By SUNDAY ABBA, Abuja
The federal government has launched a short code by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for members of the public, especially motorists, to channel their complaints and get response from the agency about state of highways in the country.
The FERMA code, which is 7727, a book titled: FERMA FootPrints, and a magazine tagged: FERMA@20 Special Edition were launched by President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, after their unveiling.
While performing the launch on Thursday in Abuja, President Buhari who noted with concern the high rate of road abuse in the country, stressing the need to stop the ugly trend through intensive education and sensitisation of members of public, particularly road users, on bad road usage practices and their consequences on the infrastructure.
Fashola said, “Let us understand that no matter how much money we give to FERMA, it doesn’t make sense to destroy the roads we’ve built just because we can get money to give FERMA. That’s not how a progressive people do things. The first thing is preservation, proper use of the roads, just as we would treat our own homes. Do we first set fire to our homes because we can buy more cables? So we need to educate people, especially road users.
He noted that every time people pouring lubricants or other solutions capable of dissolving the materials used in making the roads or the shoulder, they’re already reducing the lifespan of the infrastructure.
There is also what I call unfair trading. So cargo that should be carried by four vehicles, one businessman wants to carry everything on one vehicle, and essentially doing business at the expense of all of us. Is that fair? So there must be a time when we say enough is enough.
“So don’t overload because every road is designed to a specification of what it can carry. And once you begin to ask it to carry more than he deserves you have already killed it. So the President has approved the enforcement of actions load regulations,” he said.
According to him, the President has issued directives to the heads of those organisations who are known for overloading in the country to say you must ensure that they comply with the appropriate weight and axle load before they be, and any vehicle that does not comply to loot that we are saying so progress should be made to face the consequences.
In his keynote address/presentation captured FERMA at 20, the journey so far, Challenges and Way Forward, the managing director and chief executive office (MD/CEO) of FERMA, Engr Nuruddeen Rafindadi, who gave a brief overview of the agency from inception in 2003, said over the years FERMA has strived against all odds to respond to the maintenance needs of virtually all the highways across the country.
The FERMA lamented that one of the critical challenges faced by the agency in carrying out its mandate is that of fund.
According to the MD, to have optimal maintenance of Nigerian roads requires an estimated N300 billion annually, adding that the current budgetary appropriation/releases are far too less to enable FERMA perform optimally, hence there was an urgent need for alternative funding stream(s).
Engr Rafindai however noted that the funding from government in recent years has witnessed considerable improvement compared to what it used to be through the earlier years of the agency.
He also pointed out manpower gap as one of the challenges, adding that the managing looks forward to recruiting more personnel in the coming year.
Others mentioned include: road abuse,debt overhang, recurring emergencies, etc.
Following a welcome address delivered earlier by the Chairman, Governing Board of FERMA, Dr Babatunde Lemo, goodwill messages were also heard from various stakeholders, including members of the National Assembly, at the personality-studded event. One of such was from the Minister of State for Works and Housing, Umar Ibrahim El-Yakub.
The high point was the unveiling of the 20th Anniversary logo + FERMA FootPrints, and launching of the agency’s Short Code among others by Fashola on behalf of the President.