Govt unfolds new plans for road, rail sectors

No Comments » August 22nd, 2008 posted by // Categories: Nigeriawatch



 

GUARDIAN

 

Friday, August 22, 2008              

Govt unfolds new plans for road, rail sectors
From Nkechi Onyedika, Abuja and
Leo Sobechi, Abakaliki

A THREE-YEAR plan to improve Nigerian roads has been unveiled by the Federal Government.

The government is also revisiting the railway modernisation project initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Transportation Minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, who spoke on the government’s latest efforts at fixing the roads, explained that the plan would be executed through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

Under the arrangement, from this year to 2011, construction and repairs of major roads across the country to ease the movement of goods and people would be achieved.

To enable the private sector come into the road sub-sector, Allison-Madueke said some legislatures would be reviewed.

Going by the minister’s charge to the stakeholders, the government may return the weighbridges to the road.

She said: “Stakeholders should focus on future use of weighbridges and establishment of road support, safety and emergency services among others.”

The government has therefore begun a prioritisation of the most critical economic routes and the international trunks and collector routes such as the North-South and the East-West, with a resolve to complete all projects above 50 per cent in order to realise value for money and also reduce incidence of uncompleted of abandon projects.

To achieve this, the minister said the government would revise legislations in the sector for sustained growth as well as promote the culture of maintenance and upgrading of existing infrastructure to enhance safety, security, quality and speed of movement of goods and people at both national and international levels.

Allison-Madueke, who disclosed this yesterday at a one-day interactive session with stakeholders in the road transport sub-sector in Abuja, observed that the rail system cannot be ignored if the country must get its roads up to optimal quality.

Consequently, the government she said is addressing aggressively the rail system and would within the next four months begin work on at least one trunk of the railway lines, while others would be looked into to develop a robust network.

She explained that the railway modernisation contract awarded by the last administration would be redefined, adding that the options are on the drawing board. Once the railways become operational, the minister said it would be connected to inland container depots at the various airports and sea ports to ensure an efficient intermodal transportation in the country possibly between the next three to six years.

Her words: “The issue of intermodal transportation was the fundamental basis on which the merger of Ministry of Transportation stands. Without an effective intermodal transportation system; we will not have a robust network in terms of transportation in this country. There is no gainsaying that road transportation plays an important role in the socio-economic and political development of our great nation; it is therefore imperative for the stakeholders in the sub-sector to brainstorm on issues affecting them with a view to finding ways and means to improving on the quality of our road network for better service delivery.”

According to the minister, the meeting took cognisance of proposals submitted by members of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers (NUPENG) on some roads considered to be in need of urgent attention. The objective of the meeting, she added, was to brief the stakeholders about efforts being made by the government in the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of the roads.

Allison-Madueke stated that since road transport accounts for over 90 per cent of total passengers and freight carried within the country, the government is set to provide an efficient, safe, environmentally, friendly, adequate and sustainable road transport system as part of efforts to make Nigeria one of the 20 most developed nations by 2020.

According to her, the Federal Government in an effort to bridge the funding gap is encouraging private sector participation in financing road infrastructure and development under the PPP initiative, adding that repairs on the 2nd Niger Bridge at Asaba, the Guto-Bagana Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan roads are being carried out through the arrangement.

Government, she added, is also looking at the dredging of the Lower Niger which had already been contracted, stressing that without the dredging, the government would not be able to put in place a credible inland waterways system.

Meanwhile, Chairman Senate Committee on Works, Julius Ali Ucha, has said that from a survey carried out by the panel, South East and North East zones have the worst federal roads.

Ucha, who disclosed this to journalists in Abakaliki, yesterday noted that as the panel’s chairman, he divided the body into sub-committees for a comprehensive overview of the state of roads and come up with a concrete recommendations.

He said that both the North Central and South East do not have long stretches of roads, the federal roads in the areas could best be described as non-existent.

“Our position is that when we have visited all the states and assess the roads, we will articulate our findings and present them to the Senate, because the legislature is responsible for appropriation of funds and for ensuring that there is a co-relation between appropriation and expenditure,” he said. The lawmaker regretted that there were some road contracts abandoned from the time of former President Shehu Shagari’s government.

Reacting to the issue of poor quality jobs and high rate of failure of roads, Ucha who represents Ebonyi Central District, explained that until there was a legislation that provides for the arrest and prosecution of contractors, who handle shoddy jobs, the practice would continue.

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