The Federal Government has concluded arrangement to reintroduce toll gates across the country, according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
The minister, who appeared before the Senate committee on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), told the lawmakers that the facilities would be managed by the private sector.
Proceeds would be used for maintenance of highways, he said. Government would design software capable of monitoring vehicles as they pass through and that users would be able to pay the charges on their mobile phones.
“We have concluded plans to reintroduce toll gates across the country and we have finalised the design. It will be managed by the private sector and it will be located in the old places, 38 points across the country. We are only waiting for the completion of those roads before we introduce the toll gates,” he said.
The minister also appealed to the committee to revise the procurement law in order to fast-track contract approval.
He admitted that the worst roads in the country were located in the South South and South East geopolitical zones, saying some of the major federal ones in the 11 states were constructed before the civil war.
Fashola revealed that N100 billion sourced through Sukuk bond was yet to be released to his ministry to carry out 25 major road constructions in the six zones of the country.
Chairman of the FERMA committee, Senator Abe, regretted that lawmakers were usually sidelined by heads of ministries, departments and agencies in the siting of projects.
He said: “As elected representatives of the people, if the Federal Government is doing anything in an area, our inputs are hardly needed. We have to fight for relevance.”
He added: “We are meeting you because of the challenges FERMA, which is under your supervision, is facing. Is this agency relevant in the scheme of things in your ministry? We want you to touch on the core challenges of this agency.”
Fashola explained: “When we did the audit of our roads, we discovered some sections are bad. Many roads have outlived their lifespans. Many roads in the South East and South South were built before the civil war. They are among the worst in the country. They need to be replaced.
“Funds generated from Sukuk have not been released because of the conditions attached. We will try to repair the roads before people start traveling for festivities in December. We are doing something about that.”
Speaking on challenges facing FERMA, Fashola said: “One of the reoccurring stories of underperformance which we inherited is ministerial interference. We have tried to supervise without interfering.
“I have tried to enable government see what it is spending in each of the parastatals under my ministry. In the past, FERMA spent money on areas it had no business with. That has to stop. If you allocate money and it is spent on local government roads, it means something is wrong. The core mandate of FERMA is to repair federal roads.
“FERMA can be the largest construction company in the country. It depends on what we are willing to put into the agency. In the past, FERMA collected money for roads it did not construct. That has to stop in this government.
“We are working with the Army Corps to see how we can develop local content. FERMA can be the biggest construction firm. The unemployment challenges we have can be reduced if FERMA is busy is every state.” (The Guardian)