FERMA And Road Network Sustainability In Nigeria


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By Kennedy Dimaku:
Engr. Ezekiel Olajide Adeniji is the Board Chairman, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).  He says that FERMA is committed to its promise of zero pot holes on Nigerian Roads, stressing that there
would be drastic improvement on the achievement of the organization in this 2014 notwithstanding 2013 performance. In this interview with our correspondent, Kennedy Dimaku, he says more on the imperative of toll of Nigerian Roads: Excerpt.

Journey in 2013   has been a wonderful experience.

Good we have rehabilitated most of our roads. We have 34,120 kilometer road network under our purview. Before we took over in 2012, the degrees of the dilapidation of the roads were almost about 80 percent. By the special grace of God, we have drastically reduced it to about 23 percent now. And we sincerely thank God for the kind of workforce we have. The board members have been giving good policy directives and the management executing the directives respectively. The workforces are highly dedicated. They just need little push and with that little push we gave them, they perform optimally.  It is for you journalists to see because I believe you travel far and wide more than anybody; and tell the general public what is on the ground, because I cannot praise myself. But a lot of calls have been coming; commending us on the tremendous improvement we have recorded on our roads. The near zero pot hole that we embarked upon last year has been tremendously successful. Most of our roads are now motorable and incessant attack by arm robbers as a result of bad roads have drastically reduced. And we also involved local people who are living along the federal roads. We recruited them as direct labour to partake in the rehabilitation of the roads. We gave them stipend of 18,000 naira and they work with all their heart. They are so dedicated and they work for at least for five hours for five days per week. By the time they work on this federal roads, they will be weak to waylay people on the roads, or picking pocket and involving themselves in arm robbery. A lot of employments were created. We employed about 8,000 youths who were jobless through our Sure-P direct labour unit of the agency.  And they are performing excellently well.  So last year as I will say, the federal government under the leadership of Goodluck Jonathan did not allow us to suffer or cry for money whenever we asked, they gave us and whatever they gave us, we made sure there was value for the money.

Anticipation in 2014 In this 2014.

There will be more vigor because of the praises we are getting from the masses. People are ready to over work themselves. When there is gratitude, it calls for greater work. When there is gratefulness, the hands of blessing will increase. We are grateful to God for what we have achieved and we want   to improve on it; so that Nigerians would see value for their tax money we are using on the roads. And we are not going to disappoint them. We have 34,120 km roads network like I said earlier. I am talking to you holistically. When I took over as the chairman of FERMA, the first question journalists came to my office to ask me was that we have more sing posts than work and I promised them to give me a year that they will see more work than sign posts. Today, they are calling me to please put sign posts so that states would not take over our glory. So, the promises we made, God has helped us to fulfill them. And with your help as journalists, FERMA would be showcased to Nigerians to know what we are doing, and that we are doing something.

Re-emergence of toll gate on our roads

Any way, if we are getting electricity and we are paying for it, you are getting water and you are paying for it, nothing stops us from paying for good roads. When we talked about tolling our roads, I made
it categorically clear that the present government is a transformational regime. We are not going to toll roads that are not motorable. When we certify ourselves that the roads are good, we can now pay toll. But if the roads are not good, we are not wicked task masters, we are not going to toll anything. So, the agenda for the road tolling is ongoing but that is premised on the fact that our roads first must be motorable.

Pitfalls of the former toll system

Yes, that time, Nigerians were operating under analog. Today we are digital. We will computerize the process. When you are passing, it will be recorded. If any toll official steals, he will be fired, prosecuted and jailed. That aspect would be seriously tackled. Nobody will steal our money.

Sustainability of FERMA’s achievement

I always tell people that when you have a system, it is always good to develop the system instead of developing occupants of the system. When the system is fully developed the situation cannot be the same. Look at this place, the system can work without me. Anybody that is coming now and wants to do otherwise, the whole world would push him out. We have a system on ground and that system, whether the Managing Director is there or not, that the chairman is around or not is immaterial. The system is built in such a way that it can work itself.
Whoever that mans the place, if you want to do otherwise, people would boo you out of the place. I want to assure you that we have a standard system in place in FERMA. And whatever happens, the trend cannot go down. If anything comes down, the people responsible would be forced out.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration

President Goodluck Jonathan is a statesman. This administration is one of the best I have witnessed in my life. The transformation Agenda of the present administration, if people can get it clearly, it is the most fantastic. What is transformation? It is making good an existing process without necessarily uprooting the system that is there. You improve on it and make good what is in existence. You know we have so many kind of reformation but this administration is transformative.
Some people will say that they are doing reformation, when you are doing reformation you have to demolish first and start building from the foundation. But we are not ready to demolish anything so that
people will not go through pains but to improve on what is in existence and get the best out of it. But there are some people, like those in the opposition; they neither want transformation or reformation. What they want is misinformation. Anything that the government does, they want to misinform the public that it is not doing the right thing. But God and the people will also judge.
One thing about politicians is that they do not think about generations to come. They think about the next election. How they are going to win either by hook or crook. But when you have statesmen,
they think about what happens to the next generation. What happens to Nigerians, what happens to our children? Goodluck Jonathan is a statesman. He is not the type that wants to win election by all cause.
He is concerned with what legacy he would leave behind. We have seen government come and gone in this country. We have seen government that some people would win election in some states in the
country and they will announce another person from Abuja. But today, you are sure that when you go for an election, if you have good programmes for the people and you campaign very well, you will win and nobody will rig for you. There are some states that we supervise election, PDP lost, if they wanted to rig they would have rigged it but the president says he wants to stand for the truth, I think that
there is no legacy that is more than that. Today, if anybody wins the party primaries in Maiduguri or another place, he will be announced, if anybody wins primaries in Ibadan he becomes the  flag bearer unlike those days where people would not win party primaries and they would be party flag bearers. So, this is the legacy where the will of the people is having upper hand over the will of the few cabals. So is a legacy that nobody can rubbish.

 FERMA’s challenges

As chairman of FERMA, I want to tell Nigerians that with what I met on ground, I am satisfied with what we have done but that does not mean that there is no room for improvement. I think we are getting it
right; we are going to work more hard to improve on what is on ground so that we can make it better.
Then if we say there are no challenges, we are deceiving ourselves. Nigeria is a country that every part is very important. There are some areas in Nigeria that we cannot work freely. Like the North East zone
because of the Boko Haram insurgence. There is no way you can carry asphalt to go and work on a road and hearing  gun shot, and you will not abandon the asphalt and the trailer and run for your dear life.
So, there are security challenges but these kinds of challenges are global challenges. It is not restricted to Nigeria. So, it saddens me when I see some politicians trying to play game on something that is
not our making as if it is the government that is causing the trouble.  In America, they are bombing. Even the other time, for instance, they bombed the world trade center. If it is in Nigeria, they will say it
is President Goodluck Jonathan that is making it to happen.

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