BABATUNDE Fashola, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, yesterday expressed his disapproval over a bill seeking to allocate 1 per cent from the consolidated revenue fund to the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency ( FERMA ) for the rehabilitation of roads across the country.
He made his opposition to the proposed law known during the public hearing on two bills meant to harmonise the FERMA Act with that of the Federal Highway Bill so that the minister of Works, Power and Housing may have some powers of granting roads concession.
The Minister said the implication of the passage of the bills will be negative and will probably be at variance with the intention of the lawmakers.
“Section 5 deals with the funding of the Agency and what it says is to provide a lump sum by percent page from the Consolidated Fund to the Agency,”
“I am not certain that it is the intention of the National Assembly to give 1 per cent of the consolidated revenue fund to one agency,” adding that rather, the agency should come up with a well laid out budget profile of its needs and debt profile which will then be properly appropriated.
He added that the main ministry with its many responsibilities did not have such funds at its disposal.
Certain aspects of the proposed bill were in conflict with the constitution and were duplications of the National Roads fund bill and the Federal Road Authority bill.
The creation of states’ road maintenance agencies in section 2 of the one of the bills, he said, already had Judicial interpretation which states that one arm of government cannot create responsibility for another arm of government. According to him, it was also inconsistent with the constitution.
He also opposed the sections which seeks to empower FERMA erect toll gates and well as collect fees. ” It’s in conflict with the Federal Highways Act which gives he Minister the power to do such . It conflicts with the Act which was from the National Assembly,” he said.
Mediayedu Stephen, who represented the Ministry of Finance, lauded the provisions in the proposed bill, saying the erection of toll gates as included in the amendment bill was a good development.
“This is mostly the avenue through which the private sector can recoup their investment in the advent of any road concession. However the administration of toll gate by the proposed state road agencies may impede concessioning by the Federal Government,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Akissa, Legal Adviser, who represented the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, supported the creation of toll gates.
His words: “this bill is right in time and a step in the right direction as its passage would assist the government with the funds that will be generated at the several toll gate around the nation in the funding of projects along the Federal roads.”
There should be provisions that clearly state the working relationship between the FERMA and the road agency established for the state, he said, adding that the administration and distribution of funds should not be tied to the existence of state road maintenance agency.
He further stated that ” the power of FERMA to erect toll gate should be harmonised with the power of the minister to erect toll gate under the Federal Highway Act.”
President, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Mr Adekunle Mokoulu, it was not necessary to have inserted state roads management agency in the bill as it was already a precondition stipulated in the National Roads fund (NRF) for states to access the fund.
He said: “We think that the state assembly will not be directed from Abuja on which laws to pass. We believe that the provision in the NRF that, ‘Only state roads authorities can access the funds’ suffices and has already taken care of this insertion. Tolling is but one of the numerous proposed sources of funding the roads maintenance.’’
Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso, Chairman of the Committee, said that it was discovered during the committee’s oversight function, that critical portions of roads especially Federal interlinking roads and inter changes vital to various part of the country were in bad conditions.
“These roads that need to be taken care of as a matter of urgency and emergency were not captured in the past budgets,” he said.
– The Nation