The Chairman, House Committee on Works, Hon. Toby Okechukwu has revealed that the Federal Government is currently indebted to road contractors to the tune of N3 trillion with outstanding liability of N300 billion in the Ministry of Work.
Hon. Okechukwu disclosed this in Abuja, while speaking at the just concluded 2017 National Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM), of the Nigerian Institution of Highway and Transportation Engineers (NIHTE) with the theme: “Transport Sector Reform Bills: Tools for the Diversification of Nigerian Economy.” With the high debt status, Okechukwu said it would be impossible for government alone to fund the construction of roads as it has a commitment to contractors to the tune of over N3 trillion with only an annual appropriation of only N240 billion. “We are not able to fund the road projects, that is the plain truth. We have an outstanding liability in the Ministry of Work of about N300 billion, the annual appropriation of N240 billion and contractors commitment of about N3 trillion.
“So, how do you fund the road? That is why we need to have the road reform bill that will enable us to generate fund through other sources, to meet the government half way in their intervention. And that is the practice in other jurisdiction and in other countries.
According to the law maker, the speedy passage of the transportation reform bill which include the port and road sector reform bill, the road fund bill and the inland waterway bill etc that are presently before the National Assembly would avail the private sector an opportunity to participate in the development of the sector, diversify the economy as well create job opportunities. “Through these bills, there lies the window for the diversification of the country’s economy. And it is through these, that we can get the private sector to participate in the public private partnership PPP, arrangement. We can get the government to unleash the enabling environment that will encourage people to participate,” he added.
On his part, the President, Nigeria Society of Engineers NSE, Engr. Otis Anyaeji advised Federal Government to appoint only engineers with prerequisite experience and capacity as Ministers of Transport and Aviation rather than putting round. He said: “An engineer plays a great role in planning the feasibility study, design engineering and procurement and construction management and the commissioning management of the various systems that are being created to you the various models of transportation. “Engineers are also needed to play the roles at various steps of the contracting business and constructions contractors, materials and procurement contractors and various other services that are required to get truly designed and well constructed transportation elements that combined to give road to a truly functioning transportation system for a country. “And they have to play these roles, starting from the policy level.
In other words, we need to have engineer as Ministers of Transport and Aviation.” Anyaeji lampooned the successive governments for contracting foreigners in the construction of roads and described it as a mistake and advised that Nigeria engineers be considered instead to enable them build their capacities and compete globally. “Because, nobody can really developed Nigeria as well as Nigerian engineers will do as that is how it is in every countries”, he added.