Here comes the month of stock taking and celebration. This is also the period for family holidays especially those residing outside their original communities. It is also the period for family reunions. The most celebrated month of the year, December, is finally here!
As Nigerians prepare for the celebration of Christmas and the new year in a few weeks, there are however concerns as activities are expected to peak as a prelude to the celebration. People are bound to move from one point to the other, heightening the possibility of falling victims of avoidable hazards.
This year’s Yuletide is peculiar because it is laden with political activities, being a prelude to the 2019 election year. Politicians jostling for one political office or the other have commenced campaigns necessitating movement from one locality or the other.
To this extent, it is expected that with the increase in spendings by politicians in the course of their campaigns, prices of foods and other items are likely to rise marginally. With this concern comes the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the campaign expenses of the politicians in order to ensure that the maximum stipulated in the Electoral Laws are not exceeded.
Owing to the nation’s current economic situation, people should be reminded to spend only within their means as the first month of 2019 will come with its financial ferocity. They resist the temptation of being carried away by the excitement of the season but be reminded that children will resume schools in January. So, spend cautiously.
Due to the expected increase vehicular movement across the country, state of the roads across the country has become a cause for serious worries. Strategic roads leading to major cities in the country are in shambles and riddled with potholes. Some others are impassable; yet people must travel. There have been calls on the government to carry out palliative repairs on the dilapidated roads where outright construction is implausible.
Aside this is the need for the security agencies to be vigilant. Evil men are lurking around plotting impactful strikes, especially in the troubled North-east where the terrorists are daily devising means of creating confusion with a view to decimating the populace.
It appears that there is always an annual upsurge in criminal activities around this time, so it imperative for the security agencies to be on red alert in order to ensure peaceful celebrations. Security must be stepped up around the country and targets, even soft, must be well protected in order to prevent unexpected attacks from evil men.
Routes to major cities must be well policed as kidnappers and armed robbery gangs are most likely to take advantage of busy traffic to strike on unsuspecting commuters. Police authorities must be at alert to prevent the men of darkness from causing anguish in the land.
Thankfully, the government has put in place measures to ensure that the people have a hitch free celebration.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in obvious response to concerns on bad roads has said that his ministry had met with officials of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to ensure a hitch free movement during the Yuletide.
According to him, FERMA had been mandated to carry out road repairs nationwide while the FRSC had been urged to step up patrols of major roads to prevent road mishaps and hitch-free traffic during the festive period.
The minister added that his ministry had also put in place measures to make electricity available to the nation at the Yuletide.
To convince the people about the readiness of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to make traveling stress-free for the people, it’s Commandant, Boboye Oyeyemi, said “For the end of the year patrols, we have divided the operations into three segments, that is pre-Christmas, post-Christmas and post New Year. So this will stretch from December 15th to January 15th and we are deploying over 21,000 personnel to all critical corridors with over 1,000 patrol vehicles, including recovery vehicles, ambulances and the bikes.
The country has been partitioned into critical 52 corridors across the country. The focus for the end of the year is that in conjunction with FERMA, FERMA is carrying out palliative measures on all the critical areas on the highways to ensure free flow of traffic. Our principal responsibility during this period is to to ensure free flow of traffic. That could mean that as you are traveling you may likely experience some gridlock in one or two areas in the course of the construction work that is going on. So, we are not talking about enforcement; we are talking about the issue of getting the travelers getting home safely. Also, the recovery vehicles have been deployed to critical locations and we are also working with private tow trucks operators so that peradventure if there is any breakdown of any vehicle or truck, immediate we will be able to remove all these obstructions which normally lead to gridlock. We are not saying there will be no crash but the focus is that let there be zero death. If there is any crash, we will have our advanced life support ambulances deployed.”
This sounds reassuring. The strategy put in place by the FRSC boss will definitely address the fears of perennial gridlock especially on Abuja-Lokoja expressway and other crowded routes across the country.
The ubiquitous security checks by the police and the military that could result into heavy gridlock should also be addressed as the men of the FRSC brace up for the great challenge ahead. There have been concerns of possible disruption of traffic flow owing to several check-points across the country.
Though these checks are necessary, considering the reality of the security situation in the country, it would be better if the checks are streamlined in a way that it would only cause negligible obstruction to traffic.
On government efforts to make roads motorable, the Managing Director of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Engnr. Nurudeen Rafindadi, equally assured that he had deployed his men to rehabilitate potholes.
Rafindadi said “Consequent on the federal government and the ministry of works directives that roads which are mostly used by commuters during the festive season should be made motorable and comfortable in order to ensure safe passage and avoid the usually occurring perennial traffic gridlocks, there has been a series of coordination between the ministry, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
This coordination has been going on at least for the last five weeks. In addition to the major construction works that are being done by the ministry of works in the major aterial, the agency has identified a total of about 353 critical roads that need palliative measures specifically during this period.”
This is equally good news to prospective travelers ahead of the Yuletide. Rehabilitating damaged roads before the expected rush hours is beneficial to all concerned as it will not only reduce the travel time but also ensure smooth journey.
It must however be stressed that it is imperative for the government to move away from this fire-brigade approach to addressing critical challenges of road maintenance. One would have expected that palliative measures for the rehabilitation of the roads should have commenced long ago and not be left to the tail end of the year.
Chances are that the contractors handling these roads maintenance are going to carry out their chores hurriedly only to produce shoddy outcomes that would not pass the test of time.
There are some portions of the roads in the country that would not respond to this patch-patch palliatives. Government must be willing to award fresh contracts for their reconstruction as a permanent solution.
FERMA and its parent ministry of works have always complained of underfunding. The government should consider the possibility of concessioning the building of major roads that are critical to the nation’s economy to serious and performance-driven private sector operators on the basis of build, operate and transfer (BoT).