 32,000 kilometres while the remaining 134,000 kilometres are rural feeder roads under local governments.
He added that the maintenance of federal roads is carried out by FERMA through routine, periodic and emergency interventions, which are predominantly funded by fiscal appropriations in the annual budgets.
He listed key challenges facing FERMA to include constraints regarding funding, environmental issues, social issues and insecurity.
He said a large jurisdiction in Nigeria was beset by security challenges and in the environment where FERMA staff work to keep the roads ‘motorable’ all year round.
He listed other constraints as issues related to technology, debt overhang on the agency, maintenance of backlogs and distress on the roads.
“One of the challenges is that a large portion of the 36,000 kilometres of federal highway network are roads that have already aged, basically exceeding their life period and therefore you get less and less out of the road even upon interventions through the years.
“A large number of our roads are over 20-30 years old which is the life period they have and they need to be reconstructed. Yet in the absence of funding, FERMA maintenance mandate on live roads will have to continue on dead roads as well,” he added.
According to him, the way forward is to ensure that the management of roads involve private sector participation, as government alone does not have the resources to do it.
Rafindadi explained that the agency has taken deliberate choices in the exploration of alternative funding sources, development of international vehicle transit charge and creation of FERMA state-owned enterprises.
He stated that the deployment of a data management system, a digital management tool for projects from commencement to completion and closure and then the use of social media networks for effective communication, scaling up of direct labour interventions as well as the development of road assets management system were some of the other ways it was meeting the agency’s challenges.
The FERMA MD added that attention was also being paid to enhance the use of other modes of transportation, provision of special funds for ecological issues and improved road user behaviour.