Improved Funding of FERMA Necessary for Sustainable Road Development

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 The Federal Government has spent so much money on the rehabilitation and construction of roads across the country in the last few years. This increase in funding can be seen in remarkably improved state of the nation’s road network. This measure of achievement can only be sustained if the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) receives the right kind of funding to ensure that these good roads are well managed for them not to deteriorate, write Bennett Oghifo and Olusegun Ariyo

Those who travel on the nation’s roads, particularly during the festive period at the end of last year, attest to the fact that most stretches of the nation’s highways are good to drive on once again

According to the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, there are plans to link the six geo-political zones with dual-carriage highways to encourage seamless movement of people, goods and services. Good roads, he said were indispensable to the nation’s economic growth.

The Federal Government is also working on a sustainable funding arrangement to ensure that money is always available for road development and management.
However, for these roads not to deteriorate and to keep them in good shape all year round, it is important to consider the provision of funds regularly to the Federal Roads Management Authority (FERMA), which is the agency of government instituted by law to undertake such maintenance task.

Recently, Senate President, David Mark advocated the release of adequate funds to FERMA so that it can effectively perform its duties.
Regardless, the Federal Government has been very supportive of the Agency, especially now with funds from SURE-P. This is a move of the government which has no doubt interested the Chairman of the Governing Board of FERMA, Engr. Ezekiel Adeniji.

The current Chairman of the Board of FERMA, Adeniji was appointed in June, last year, and since then he has, in collaboration with the Managing Director of the Agency, Gabriel Amuchi worked consistently to ensure that the nation’s roads are rehabilitated to avoid complete deterioration.

Regardless of the challenge of adequate funding, Adeniji has promised the agency would do everything possible to repair roads across the nation.

Globally, roads develop what engineers call ‘crocodile skin’, which turns to pot holes because of wear and tear, but what is important is to ensure that these defects are rectified immediately they are noticed.

It is impossible to have porthole-free roads because of wear and tear from regular usage. Everyday, the roads are subjected to one form of abuse or another. There could be storm water action that may cause washouts or vehicles may discharge chemicals that could react with bitumen to cause cracks.

Also, underground water, according to engineers erodes the subsoil which often makes the top of the road to sink and cause portholes. What is important is that once these holes are discovered, they should be patched so that they do not expand and become barriers to movement of goods and services.

Another sore point on the nation’s roads is vehicle overload, which makes the roads to carry the load they are not designed to bear. For instance, 10 tonne trucks sometimes carry goods that come up to 60 tonnes and this is not usually detected because of the absence of weigh bridges. These goods can be transported through other modes of transportation like rail and water, which are now functional, thanks to the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Recently, FERMA said it introduced what is called preventive maintenance, a proactive initiative to repair roads that spring little cracks. The general idea is to repair these little cracks so that they do not develop into portholes that could deteriorate into major challenge to movement.

The agency’s preventive maintenance initiative is being done because of a new funding arrangement, unlike in the past when they see cracks on the highways and apply for funds to repair them. Before the funds arrive these cracks usually developed into portholes and sometimes turn to deep holes that become nightmares to vehicle owners.

At this stage, there is little the agency can do, because they are not financially equipped to deal with that sort of job. When this occurs, the Federal Ministry of Works is expected to step in with its contractors who will do the major rehabilitation work.

If funds keep flowing into the agency’s coffers then they would be able to repair the roads faster than they develop portholes and save the federal government some money that would be used in the needless rehabilitation work.

Also, commuters will experience lesser travel times and spend less on vehicle maintenance/repair once the roads are free of portholes, if the agency keeps to its preventive maintenance initiative.

Amuchi reportedly said 80 per cent of portholes on the nation’s federal highways have been repaired. Also that before he came to FERMA, 85 per cent of these roads where not useable, stating that the organisation was able to reduce the high level of bad roads to less than 20 per cent, meaning they have repaired more than 28,000 kilometres of these roads.

To record this level of achievement, the agency has adequate support from the Federal Ministry of Works, to the limit of available funds.

If the agency keeps the initiative going, then it could fulfill its promise to rehabilitate all federal roads in the country within a short time to ensure that the nation’s roads are safe for movement of people and goods.

In addition, the Federal Government understands the importance of the mix of human and material resources to achieve set goals hence it appointed a professional engineer as the chairman of the board of FERMA hence it appointed Adeniji to that position.

Adeniji began his civil service career as Engineer II in the defunct Gongola State and later rose to become Director of Civil Engineering in Adamawa State. After his appointment as Director of Engineering and Technical Services in the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Abuja in 2002, he was appointed acting Director General of the Agency in 2007. He retired from the public service in August, 2010.

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