BPE, Minister differ on sector reform agenda
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00  From Nkechi Onyedika, Abuja  Business Services  –  Business News

EFFORTS by the Federal Government to fast-track the reforms of the road sector may have suffered a setback, as the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and the Minister of Works, Mike Onolumeme differed on some of the contents of the bill being proposed by the agency.

BPE is proposing a road sector reform bill, which will repeal the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) law and recreate a new agency that would absorb all the workforce of FERMA and delineate different institutions and personalities in the sector. It will also separate the operations, policy and management aspect of the road sector and attract private sector funding and investment in the sector.

Again, the bill also seeks to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the private sector involvement in the building, maintenance and rehabilitation of roads all over the country.

According to BPE, “in the transition for FERMA, all agreement and everything FERMA is doing, the new agency will take over and they will not suffer any loss as a result of the transition”.

However, Onolumeme, who kicked against some of the contents of the proposed Bill, said that the structure of FERMA is not well pointed to the objective of the reforms that government seeks to effect on the road sector.

“You (BPE) said that one of the objectives of the Bill is to repeal FERMA Act, yet you want to recreate FERMA, it’s going to lead to serious conflict.”

“If we want to reform and create a Federal Road Authority or we want to reform and create a National Highway Authority, let us be very clear on that and should not pretend about it. I don’t think I will certainly want to be part of any effort to repeal FERMA Act and create another FERMA. That in itself will bring a lot of confusion in the mind of citizens out there and critical stakeholders”, the minister pointed out.

Onolumeme added: “To tell me that you take all the staff wholesale means that something is wrong somewhere. I don’t think that wholesale export of staff is the right thing to do.

“Until recently, there has been agitation for the scrapping of FERMA. Are we really trying to reform or we just wanted to change name by putting old wine in a new bottle? If we want to embark on reform, we make a reform.”

Briefing the minister on the road sector reform bill in Abuja, Director, Infrastructure of BPE, Terhen Andzenge, observed that the bureau, for the past eight years has been working on a reform process on the road sector and there have been some challenges due to the change in nomenclature of the ministry.

Andzenge disclosed that BPE, in 2009, came up with a draft road sector reform bill, which went through the National Council on Privatization and was approved, adding that in August 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan directed that the bill be sent to the National Executive Council.

He pointed out that in the past, only government has been funding road sector adding that due to competing demands for fund, government has no adequate money to fund road construction, maintenance and rehabilitation and need to allow private sector involvement and find alternative funding sources for the road sector.

Andzenge observed that because there is no legal framework for the private sector participation in the road sector. The Bill is seeking to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the private sector to come and partner with the ministry and its agencies to build, maintain and rehabilitate roads all over the country.

According to him, the draft bill on road sector reform creates essentially three major institutions or personalities.   “At the apex of the sector is the Federal Ministry of Works, headed by the Minister with the responsibility of giving policy guidelines to the sector, advising government of policy, implementing the policy and representing the federal government on bilateral issues that will come up.

Andzenge said that another institution to be created is the Road Fund and attached to it is the Road Board, adding that a regime has been crafted to harvest money from different sources that would be kept in a pool and administered by the board to attend to new roads and maintenance of old roads.

“The third institution is the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), which is going to be doing what it is currently doing and more,” he added.

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