In Nigeria today, there is no doubt that there are myriads of problems facing the citizens, but if there is one issue which has elicited a national consensus, it is the fact that most Nigerian roads are in deplorable conditions and in complete state of disrepair.
Worried by this intolerable situation, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) was established in 2002 to ameliorate the situation. Those who are old enough may wish to recall the existence of a body known as the Public Works Department (PWD) which was bequeathed to the country by the then departing British Colonial masters to maintain the only few lengths of the roads leading to the seaports for the evacuation of raw materials to their metropolitan country.
No doubt, the colonial masters were dealing with a few kilometres of roads and a limited number of goods and services which traversed these roads. However, the problem of a self-governing nation multiplied with the continual growth and shifting of its population as well as the insistence on a good life for everybody necessitates that something more drastic and durable should be put in place to deal with the new situations. Consequently, FERMA marked Nigeria’s first ever institutional mechanism for concrete national policy platform, best practices and quality control in roads maintenance management.
Many Nigerians who now complain of the cost of food items, goods and services may not understand the correlation between the bad condition of our roads and the high prices of these items. The Managing Director of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, Engineer Nurudeen Abdulrahman Rafindadi, succinctly underscored this situation when he asserted recently that with the current administration’s emphasis on diversification, our road network is an economic enabler, a catalyst for growth, improving our roads means that a farmer saves the risk of his goods perishing and the marketer being able to offer a guaranteed price and market for the final consumer.
But it must be said that identifying our problems has never been an issue but proffering solutions to same has always been our undoing as a nation. However, Engineer Rafindadi, a man of high intellect and prodigious experience, is not deterred by this phenomenon, believing that he will manage whatever funds that will be made available to the agency as he can.
In his nearly 16 months in office, he has carefully mapped out his strategies, setting out his priorities and planning ahead as against a practice when chief executives would wait for funds to be available before planning what to do with such funds.
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For example, on assumption of office the quick intervention programme was undertaken prioritising the necessary intervention in all parts of the country the cost which was made available to the mother ministry and the senate committee which made it possible for the agency to intervene in the most critical areas as funds permitted.
Coming from the private sector where he had worked in all his adult life, many close associates cautioned on the probable hurdles he might experience in the course of carrying out his mandate. This is because the managing director has had over 35 years of post-graduate experience before coming to FERMA. He was Fellow of the Academy of Engineering (FAEng), Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineering (FNSE) and also a past President of the Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria (ACEN). He has also won assorted prizes from both national and international bodies. Engineer Rafindadi does not seek anything for himself because he is a fulfilled man but believes that he can still add his little quota to the development of the country guided by loyalty and patriotism.
Engr. Nurudeen Rafindadi is fortunate that he has formidable and loyal staff who are so happy that they have such a decent and highly qualified man as their chief executive.
No wonder, most of the staff of the agency are always seen in high spirits as they carry out their duties because the atmosphere is quite conducive.
It must be said with all sense of modesty that new the helmsman at FERMA is one of the most resourceful and innovative technocrats to hold the post since the inception of the agency over one and a half decades ago.
With about 38 offices spread across the nation manned by well-qualified engineers in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), FERMA cannot be said to be short of the right calibre of manpower to handle the enormous challenges of maintaining the 35,000 federal roads in order to ensure safe and happy motoring for Nigerian vehicle owners and commuters alike all year round. This is more so because transportation by road is the most common means of getting goods and services from one place to another in Nigeria.
It goes without saying, therefore, that once sufficient funding is provided, the menace of bad roads across the country would be considerably reduced.
All that is needed now is for the federal government, especially its mother ministry and the Senate Committee, to make the necessary funds available to enable the agency achieve its mandate to road users so that the success story of the agency would attract other highly qualified, loyal and patriotic citizens from whatever sector they may come from to take up executive positions in government.
Adams, public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.