We must imbibe road maintenance culture —Oyo Commissioner for Works
Professor Raphael Afonja is the Commissioner for Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation in Oyo State. In this interview by OLAWALE OLANIYAN and FAITH ADEOYE, he speaks on the plans of the Seyi Makinde-administration to boost roads and transportation system in the state.
What is your assessment of roads in the state?
When I assumed office, I pointed out that one of the issues we must confront is that we don’t have a system and our process is not adequate. One of the things I did was to assess our roads to know the issues we have to address. Our roads mostly are not designed for the weight of big trucks that ply these roads. We need to find a way to design these roads to accommodate the weight of trucks as well.
Also, we need to improve our maintenance culture; we don’t have to wait until a road becomes unmotorable before we start fixing it. We lack data and information when it comes to our design process. Roads here are really bad compared to the US. There, they always checked the state of their roads and bridges to make sure they are maintained properly which we don’t do here. These are the cultures we need to bring into our system in Nigeria.
Is that the reason the state government set up a project review committee?
The first thing the government did when it came on board is auditing of the projects we have on the ground; verify how much money the contractors collected and know the status of these projects in terms of completion. This is what a new government should do because we inherited these projects.
There is the need to know the amount paid to the contractors and if they have worked based on the funds given to them and see how far they have gone, but we found out that lots of these contractors collected money and they have not worked except for one of them who have worked beyond the amount paid to him.
This is why you see me on the streets all the time trying to make sure these contractors do their jobs and from there, we will continue to assess them to see who is performing and who is not. If they are not performing, the governor is not going to joke with the matter because he has zero tolerance for any form of abnormality.
We have communicated with these contractors and also asked for their work plan. There is a quality assurance team who will make sure what is being constructed meets the designs given to them.
When is the Oyo-Iseyin road going to be completed?
We gave the contractor 12 months but it is based on the dry season because if the weather does not permit, the contractor won’t be able to work. One thing I did with the approval of the governor is to get a performance bond from the contractor which means if he doesn’t perform up to expectations, he will have to pay us back.
Most of the contracts we met on the ground don’t have performance bond but moving forward, it will be the major priority for any contract awarded.
What are the plans on yet to be completed roads, especially local government roads in the state?
We are working on it. The governor is working tirelessly to make these projects successful. We are working with the newly-appointed local government areas chairmen; they have started submitting the list of the bad roads in their local government areas to the government.
What is the state of street lights project?
This is just the phase one of the project; we are working on phase two which will go as far as 500 kilometres. It is moving as planned though the project ought to have started earlier.
We have noticed that these street lights are being destroyed by vehicles and trucks and we realised that some of these drivers are drunk. People need to know that this government will not take pity on drivers who drink, drive and hit our poles. We will make sure they pay for these damaged poles and get prosecuted for breaking the law.
Recently, this government had a meeting with the leaders of NURTW in the state, what is the outcome of the forum?
Well, only the governor can speak on this issue. When these NURTW chiefs came to me recently, I told them the only person who can lift the ban placed on the Union is the governor. So, until he does so, there is nothing anybody can do about it.
How do you intend to improve the state of buses and cabs in the state?
We have plans to construct four bus terminals in four places in the Ibadan metropolis – Ojoo, Challenge, New Ife road and Iwo road. We are going to have new buses coming in, we always have a proposal with the people who will bring in these buses. It will be a PPP (Public Private Partnership) with the bus companies.
We will also ensure that every vehicle on our roads is road worthy and conducive.
You own a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which caters for women, as your work as a commissioner affected this pet project in any way?
(Laughs) I multitask, I have been doing this long before I became a commissioner. This does not affect my job in any way because it is an hobby for me. I understand that there is the need to support women, children who are vulnerable, widows, people who have been subjected to domestic abuse as well as senior citizens in the society.
I support them by giving them capitals to start businesses without interests because when you support and empower these people you should get interests from them. I have people who do these for me too, they give me feedbacks on how it is going.