BY OBUTE JAMES
The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, consider an Emergency Intervention Fund to the tune of N300 billion for critical roads in Niger State linking economic corridors in the North and South.
This was just as Senators bemoaned the deplorable state of critical roads across the country.
According to the upper chamber, doing so would facilitate the infrastructure rehabilitation efforts of government to support ease of business and economic recovery.
These formed part of resolutions reached following a motion brought to the floor during plenary by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North).
Senator Sabi Abdullahi, while coming under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules said, the Senate noted with disbelief and shock the very ugly scene playing out in Niger State since Friday 24 September 2021 in which heavy trucks and tanker drivers blocked all entry and exit roads to protest the horrible state of Federal roads passing through the State.
He said “Recall that Niger State has the longest federal road network of 2,263km out of a total of 32,000km of national federal roads network.
“The federal roads in Niger state stretched from the Abuja – Kaduna end to the Jebba – Mokwa – Makera – Tegina – Birnin Gwarimpa – Kaduna road to the Mokwa – New Bussa – Agwara – Kigera end which lies to the border with the republic of Benin.
“Overall, the following are critical linkage roads within Niger state that provide logistical and vehicular movements between the North and South; especially the South West and North West Corridors.
“Because of the massive land area of Niger State at 76,363km (representing about nine percent of the total land area of the country), all movements from North to South substantially traverse the State.
“Indeed, the massive haulage of heavy industrial goods such as petroleum products, iron rods, cement, finished manufactured goods, machines and equipment, electronic materials and goods, building materials etc, in which trucks and tankers are overloaded pits great pressure on the roads and thus are seriously devastating to the state of the roads.
“Cursory observation and reports indicate that many trucks and tankers are loaded with up to 90,000 Tonnes of goods and all vehicles are consistently loaded well above their approved tonnage.
“Alarmed that all the major link roads have totally failed with fatal accidents occurring on a daily basis with loss of lives, goods and vehicles. A development that angered the truck and tanker drivers to begin the protest as the only available alternative route to exit the state is the Bida – Minna road which is currently undergoing construction. This road itself is a failed road with many portions that cannot withstand any heavy truck movement as it is.
“Further alarmed that the only road portion that is substantially motors or is the Mokwa Junction – Bida road which is itself under intense pressure by the heavy duty haulage activities of trucks and tankers and may not last two years under the current scenario. The Kontagora – Yauri road is also motorable but hard to reach, hence the pressure on state roads;
“Disturbed that the current rate of funding of federal roads in the state is unfortunately dismal and cannot deliver, which has led to many of the projects abandoned by contractors. The result is continuous pressure on the few good ones.
“Indeed, it is very sad that the main trunk road from Jebba – Mokwa – Tegina – Kaduna has been completely abandoned even though contracts have been awarded for the Jebba – Tegina section 1 and 2 since 2028 without funds sufficient to even mobilize the contractors.
“This is true also for Makera – Kontagora – Yauri which has been awarded since 2013; Bida – Lapai- Lambatta awarded since 2018 also but poor funding means stalled work. The massive accidents and losses on this road were responsible for the current blockade in the state.
“Agrees that nee ways and means for funding infrastructure in Nigeria must be seriously considered while also strengthening enforcement in the issues of excess weight load by trucks and tankers considering that over 90 percent of haulage of heavy goods are by road transport; pending when the ongoing train projects are delivered to ease the pressure.
“Further agrees that the current blockade had seriously affected economic activities in the country with heavy losses by investors and enterprises. It is therefore, important that urgent and emergency measures are out in place to forestall further occurrence while also considering a legislative round table in the state of transport infrastructure and institutional strengthening to support the economic diversification efforts and growth of the Nigerian economy.”
Accordingly, the Senate in its resolution urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the critical roads in Niger state linking economic corridors in the North and South.
It also urged the Federal Government to direct the Federal Ministry of Works to carry out emergency stabilization of the failed portions of Bida – Lapai – Lambatta road to ease the current suffering and rate of accidents and loss of goods and investments in the road.
The upper chamber further urged the Federal Government to consider an Emergency Intervention Fund for the critical roads in Niger State to the tune of N300 billion to concurrently fix the roads as part of the infrastructure rehabilitation efforts of the government to support ease of business and economic recovery across the country.
It also resolved that a National Legislative Roundtable on the State of Infrastructure for Economic Development be convoked, so as to bring all critical stakeholders in the transport and logistics industries together with a view to identifying urgent actions to address the current challenges.