Govt proposes new road infrastructure system
As the nation is facing herculean task on preserving and sustaining asset value of its road infrastructure, a new system may soon be established, which would be designed to reflect the state of international practice, in a way that suits the local need and conditions
IN the wake of increasing dilapidation of roads, maintenance backlog and accelerating loss of asset value, the federal authorities have concluded plans to establish a Road Asset Management System (RAMS) for its road network in the country.
The envisioned system will assist the Federal Ministry of Works (FMW) to rationalize decision making in planning, programming, funding, and procurement and in the allocation of resources in road sector to make the best use of public funds in preserve the road networks at an acceptable level of serviceability.
The RAMS will also improve the technical capacities, skills and management capabilities of the FMW and other state road agencies associated with road management and maintenance, thus improving their ability to manage efficiently and cost effectively road maintenance and improvement activities.
Coming into place in 2016, the system would be designed to reflect the state of international practice, in a way that suits the local need and conditions, according to the Mike Onolememen, Minister of Works.
The minister who confirmed the development at the fourth edition of the Infrastructure Asset Summit organized by Codub Consulting in Lagos, recently, noted that pressure on public funds to provide services to the growing populations has implied a higher competition between the road sector and other social sectors such as education, healthcare, and defence. “As a result, the maintenance and operation of roads has suffered insufficient funding for the last several decades,” he said.
He said that despite the importance of road assets to the socioeconomic process, maintenance was neglected due to other political bias, improper government commitments or sheer lack of the right policies or decision-making.
Onolememen, represented by the Unit Manager, Road Sector Development Team, FMW, Isaq Mohammed, an engineer, said: “Allocations for asset preservation had been so low that the situation has generally worsened over the last two to three decades in such a way that less than 50 per cent of road asset preservation budgets are met. This state of affairs has caused a significance loss of asset value that will need to be replaced at much higher cost than when they were first built.”
Estimates show that the total asset value of Nigeria federal roads stands at $35 billion (N6 Trillion), if all roads were restored as new condition; actual current asset value –depreciated value due to poor conditions – is $18 billion (N3.1 million) while lost asset value due to poor conditions is estimated at $17 billion (N2.9 Trillion).
He said that challenges of advocating and balancing the investment resources across such a complex portfolio of assets, definitely calls for sophisticated technical tools. The benefits, Onolememen said, includes reduced transport costs, cost effectiveness, return on investment and accountability of implementing agencies.
In his submission at the summit, Chief Executive Officer, Alpha Mead Facilities & Management Services Limited, Femi Akintunde, an engineer, tasked government and private sector operators on ways of ensuring infrastructure developments are sustainable in the country.
Speaking on a topic: “Achieving Sustainability in the Development and Management of Public Infrastructure through PPP Concessioning Arrangement: Case Study of Lekki Toll Road”, stressed that for any infrastructure project to be sustainable, such a project must be economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally responsible to all the stakeholders.
He argued that most concessioned infrastructure projects in the country today are witnessing setbacks and are losing their essence because sustainability factors such as stakeholders’ engagement, Facilities Management and Asset Maintenance were relegated to the background from inception.
His words: “As with most other Public Private Partnership projects in Nigeria, there are some challenges with the Lekki Epe Express project which is threatening the sustainability of the master plan. For example, there is only one road access to that axis; how would people be evacuated in cases of emergencies? For an area projected to accommodate a resident population of about 3.4 million, the road is not economically sustainable because it is prone to quicker wear and tear due to the heavy traffic it carries.
“On the other hand, we should ask ourselves why the people are resisting the tolling even when travel time on the road has reduced. It is because government and private sector are yet to show the people the economics of the project. As the case stands, the government has bought the project off the private company; but we must consider the situation from the point of view of future investors in our PPP projects. Why would any private investor want to put his money in ventures that the people might resist?”
He furthered expressed concern that other infrastructure projects such as Airports that were also concessioned are becoming unsustainable because the maintenance of these projects were taken for granted. “My fear is that if this poor maintenance culture of our public infrastructure continues unabated, what we will be getting back at the end of the concessioning period will be a mere carcass that might be worse than what was concessioned”, he lamented.
He however advised that for all stakeholders to benefit from the immense gains of PPP, each of them must be willing to play defined roles and responsibilities.
“Rather than getting entangled with maintenance and operations, government should focus on its key role which is regulatory. So for us to get value on our public infrastructure, government must assume that role of requesting that private sector operators include Facilities Management and maintenance components in their concessioning agreement. Government must also go further to ensure strict adherence and enforcement of the laid down procedure for maintenance of the infrastructure”.
He however, concluded that the people must also be ready to own the infrastructure that government and private sector have provided for them. While citing the example of Festac Town where infrastructure is in a sorry state because the residents are solely relying on government, Akintunde urged that people must also be socially responsible to their government and instill good maintenance culture in the younger generation.
The Principal Consultant, Codub Consulting, Mr. Chidi Umeano said that the summit concentrated on the lack of good asset management and maintenance culture in developing countries. As well as address methodologies and processes required to ensure existing assets are managed properly. “These assets will sustain the growth currently experienced in some of the developing nations particularly Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Umeano said: “Maintenance Culture is a concern in Africa and more so in Nigeria. The lack or absence of it is normally referenced in speeches at conferences, seminars, workshops, and debates. It is in our faces every day as we watch residential buildings, office complexes, roads, oil refineries, shopping malls and estates getting built and in no time beginning to fall apart.”
He urged government institutions set standards for future practice within the public and private sectors as well as make maintenance a norm in the society.