Representative of the President & Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr Boss Gida Mustapha (2nd left),Hon. Minister of Power, Works & Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN(2nd right),Hon.Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige(right) and the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi (left) during the Opening Session of the One – Day Public Enlightenment on Developments in the Road Sector organized by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing at the Nigeria Air Force Conference Centre, Abuja on Monday 19th March 2018.
Stakeholders in the nation’s road sector, Monday in Abuja lauded the improvements on the roads across the country, commending the Federal Government, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, and his team for the innovative approach to road management since the inception of the Buhari Administration.
Speaking at a One-Day Public Enlightenment on the Developments in the Road Sector, the stakeholders, who included the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), and Petroleum Tanker Drivers Association among other road users, noted that the Minister has done a lot to restore confidence of Nigerians on the nation’s road sector.
In his goodwill message at the Nigerian Air Force Conference Centre venue of the event, President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Najimdeem Yasin, congratulated the Minister for his efforts in executing the 2017 budgetary proposals as regards to the development of road network across the country.
Represented at the occasion by Alhaji Nasiru, the NURTW President also expressed appreciation to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the prudent management of the nation’s scarce resources noting that since the beginning of the present administration, the road sector in the country never had it as good as is being currently experienced despite the shortfall in the nation’s revenue generation.
The NURTW boss, however, pointed out that as the efforts and actions of the government to improve the roads were being applauded, it was also necessary to direct its attention to a lot more of the roads that still needed urgent attention urging the Minister to put in place a mechanism to institutionalize the culture of construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of Federal roads as well as putting necessary instruments that would guide against the abuse of the roads by the road users.
Such mechanisms, the Union leader said, included weighbridges, transit parks and provision of other road furniture adding that as a transport workers’ union occupying the leadership of the International Transport Federation (ITF) and the Global Vice President, the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers had taken the sensitization and training of its members very seriously as it could not afford to operate short of international standard.
Disclosing that the NURTW, in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) regularly organized series of enlightenment campaigns for the union members in order to encourage them to maintain good driving culture, the Union boss declared, “I want to assure you of our continuous support and loyalty to every initiative that will improve the safety and sustenance of roads in the Federation”.
In his goodwill message on behalf of his association, the President of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Kassim Bataiya, expressed appreciation to the Minister for matching his words with action recalling that on the first of February 2018, the Minister, at a meeting with the various transport unions in his office, did promise that he would convoke such an enlightenment Workshop.
Represented by the Executive Secretary of the Union, Mr. Aloga I. Okpobo, the NARTO President, who was last week elected President of the African Road Transport Union in Marrakech, Morocco, commended the Minister for keeping his words applauding him for the on-going rehabilitations and reconstruction of roads across the country.
Noting that the government was currently raising funds from various sources to meet the required funding of roads in the country, the union President declared, “This has demonstrated that in a very short time Nigerian roads will meet the expectations of Nigerians”.
He also recalled that during the last meeting with the Minister, the unions made various recommendations including the issue of Axle Load, which, according to him, was on the front burner of the discussions adding that the recommendations which were both in the short, medium and long terms, included the banning of the importation of 60,000 litres capacity trucks into the country as they were negatively impacting the roads in the country.
Alhaji Bataiya also recalled that the Unions recommended to the Minister that those constructing such trucks above 60,000 litres in the country should be warned to desist forthwith adding that the Unions also asked government to give a five year moratorium to enable owners of such vehicles to recoup their investment before the final phase out.
Other recommendations, he said, include that the Federal Government should ban the use of steel trucks and replace them with aluminum trucks “because aluminum trucks are lighter in terms of weight capacity” and for the Government to continue the road rehabilitation and expansion it has earlier started as, adding that while the ban of the use of steel trucks would address the issue of axle load, the rehabilitation and expansion of roads would “go a long way in bringing relief to Nigerian roads”.
Pledging the support of the association to the Federal Government “in all its efforts to put Nigerian roads on course”, the NARTO boss declared, “We are also here to say that we are totally in support of this workshop and to commend the Hon. Minister for putting the workshop together because in doing so he has matched his words with action”.
In his own goodwill message, the National Chairman of the Petroleum Tankers Drivers Association, Mr. Salimon Akanni Oladiti, commended the Minister for “his courage” in organizing the Workshop pointing out that it is only when one is courageous and doing something right that such a person could invite the public to brief them of such action.
Noting that the workshop would give participants a further insight into the developments in the road sector, the Chairman declared, “As major stakeholders in the Nigerian road sector, we have in recent times witnessed tremendous efforts on the part of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing which has made us to believe that the dark and horrible days of bad roads will soon be over”.
“It is also important to use this opportunity to commend the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing under the headship of Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, for the increased strides his Ministry has been making since he mounted the saddle as the Hon. Minister in his stride to improve the road network. His efforts to reactivate road signage for the safety of road users is unparalleled in the history of Nigerian roads”.
Others who gave good will messages included the President Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, High Chief Musa Shehu Isawere, represented by Comrade Henry Ejioffor, who also commended the Minister for the innovations he has introduced into the management of the nation’s road sector and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who said in identifying with the convocation of the Workshop, he would be the ultimate beneficiary pointing out that the impressive turnout of the trade unions only signified the fact that they were in full support and in alignment with the Minister adding, “ It means less agitations and strikes”.
In his Keynote address, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented at the occasion by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha, said the convocation of the Workshop was an indication of the important role that road transportation plays in the nation’s economic development adding that the critical place of road transportation in the country’s evolution and the national life had never been more alive than presently.
“Presently the haulage of industrial goods, agricultural produce and industrial raw material, petroleum products, power plant components and other economic materials required in the manufacturing sector, are carried out using the road network”, the President noted adding that it was this realization that underscored the promise of change by the present administration in May 2015 with infrastructure as a priority.
Pointing out that this has been fulfilled by the administration “by policy and action, President Buhari further declared, “It is on record that this administration has raised the budgetary allocation for Capital project from 15 per cent to a minimum of 30 per cent and committed to physical stimulus targeted at infrastructure”.
“The result is the revival of construction activities and other projects nationwide. From 2015 to date, my administration has constructed several hundred kilometres of inter-state federal roads and bridges to ease the movement of persons, goods and services”, he said adding, however, that in order to take the full benefit of the projects, when finally completed and get value for the investment “we must change our ways and this government has signed on for that change”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, said the Workshop was meant to reflect and agree on the need for change about how Nigerians have used their Road infrastructure adding that the country’s Economic growth, National productivity and job opportunities would be impacted by the conclusions and resolutions of the meeting.
Noting that there are now existing treaty 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, Fashola said the only way to optimize the opportunities that lie in road networks like Trans-Saharan highway that connects Nigeria to Chad, Niger, Tunisia, Mali and Algeria; the Lagos- Abidjan Highway through Benin, Togo and Ghana, or the Enugu- Cameroon Highway through Abakaliki – Ogoja , Ikom and Mfum was to sensitize road transporters and imbibe the existing treaties.
The Minister, who thanked the President for finally signing the instruments of ratification as soon as it was brought to his attention, after many years of delay prior to his tenure, added, “This meeting is critical to the achievement of our common goal for shared prosperity. 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”.
“This is why this meeting was convened; because when President Buhari once said that “we will change our habits and we will change Nigeria,” I believe this is one of the things he had in mind. While it is true that we could have done better by way of massive investment in our transport infrastructure during the windfall of income from oil, this Government is now rapidly and aggressively addressing road transport infrastructure repairs, rehabilitation and construction as many of you who travel regularly will attest”, he said.
Fashola, who noted that there is no state in Nigeria today, where contractors would not be seen busy at work, added, “The crux of this meeting is to first acknowledge the President is only one man who cannot be everywhere, and secondly to recognize that we are the actors of the change that is required to take us to prosperity and thirdly to recognize that, the way we use the roads when finally completed will determine how long they last and whether they deliver prosperity or not”.
In a Communiqué issued after the Workshop, participants expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for the on-going rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads across the country, affirming the need for enforcement of axle load limit to safeguard the nation’s road infrastructure while also emphasizing the reintroduction of toll gates on federal highways as a means to improve revenue generation for the maintenance of roads.
Realizing the damaging effects of overloading on the nation’s road network, participants advocated that all Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) owners and operators should abide by the the new Axle Load limit regime in Nigeria in line with the 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 the ECOWAS Member States.
Other highpoints of the Communiqué are reaffirmation of need to operationalize the weighbridge stations on Federal roads to check overloading, recognizing the need for adherence by motorists to road signage for safety, need for all stakeholders to join hands to halt the abuse on Nigerian roads and agreement that tank farm owners and sea port operators should comply with the axle load limits by installing weighbridges at their depots/ports.
Also present at the occasion were the Minister of Transportation, Right Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, represented by Dr. (Mrs.) Anthonia Ekpa, FCT Minister represented by the Executive Secretary FCDA, Engr U.G. Jibrin, Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, among other dignitaries and stakeholders