Enugu lawmaker steps up advocacy on Road Fund Bills as solution to road infrastructure deficit, argues that Nigeria cannot attain a golden era in road construction without assent to Road Reform Bills
The lawmaker representing Aninri, Awgu, and Oji River Federal Constituency of Enugu State in the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu, has advocated for Road Fund Bills as the best solution to tackle the country’s road infrastructure deficit.
Noting that the Roads Fund Bill and Road Authority Bill passed into law by the National Assembly were aimed at giving a facelift to the sector but were rejected, he appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the bills.
Okechukwu made the appeal on Wednesday when the President of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Rabiu Ali, led a delegation of the association to present a letter of Honorary Fellowship of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) to him. The Deputy Minority Leader, in appreciating COREN for the award, stressed that the engineering practice was significant to the development of any society.
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“I am happy that the NSE placed me at the top of their professional calling and reward system. On a serious note, engineering crisscrosses our lives. It controls 90 per cent of our lives. If we neglect or ignore engineering, we do so at our peril. When we came in as a Committee of Works, we were able to diagnose the challenges in the industry, capacity, personal issues and how the profession is practised. That was how we came up with the idea of amending the COREN Act.
We also diagnosed funding issues regarding road construction and maintenance, and we came up with Road Fund Bill. We also dealt with the issue of the organisational structure of that outfit that will maintain and develop roads. We also came up with the idea of the Roads Authority Bill. Those bills passed all through the platforms of National Assembly, in the House and in the Senate. It was passed to Mr President.
Unfortunately, we were not on the same page, or they could not be up to speed regarding approving it. Luckily, the COREN Bill passed, and it’s now an Act of Parliament, and I am happy that you are here to follow it up. So, it is our prayer that the Roads Fund Bill and Roads Authority Bill should be paid attention to,” the lawmaker said.
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“The other day, I was listening to the minister, and he said they have over 10 trillion liability and 765 billion outstanding certificates. There is no way you can develop growth in this country without dealing with the issue of reforms in the system, and those acts were meant to cure that.
So, I am really happy that at least one is down, then the other two to go. We must follow up the activism, and the pressure from the press has to be momentous. Anybody who tells you that road construction in this country can get any golden era without those Road Reform Bills passed into law or without Mr President signing it is joking,
Hon. Maren was the person who moved the motion for us to investigate the PPP arrangement with regard to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and then Second Niger Bridge. Otherwise, it was PPP. When he did that, we knew what we wanted to achieve because the PPP arrangements were not working. We called Motorways and all those people who were involved, and eventually, those PPP arrangements after our public hearing, we were on the same page with the minister. The federal government had to take back their assets, which is why they re-awarded them, and that’s why you got them to finish,” Okechukwu added.
“And it is the funding mechanism that is making possible that they are the only projects that have a pathway to completion. So, if anybody is telling you we are completing this or that, it’s not possible. No body is the problem of roads in Nigeria. It is the method and plan we have for it. So, the earlier we deal with it, the better. And NSE is at the forefront.
If the practice for construction work is going well, our people will blossom. There isn’t any problem. It’s not because of incompetent contractors. Nobody is taking your money. Unless you have asphalted, nobody is going to give you any penny. But they are not in a position to do so because it is not funded,” the lawmaker argued.
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Presenting the award letter earlier, Engr. Ali said the fellowship was a sequel to Okechukwu’s contribution to engineering in Nigeria, especially in amending the COREN Act, noting that engineering has received a boost with the new law.
“Engineering has suffered in Nigeria. The act that you have given us will go a long way in putting engineering on the front burner and in proper perspective in Nigeria. The fruits might not be seen immediately but I want to inform you that we have stated implementation of the act and we are already seeing signs that the act will change the face of engineering practice in Nigeria. So, we are here to deliver this letter for the award of honorary fellowship of NSE to you,” he said.
On his part, Rep. Solomon Maren (PDP, Plateau), a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, thanked COREN for its efforts in ensuring that Nigerian roads are safe for citizens to ply while calling on the federal government to do more.