Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday opposed a proposed law seeking roads rehabilitation of one per cent from Consolidated Revenue Fund to Federal Roads Maintenance Agency.
Fashola expressed the objection at a public hearing on two Bills seeking to restructure FERMA and increase its funding. The session was organised by House of Representatives Committee on FERMA.
The bills also aim at harmonising the Principal Act with the Federal Highway Bill so that the Minister of Works may have some powers to grant roads concession.
The minister said that certain aspects of the bill were duplications of the National Roads Fund Bill, Federal Road Authority Bill and was also in conflict with the Constitution.
According to him, I am not certain that it is the intention of the National Assembly to give one per cent of the consolidated revenue fund to one agency.
He added that the ministry, with its many responsibilities, did not have such financial latitude.
Fashola also disagreed with section two of the bill, which proposed the creation of states’ road maintenance agencies, adding that one arm of government could not create responsibility for another arm of government.
On the aspect of the bill seeking to amend the Principal Act to allow FERMA charge fee on toll gate, he said, “it is in conflict with the Federal Highway Act enacted by the National Assembly.’’
Also speaking, Adekunle Mokoulu, President, Nigerian Society of Engineers, said that state roads management agency as inserted in the roads rehabilitation bill was not necessary.
He added that there was already a pre-condition stipulated in the National Roads Fund for states to access the fund.
Mokoulu said: “We think that the state assembly will not be directed from Abuja on which laws to pass.
“We believe that the provision in the NRF that `only state roads authorities can access the funds’ suffices and has already taken care of this insertion.’’
Mokoulu explained that “tolling is but one of the numerous proposed sources of funding the roads maintenance’’.
The Ministry of Finance supported the bill, saying that erection of toll gates as canvassed by the amendment of existing law was a welcome development.
Representative of the ministry, Stephen Mediayedu, said collecting toll on the roads was the avenue through which the private sector could recoup their investment in the event of any road concession.
He, however, cautioned that the administration of toll gate by the proposed state road agencies may impede concession of roads by the Federal Government.
Similarly, Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation, represented by its Legal Adviser, Emmanuel Akissa, supported the creation of toll gates on highways.
He said: “This bill is right in time and a step in the right direction as its passage will assist the government with the funds that will be generated at the several toll gates around the nation.’’
Akissa, however, urged that provision should be made to clearly state the working relationship between FERMA and the road agency established by any state.
He said: “The power of FERMA to erect toll gate should be harmonised with the power of the minister to erect toll gate under the Federal Highway Act.’’
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Jerry Alagbaoso, said that the committee’s oversight function revealed that critical portions of roads, especially federal inter-link roads and inter-changes were in bad conditions.
Alagbaoso said: “These roads that need to be taken care of as a matter of urgency and emergency were not captured in the past budgets.’’
Alagbaoso stressed that in order for FERMA to effectively discharge its duties, it needed not only to be funded adequately “but also needed urgent debt relief intervention and possibly, budget increment’’.