Bill to rename FERMA passes second reading in Senate

A Bill seeking to repeal the Federal Road Maintenance Agency Act and rename it Federal Roads Authority has passed through second reading on the floor of the Senate.

Aside renaming the agency, the bill also seeks to widen the scope of the functions and source of funding earlier available to FERMA.

While leading the debate on Wednesday, Senator Kabiru Gaya (Kano South) who sponsored the bill stated that the new agency according to the Bill “would be a semi-autonomous road agency, will be responsible for the professional management of federal roads in the country, involving planning, design, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance, thereby ending the duplication of functions between FERMA and the Highways Department of the Ministry of Works”.

Senator Gaya stated that when enacted into law, the Authority will amongst other things be responsible to “manage the Federal Roads Network so that it is safe and efficient with a view to meeting the socio-economic demands of the country.

“Promote the sustainable development and operation of the road sector; facilitate the development of competitive markets and the promotion of enabling environment for private sector participation in the financing, maintenance and improvement of roads in Nigeria; and ensure the efficient and effective construction, rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance of all federal roads;

“Prescribe measures for preventing damage however caused by any person to any road or any part thereof and for recovering, in full or in part, the cost of repairing the damage from such persons or his insurers; and ;advise the government in conjunction with the Federal Road Safety Corps and other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, on appropriate and effective methods of enforcing road traffic legislation for the purposes of preventing damage to roads and promoting road safety; among others”

While justifying the need for a change in the structure of FERMA to a new agency, Senator Gaya told the Senate that the challenges of maintaining the large stretch of Federal roads in the country under the structure of FERMA is too tasking.

“Road transportation remains the cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy, accounting for about 95 percent of cargo and passenger traffic.

“There is therefore the need for a sustainable development and maintenance of our country’s road transportation infrastructure as to provide a safe, reliable and free flowing system for motorists and other road users in order to facilitate economic activities in the country.

“Best practice around the world indicates that Nigeria cannot overcome its road infrastructure development challenges unless reforms are embarked upon t0 reposition the road sector and bring it in synchronies with its peers in the developed and developing nations of the world.

“Permit me to say that federal highway network of 34,000 kilometres constitutes part of the nation’s assets. Nowhere in the world is such a long stretch of roads administered within a bureaucratic structure.

“Therefore, the passage of this Bill will bring permanent solution to the challenges of funding and management of roads in Nigeria”, he added.

Senators who spoke on the Bill agreed that the new mandate being sought was in the best interest of the nation, and all gave their support.

When the Senate President, Bukola Saraki put the passage of the Bill for second reading to voice vote, it was unanimously adopted by members present.

He, thereafter, referred the Bill to Committee on Works for further legislative work with a mandate to return it in three weeks.

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