In line with Federal Roads Maintenance Agency’s (FERMA) mandate to ensure the efficient and effective maintenance of all existing Federal trunk roads or such other roads as may be declared, from time to time, as Federal trunk roads by the National Assembly and in consonance with the cardinal policy objectives of the Federal Government of Nigeria on Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which is to restore degraded sections of the Federal highway network to improve connectivity of over 4, 000 km, the FMPW&H recently set out the following operational policy guides to be adopted by FERMA Management for effective, efficient and improved road maintenance:
i. Road Repair Plan: A road repair/maintenance plan should be developed by FERMA which should focus on major federal trunk roads nationwide
ii. Align the Road Repair Plan with the Ministry’s National priority (1-7) for Road Sector – The road repair/maintenance should align with the following priorities of the Ministry:
(a) PRIORITY 1: major arterials along the Critical Economic Routes of the Federal Road Network
(b) PRIORITY 2: major branch routes from the critical Economic Routes on the Federal Road Network
(c) PRIORITY 3: roads to Refineries, Ports, NNPC Depots, Mining areas
(d) PRIORITY 4: Roads through Agricultural Producing Areas.
(e) PRIORITY 5: roads funded through multi-lateral loans
(f) PRIORITY 6: other on-going road projects on the National Road Network
(g) PRIORITY 7: internal roads to Federal Universities/polytechnics and colleges of Education
iii. Undertake road repairs: FERMA has to use its numerous construction equipment and asphalt plants efficiently for road repairs. A plan should be articulated to utilize these assets for rehabilitation and maintenance of roads to enable FERMA compete as a major construction company in Nigeria.
iv. Install road signs, lane marking and vegetation control works- FERMA should undertake the installation of the harmonized road signs and lane marking issued by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (FMPW&H). They are produced by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) for all projects. Furthermore, FERMA should carry out vegetation control works on the Federal Road Networks.
v. Adopt and Implement a Safety Plan- FERMA should develop a Health, safety and Environmental (HSE) policy that includes insurance cover and safety aids for staff. Personal safety equipment should be provided for all staff working on FERMA sites.
vi. Create a 24-hour public telephone and social media information desk – An information desk should be created with a 24-hour telephone and social media service for exchange of information with the general public.
vii. Evaluate the new jobs created by FERMA’s Activities – maintain and evaluate records of direct and indirect jobs created on FERMA’s projects in line with the operations of the new policy.
viii. Ensure spread of projects in all geo-political zones – there should be equitable spread of FERMA’s activities in all geo-political zones nationwide.
The requirements of the operational policy guidelines have guided the preparation of the current FERMA workplan. The Agency is also worki8ng towards domesticating the requirements of the operational policy guidelines through procedures. Some of the procedures, for example, safety plan has been translated into the contractual requirements for suppliers by reference to these documents in the contract documentation.
Prioritization of road projects has taken greater prominence in the Agency’s workplan. The process is further enhanced through data gathered from quantitative road condition and inventory survey. A road Asset Management System has been developed and is being deployed in planning, programming and prioritizing activities.
CHALLENGES AND WAY FORWARD
Embedment of the recent operational policy guidelines in FERMA has progressed well. The Agency is mindful of the need to document and manage some of the requirements of the operational policy guidelines through appropriate procedures to ensure compliance and measures its effectiveness. In any exceptional case where departure from the procedures required, justification is given.
Going forward, the operational policy guidelines underscores the importance to pay adequate attention to the currency and adequacy of the road maintenance standards and supervision of works required to efficiently deliver road maintenance projects. The former is achieved by taking cognizance of innovations and development in technology, design, materials, construction and asset management, and documenting end user experience. The General Specification for Roads and Bridges document which was last revised in 1997 requires updating to bring it in line with best practice. Performance based specification seems to be the way forward. Other wider policy issues that impact on maintaining a world-class road network in Nigeria, either currently being addressed or need to be addressed, include whole life road asset planning, maintenance backlogs, excess axle load, funding constraints, institutional capacity building and willful road abuse, amongst others.