The leadership of National Assembly is expected to transmit the bill for the establishment of Federal Road Authority and the legislative framework for private sector participation in the development of road sector, to the Presidency for assent.
The House of Representatives says its decision to adopt the Senate version of the Federal Road Authority was geared towards fast-tracking the proposed reform and unlock huge potentials in the land transportation.
According to the provisions of the legislative framework, it seeks to “facilitate private sector participation in the development, financing, maintaining, management and improvement of roads in Nigeria and enter into road concession contracts and other forms of Public Private Partnership and set guidelines for the working of PPP contracts; plan and manage the development of road safety technical designs and standards, in addition, advise the Federal Roads Safety Commission on appropriate and effective methods of enforcing road traffic legislation for the purposes of preventing damage to roads and promoting road safety among others.
Going by the Standing Order of both Senate and House, the clean copy of the bill is to be transmitted to the Presidency for assent. Okechukwu in a chat with Legislative Correspondents in Abuja, expressed optimism that President Muhammadu Buhari is at the verge of “re-writing the history of the Nigerian roads sector if he endorses the bill immediately.
“This piece of legislation has been on a legislative sojourn since 1971 and has failed to see daylight until we decided to hold the bull by the horns and passed it just last week.
“As a Committee we are grateful to the Speaker because he had to take the Bill himself in the absence of the Deputy Speaker, we actually had to amend our Rules for him to be able to sit as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole to consider the report.
“The Federal Roads Authority bill is one of the reform bills that have passed through the House, actually we are concurring what the Senate has passed.
“We had earlier on passed the Roads Fund bill. These are fundamental reform bills that will make it possible for us to perform in accordance to what happens in other jurisdictions.
“It means the road sector will now be functional. They would be able to raise funds through other sources and commercialize the roads. They would have road user charges that would eventually seed capital for funding the road sector.
“Essentially what we do annually is to intervene through appropriation and most of the times you will find out the contractors know the budget more than you who is preparing it; once the road is not in the budget they will disappear, they will down their tools but with the seed capital which you can get from the Roads Fund.
“It will now be possible for you to have funds even if you are raising about a 100 billion, the combined effect of that with annual Appropriation bill will be significant in such a way that you would be able to maintain your roads and be able to develop new ones.
“What we have presently is a situation where because of the life span of the construction of our roads, you have a situation where a road that is supposed to be constructed within two years, it is constructed within 5 to 10 years and by the time you are finishing, you are due for maintenance meanwhile the road is an on-going project, so you begin to have potholes develop from kilometer zero to the portion where you have finished.
“Actually my own understanding about reforming or giving momentum to any sector is that once you want to do that, you must get the necessary instruments based on which you can operate.
“It is not subject to whims and caprices of men, it is not a matter of you depending on the dynamism of the person who is there, you make it a matter of law that once you come, you abide by the regulations set by the government and parliament.
“So that is the essence of the Federal Roads Fund Bill. Like I told you, it has been in the offing since 1971 but without any prompting. We felt as members of this Committee, we have to take the bull by the horns if we want to do anything impactful in the road sector.
“We need to create entities that become vehicles for improvement in the sector. So if we are able to raise some funds that people can invest, that the Authority can invest in the development and maintenance of roads, now when government intervenes, you will find out that it is an addendum to what is existing and based on that you can even give an oral contract, people would be running around wanting to participate in the road sector,” Okechukwu who doubles as acting Chairman, House Committee on FCT said.