Reps berate FERMA over deplorable condition of nation’s roads

•Say high rate of deaths not acceptable

THE House of Representatives on Wednesday berated the management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), for the deplorable condition of the nation’s roads, saying that the agency has failed woefully in delivering its mandate to the populace.

The House Committee on FERMA chaired by Mr Jerry Alagbaoso gave the verdict in Abuja, on Wednesday, at a two-day Investigative Hearing on “The unilateral, arbitrary and unauthorised creation of positions of Executive Directors in the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and the operational Activities of the Agency from September 2015 till date.”

According to the Committee, “despite all the billions of naira of tax payers’ money allocated to the agency, there was nothing to show for it, the roads are in bad conditions, the roads are begging for attention, they are becoming death traps, people are dying on the roads on hourly basis.

“Nigerians are suffering in silence, we would invite the management of the agency, to come and tell us in the House what are their problems and challenges in fixing these roads, they would not come, but they will go to other committees to honour their invitations, due to reasons best known to them, only to write us and be giving one excuse or the other for their failure to honour our own invitation.

“This lukewarm attitude of the management of the agency must stop, we are deeply worried, as representatives of the people, we will not fold our arms and be watching any agency of the government like FERMA going astray, you are complaining of funds releases for being responsible for the bad condition of the roads, now money has been released, you must tell us what you are doing with the N10billion released to you early October this year.

“Let it be known to you after this investigative hearing, we are going on oversight inspection of all these roads, for on the spot assessment and henceforth all the officers of agency in the zones and the states including the Federal Territory Capital, FCT, Abuja, must be communicating directly to the clerk of the committee, on the situation reports in their respective stations, no command structure again, we want to be hearing directly from them.

“We are here as a Committee to interface with FERMA,we are to talk to ourselves, we are here to hear ourselves and find the way forward, so that FERMA can wake up from its slumber and do the needful, we are not here to witch hunt the agency or any of its officials.”

On the N10 billion released to the agency in October, which it claimed was still being kept, on the instruction from the above that it must not be spent until it received instruction to that effect, the committee demanded the identity of the officer who gave such an instruction, saying that it was counterproductive, since the year was already running to an end.

On the deplorable condition of the Federal Road in Abeokuta, Sango/Otta Expressway, in Ogun State, which the Agency’s officer in charge, Mr Alex Mazoya, said attention is needed urgently ahead of the Yuletide, because of the heavy traffic on the road, the Committee queried its removal from the 2016 budget where it was actually captured.

Mr Mazoya then pressed for the inclusion of the road in the 2017 budget as the final solution to the hardship being experienced on that portion of the road for a long time now.

The Committee which later went to an executive session, however, warned the management of the Agency to go and regularise all illegal appointments and positions created which were against the Act establishing it or face the wrath of the law.

Earlier, the Acting Managing Director of the Agency, Mr Peter Ibu had said, the releasing of funds had been the major problem confronting the Agency

According to Ibu, the Agency had only been able to release only N3million to its offices in the 36 states of the Federation and Abuja, in March this year, while the sum of N10billion released to it from the 2016 budget in the second week of October this year was yet to be utilized

He said that the amount was being kept, because the Agency was not allowed by law to award contracts, without being cash backed and that there was also a standing instruction from an unnamed government official not to spend the money until there was an approval to that effect.