Nigeria will certainly work
Let me express my support for a road safety initiative that the FRSC is set to commence in our highways in order to promote safety.They plan to increase highway patrols and ensure that motorists stay and maintain the use of the right lane unless they are overtaking.
This accords with global best practice and FRSC plans a pilot programme that will increase slowly until nationwide coverage is achieved.As far as the recovery of the right-of-way is concerned, it is a matter of utmost priority.
The full width of our roads has been encroached by illegal activity in the name of trading and business.When we spend money to build a road of two or three lanes and one or two lanes are taken over by trucks parked on them, or traders positioned on them, it constricts movement, causes traffic, results in lost man hours and stifles the economy. This is not the way to build property and it must stop. We need the support of the state governments to work with our controllers to recover the right-of-way.
Let me be clear. I am not against trade. Indeed, improved trade and commerce is what the economy needs most. The roads that my ministry is charged to build and repair are meant to boost trade and commerce. But trade and commerce that takes place right on the highway or within the 45.72 metres right-of-way is illegal counterproductive.
So let me clearly restate our objective. It is not to relocate or drive away traders, it is to locate them to the set back of the 45.72m right way and we will not compromise on this. If the first thing we achieve is the recovery of the right-of-way, commuters will be able to report a better traveling experience this December.
In a related matter of trade and abuse of our highways, my attention has been brought to the sad and unpatriotic actions of petroleum products transporters who are now carrying cargo of up to 60,000 litres on our highways, instead of the maximum of 33,000 litres approved by law. This must stop without delay. It is illegal business done at the expense of Nigerians.
Ladies and gentlemen, in advocating for a recovery of the right-of-way, let me be clear that I do not advocate bulldozing and demolition of property. Our objective is to make life better not to make it more difficult. Our objective is to support commuters and those in the transport business. Therefore, one of the things we must do, is to be methodical.
First thing we have done in the ministry is to refuse to renew permits given to people to occupy our rights of way, where permits have now expired. People who fall into this category of expired permit holders must understand that we will not renew, and the violation of this policy will attract sanctions.
Furthermore, such people now have an opportunity to voluntarily relocate, before we start to re-possess. I have discussed with the Hon. Minister for Labour about the need to meet with the transport unions of owners and operators to explain the policy and benefits to their business. I urge you, the state representatives, to embrace a similar engagement with the state chapters of these unions.
Most importantly, we must bear in mind that the structures that encroach the right of way are different sizes and categories. Some are temporary and easier to move. Some are permanent and will require time to move. The critical thing is for all encroachers to understand that they violate an existing law of the land by occupying any part of our 45.72 metres right-of-way from the centre line on either side of the road.
Once this is accepted as I expect that it should, they will better appreciate any accommodation or assistance that we can offer to relocate their business outside the right of way, but within the area; in a more organised and legally compliant way. This is one example of change beginning with us.
To respect the Federal Highway Act, and the 45.72 metres right-of-way and to do business according to the law. And I will be counting on the support of the Governors and their Commissioners in this regard because these activities take place in the States.
As for the targets that I have set out for our controllers based on our meeting, let me also say that they have financial consequences which are not in the budget for 2016.
They have all been directed to undertake individual assessments in their states and submit their budgets to us for inclusion in the 2017 budget estimates. It is important to make this point for those who will expect immediate results.
The ability to deliver this plan depends on the budgetary approval that we get and the funding that is made available. In addition to the above, we have developed a three-year plan for Federal roads between 2017 and 2019. This plan is being shared with the ministry of budget and planning for inclusion in the 2017 budget and future national planning data.
The plan ensures that year on year, major road projects are implemented justly and fairly in each of the six zones. Our plan is to connect states within each zone and across the country. Because our resources are limited, we have to make choices.
Our choices are informed by:
A. Input from the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-Operatives, who have provided data of critical roads in each of the six zones that are necessary to help evacuate farm produce to market;
B. Our need to develop mining business and evacuate mining products and petroleum cargo to fuel the nation’s energy needs, so roads leading to and from fuel depots have come high on our priority of choices;
C. Our need to support the business of traders and importers; therefore we have given priority to roads leading to and from our major sea and airports;
D. Our need to move large numbers of commuters also compels us to give priority to roads that carry very heavy traffic in order to reach more people with limited resources;
Therefore, while it is true that we cannot build all roads in one year or even in three years, we are convinced that a faithful implementation of our plan, and the rational basis of our choices will deliver a better road experience, improved journey times and aid economic recovery in the short to medium term.
Before I conclude, let me speak to two equally important issues.The first is safety and insurance. At a recent insurance summit held in Abuja where I was invited to speak, I made the point that insurance business is not growing and employing as many people as it can. I remarked that enforcement of insurance laws has either diminished or is not taken seriously.
I committed to do my own part by ensuring that every contractor working for the Federal Government must show proof of a minimum of workplace safety and compensation insurance policy, as a commitment to the safety of employees before we pay them for work done.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by saying that our national road network and bridges are the life-support system of our economy and our national integration. Better roads are a sign not only of development, they are the pathway out of recession and highways to recovery and prosperity. Not only must we keep them well, we must use them well and treat them as personal property.
I am sure that if we adopt and faithfully implement some of these recommendations and those contained in the various well researched memoranda that have been considered, the story of bad roads in our country will be consigned into history in a short time.
As I wish us a very fruitful deliberation, I urge us all to act with resolve and dedication. I urge us to remember Mrs. Mbuk from Calabar, she is the name and face of millions of Nigerians we will probably never meet, but we certainly can reach by building a road for them to prosper, if we do our work with passion and dedication.
• Fashola, minister of Power, Works and Housing, delivered this as keynote address at the National Council on Workers’ meeting in Katsina.