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MINISTER ADVOCATES SPECIAL INTERVENTION FUNDS, PROPER DESIGNS

By NBF News
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Mr. Chris Osa Ogiemwonyi, is the Minister of State for Works. In this interview with Daily Sun, Ogiemwonyi said proper design of roads, re-introduction of toll gates and proper funding of the ministry, including the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), will boost the state of Nigerian roads. Excerpts:

Awful state of Nigerian roads
One thing I am taking up with the people in the ministry here, is the issue of supervision of our roads during construction. Another one is the issue of design. Do we design these roads on a case by case basis or do we do a generic design? I equally saw the need to put more funds on the road industry. The road industry is so massive.

We have over 34,000 kilometers of pave roads. The time has come when we should begin having different intervention funds for different sectors.  We have done it for power, we have done for the banking industry and textile. It is becoming imperative to have a road intervention fund.

The way we are funding the road sector is on government's annual budget. For example, a road that is about N30 billion, and we are funding it with about N2 billion and yet, that road will take about seven and a half years. That is not what we need. The time is ripe for all to have a massive pool of money. We are believing in the Debt Management Office to raise a bond of N500 billion and then tackle these roads and put them in good shape. Some of them we can now put under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. Before you do a PPP, my school of thought says it is nice to put that road in a perfect condition. Do some structural analysis in terms of road traffic and you can then judge the type of intensity of cars on that road and give the road to somebody to run for you, do the maintenance and put some tolling. That is a way to look at this sector.

Tollgates and weighbridges
When they were removed, there must have been reason for it, but today, we see the need to reintroduce it. Government alone cannot do the funding of this massive infrastructure in terms of road network. The only way we can support government is to find avenues to raise funds and one of them is reintroducing tolling systems. We are also trying to introduce weighbridges. There is no point building roads and people destroying the roads the next day by carrying excessive luggage of the weight of 60 tones on a road designed for 30 tonnes.

Benin-Ore Road, result of the non performance
When we came here, Daggash and myself took a ride from Benin to Shagamu as part of our duty to see the state of the roads. We were quite pleased. But three weeks ago, I was in Benin and my monarch, our Oba, asked me to please go on that road because the road is so bad. At a point I said, Daddy I am not too sure that it is bad because we were on that road three months ago. What I saw really when I went on the road was an eyesore. I felt so bad, I got pained. That same day, between Ofosu and Ore, I had to call the contractor who was handling that road on telephone. I was pained.

I am suspecting that the design of that road was done just like any other road in the North. Don't forget that in that axis, you have heavy rainfall. The water level is so high. The road is just like an embarkment. There, you have water all over the place and you do the same design that you will draw for Maiduguri and Potiskum. If you have the same design and you give to states contractors to go and build, with those in Maiduguri and Potiskum with good sunshine and less rainfall, that road will survive and the Ofosu-Ore will fail. That is my suspicion and that is why we are having too many failures on that road.

Ideally, that road should have been like a deck-on-pile. Either you just have bridges. Many areas you shall have bridges in the form of embarkment. The best thing is to do proper design of federal roads and that is what I am advocating. That every road should be designed on its own and when we achieve that. We equally ensure that those going to do the supervision either we take consultants from outside the country and then, our engineers from inside should be knowledgeable about what they are supervising. For Christ's sake, those engineers should move to site to supervise. We should give them the wherewithal to carry out effective supervision. There is no point having an engineer supervising a contractor  and he doesn't have a vehicle. We must look inward and ask ourselves what the issues are. I have asked the ministry a couple of these questions and we still hopefully believe that things have to change.

How soon will that be?
I am very positive that these things will take place when this administration takes a look at some of our proposals. You can't effect changes without funding, we want government to address this funding.

We have an intervention agency, which is FERMA. Give FERMA a budget of about N8 billion and let FERMA be purely an intervention agency. I was in Edo State two months agqo, I was told the road linking Auchi to Igarra washed up completely.

I was scared. I saw the road about two kilometers away and was completely removed overnight. If FERMA had a pool of money, they would move to site immediately. But what we do today is that FERMA will defer this road and when you have emergency, FERMA is not able to move to site. FERMA should be given enough funds that will enable them move to any place of emergency and not tying FERMA to regular road maintenance.

Gubernatorial ambition in Edo State
I heard that some two months ago. These are all speculations. I came here just five or six months ago. The issue of going for the governorship race, which is 2012, is still a long way. Every human being is a politician. The next level, whether or not I will go into the gubernatorial race is a decision of our people. You have seen cases where people will come and ask somebody, come and represent us. If they call me, if today the Oba of Benin calls me to come and join the race, why not? ACN is already in crisis in Edo State while there is now peace in the Edo PDP. I predicted four months ago that once we are in peace in Edo State, that of ACN will stop. So, PDP is the only party in the state.

Agitation for a South-South president
Considering what is on ground, my take on this is what Mr President is talking about. To me, it is a conclusion of what is on ground. I see him asking to be allowed to complete the Yar'Adua/Jonathan ticket which was for eight years. The former president, may his soul rest in peace, could not continue their mandate. I see what we are clamouring for today as a conclusion of that mandate.

I will like to judge Jonathan for what is on ground today. I am an engineer and what we do in engineering is that you plot a graph and you extrapolate. In the last six months, I have seen Jonathan improving the security of the nation. I was in Council when he took a decisive decision and today, we are glad that normalcy is coming into Abia State.

Many of us who used to buy four drums of diesel every month no longer do that.

It has gone down now to less than a drum in a month. He has commenced the road map to drive the power sector. In the last two Council meetings, almost N200 billion for fertilizer was approved. Every key area is being addressed. There is stability. What we need now in this country, is to allow these various reforms to stabilize. Once we achieve stabilization in our economy, our Vision 202020 will become a reality.

I believe we should all work hard as Nigerians so that our nation can move forward economically. I can see the indices that if these things continue, by 2020, we will be very close to the international community.