By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said his government had invested more money in upgrading Nigeria’s national infrastructure by rising funding from the national budget for capital projects from 15 to 30 per cent since he took office in 2015.
Speaking during a one (1) day public enlightenment on the development in the road sector in Abuja, Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha stated that his government was also committed to using fiscal stimulus to upgrade the country’s infrastructure.
He disclosed that a new regulation to guide the use of federal highways and prevent its abuse by heavy-duty vehicles has been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and would now apply on maximum allowable weights and axle load on the roads.
“It is on record that this administration has raised our annual budgetary commitments for capital projects from 15 per cent to a minimum of 30 per cent, and committed to a fiscal stimulus targeted at infrastructure,” Buhari said in his remarks.
“The result is a revival of construction activities on highway nationwide. From 2015 to date, my administration has constructed and rehabilitated several hundred kilometres of inter-state, federal roads and bridges to ease the movement of persons and goods.”
The president however called on road users in the country to embrace a new attitude to road use, adding that overload of vehicles contribute to fast wear and tear of the road networks.
“However, in order to take the full benefits of these projects when finally completed and get value for our investments, we must change our ways. As the head of this government, I have signed up to that change,” he stated.
According to him, tanker drivers and owners must commit to stop packing their trucks on highways. He said the highways are thoroughfare and should remain that way.
Buhari also noted that he has approved the commencement of the weights and axle load regulation to ensure that maximum axel loads allowed on the roads are adhered to.
In his welcoming addressed, the Minister of Power Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, explained that the new regulation on weights and axle loads was in sync with a recent treaty on same which member countries of the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) signed and which Nigeria ratified.
A copy of an official gazette of the regulation which the ministry provided indicated that a minimum of N1 million and maximum of N10 million have been provided as fines for breach of the standards, in addition to other fines.
Fashola stated that Nigeria’s compliance with the new standards would create more opportunities for its heavy-truck transport businesses in the ECOWAS region.
He said: “For the benefit of those who may be unaware, there are now existing treaties obligations within the West African sub region and beyond that regulate the amount of load any goods vehicle can put on an axle and by extension on the road in order to do business within ECOWAS and beyond.
The Minister emphasized that “Our compliance with these regulations will open a massive door of opportunity and prosperity of cross-border trade to Nigerians engaged in the transport business.
“All over the world, one common thread of prosperous societies is their level of compliance with laws and regulations. So in those societies, you will see trucks parked in proper parks which create jobs, and not on the highways, which impede access and opportunity.
“In those societies, you will see trucks carrying specified tonnage of cargo because it protects the road, and allows for it to be used again and again.
“Therefore, while the temptation to overload and carry more with one truck, against regulation and good practice may be appealing, it is ultimately a barrier to prosperity. Such practices may provide cheap and perhaps corrupt riches and income, but they do more damage to the roads from which the cheap income is made,”.
The minister also informed that the government would concession weighing bridges on the highways to private operators to maintain. These operators, he added would also be required to build warehouses that can take in loads that could be taken down from overloaded vehicles.
Consequently the Corp Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi appealed to drivers and stakeholders to comply with the rules and regulations guiding the road sector. He threatened that the government is ready to enforce the laws so as to keep the highways safe and secured.
The Minister of State II, Surv. Suleiman Hassan Zarma who coordinated the interactive session, commended the stakeholders for their responses and urged them to continue to support government in its road sector development initiatives.
Various stakeholders and speakers from the Academia, Road Transporters, Petroleum and Gas workers, Road Transport Employers and Owners, amongst others took their turns to commend the Federal Government and the Ministry. They pledged their support and cooperation towards Government’s efforts to curb road abuse so as to achieve the desired development required in the sector.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, representative of the Chairman, House Committee on Works, Honourable Michael Akintola, representative of the Minister of Transportation, Dr. (Mrs) Anthonia Ekpa, representative of FCT Minister, the Executive Secretary, Federal Capital Development Authority, Engr. U.G. Jubrin, State Permanent Secretaries of Works, Directors and other Stakeholders in the sector were in attendance.
Similarly, in a communiqué issued by Olusegun Ogunkayode, Senior Information Officer for: Director (Information) said said at end of the meeting, adopted the following, amongst others;
Appreciated Federal Government’s efforts for improved road rehabilitation and construction going on nationwide;Affirmed the need for enforcement of axle load limit to safeguard the road infrastructure; and mphasised the importance of re-introduction of Toll Palzas on the Federal Highways to improve revenue generation for road maintenance and provision of rest points for travelers.
The communiqué stated that the stakeholders advocated that all Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGVs) owners and operators should abide by the new Axle Load limit regime in Nigeria which is in line with ECOWAS Supplementary Act./SP.17/02/12 relating to the harmonization of standards and procedures for the control of dimensions, weight and axle load of goods vehicles within ECOWAS Member States. They also agreed that Tank Farm owners and Sea Port operators should comply with the axle load limits by installing weighbridges at their depots/ports.