In a move aimed at achieving shorter travel time and better travel experience, in the coming Yuletide months across the country, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has rallied all concerned road infrastructure stakeholders into action for the annual ember months operations to ensure safe and pleasurable journey on the nation’s roads during the period.
Presiding over a result-focused meeting in Abuja, which had the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, representatives of Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Government Contractors and the Federal Controllers of Works from the States, Fashola gave directives to the contractors handling the various roads to remobilize to sites for special works promising that they would receive some payment before the end of the year.
In his opening remarks, at the Ministry’s Conference Room, Mabushi venue of the meeting, the Minister said it was expedient for the major stakeholders in the road sector to brainstorm over the issue of smooth travel experience for commuters as the Christmas and New Year Festivities were around the corner adding that there was need to ensure safety for those travelling by road across the country.
He recalled that the Ministry started preparing for the rainy season early in the year before the exit of the last administration adding that inspections carried out about March and April revealed rise in water levels in some areas, failures of portions of the roads, washouts and other damages on the roads.
Noting that the major challenge on the roads during the Dry Seasons was the spiral increase in the volume of vehicular traffic, he pointed out that the increase was most pronounced at the approach of Christmas and the New Year when, according to him, people travel for family reunions, wedding ceremonies, business transactions and other activities.
The Minister said the meeting was therefore aimed at building a synergy among the major stakeholders, FERMA, Federal Controllers and the FRSC, adding that with the gradual rounding off of the Rainy Season and the onset of dry weather, contractors would return to sites with the purpose of stabilizing such portions while FERMA would also escalate action in providing palliatives to damaged areas.
Fashola said the presence of the Corps Marshal of the FRSC at the meeting was to brief participants on the portions of the roads that need urgent attention based on a Road Safety Audit it conducted, while FERMA would also make a presentation on its strategies to achieve smooth travel experience during the EMBER months adding that the contractors were expected to take note of such briefs for immediate response.
The Minister, also said some of the Directors would speak to some of the roads in their zones that were responded to under emergency conditions during the Rainy Season.
Throwing more light on the need for the meeting, he told his audience, “Because our work is interconnected, the contractors on one hand, the Federal Roads Safety Corps, on the other hand, who are on the roads every day, managing traffic, interface with the commuters, our maintenance agency, FERMA, I thought that, as we normally do every year before December, we should all meet again as we get out of the rainy season and start planning for the EMBER month.
“The benefit of this Season is that the weather is dry, more building and construction work can take place, quarrying will be able to progress, stabilisation work will be easy as water recedes; but the major problem of the season will be vehicular traffic, people travelling on holidays, importers and exporters moving more goods to meet the season’s demands; all those who want to eat turkey, celebrate marriages and all of that. We must plan for those people; that is why we are here,” he said.
Before yielding the floor to the Corps Marshal of the FRSC to give an overview of his commission’s audit on the roads, Fashola urged contractors to take note of the report in order to know where to intervene especially on roads that fall within the purview of their ongoing contracts or which are contiguous with their contracts so they could carry out emergency works on such roads to enable smooth travel experiences for commuters during the festive season. He also told the FRSC to ensure that drivers without driving license were not allowed on the roads.
Giving an overview of the audit report compiled by his commission about the conditions of certain portions of the roads that need urgent attention across the country, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, said the audit was necessitated by the need to evolve strategies to ensure that the heavy movement of citizens usually associated with the end of the year did not lead to road traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities.
According to the FRSC boss, “In line with this, 2019 Operation Zero was initiated to vigorously enforce road traffic rules and educate road users while embarking on strategic engineering to reduce road traffic crashes on Nigerian roads”, adding that as a build up to previous engagements on road audit and implementation of agreed recommendations, a survey of critical corridors was made nationwide to identify areas in urgent need of attention.
Stating that road traffic management during festive period deserved adequate attention “as Nigerians across board are always on the road for business, pleasure and celebration”, Boboye said the repairs of the identified bad parts on the major corridors would go along way to aid smooth vehicular movement during the festive period and consequently reduce injuries and fatality on Nigerian roads.
The Corps Marshal, who enjoined commuters to obey traffic rules and signs, especially on roads under construction or rehabilitation, in order to achieve sanity on the roads, however, warned that the FRSC would enforce the law on the roads during the period. He added that the Corps would soon embark on mass enlightenment of the public before enforcing the law.
Others who made remarks at the meeting included the Controllers, who gave account of the roads under their jurisdiction, a representative of FERMA who gave a brief account of the strategy of the agency to contribute to smooth travel experience during the festive season and the Contractors who pledged their willingness to return to their project sites.