It gives me great pleasure and privilege to be here today, at the head of a delegation of NARTO and PTD delegation, to pay a visit and possibly discuss some matters of mutual interest. We are glad that after making several attempts to meet you without success, today it has become a reality. I should start by thanking you for creating time to meet us today, less than 2 weeks after sending in our request to you, and despite your busy schedule.
We wish to commend the federal Government under the able leadership of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Muhammadu Buhari, for taking a giant leap towards addressing the problems of decaying infrastructure in this country anchored by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. Sir, I will like to say with all humility and sense of responsibility that we are proud of your performance as the Minister in charge of this ministry. The challenges in the Works and Power sectors in Nigeria are essentially those of infrastructure deficit that require a lot funding, personal commitment and political will of political leadership. And so is Housing. For somebody of your caliber, who has a clear track record of performance, these challenges cannot stand in the way.
We are aware of the many contracts approved by the federal executive council which, when fully executed will transform the lives of the people in this country. The planned funding of the federal highways through the proceeds of the Sukuk bonds, for example, will free the available resources of government to be used as social safety nets in critical areas such as health, education and rural development. This is highly commendable.
Hon. Minister Sir, as you may be aware, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) Branch of NUPENG are two very critical stakeholders in the road transport sub-sector in Nigeria. Whereas the former represents the owners/operators of all commercial vehicles, the latter represents the drivers of tankers that transport all kinds of petroleum products from all NNPC and other loading facilities to retail stations across the country. There is no doubt therefore that we constitute significant proportion of road users plying Nigerian roads.
The condition of road infrastructure, amongst other critical infrastructure, in Nigeria has been the subject matter of critical discourse in recent times. Many of our highways are, regrettably, characterized by gullies and potholes which make it difficult for motorists to make successful journeys without incurring substantial damage that cost a lot of money to fix. In some instances they are major causes for accidents that cost the nation a lot of lives. This situation has been like this for over two decades. We are, however, happy to note that the present administration is making effort to reverse the situation by approving the rehabilitation, dualisation, construction and re-construction of several federal highways that were hitherto considered as death traps.
There are several reasons that account for the failure of roads in this country but we observed that government is particularly pointing accusing fingers on overloading, especially overloading of trucks beyond the stipulated axle weight limit allowed. While agreeing that overloading is one of the causes of road damage, we have consistently maintained that standards in road design, materials, construction and supervision are compromised during road constructions. We have also maintained that lack of adequate funding and corruption by public officials has also contributed negatively to the quality of our road infrastructure. Our two Associations have always supported government initiative for arranging alternative funding, most especially through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model after realizing that road construction is truly capital intensive beyond the size of our budgetary appropriations.
Hon. Minister Sir, you have mentioned it at every occasion, that trucks are the ones damaging the road and called for adherence of the axle load policy which is put at a maximum of 30 tones. For this reason, our two Associations have undertaken a comparative study of the axle load policies in some African countries, studied our peculiar transportation environment vis-à-vis the investment in road transport infrastructure, including the condition of our railways, pipelines and inland waterways, and came up with appropriate recommendations for your consideration and action. These are contained in a more detailed submission which we will handover to you separately. I wish to summarize the major issues involved in road failure and what needs to be done to avert it. I will also offer a wide range of recommendations which will serve as short and long term solution in order to avoid getting into this kind of problem in future.
CAUSES OF ROAD DAMAGE:
Our view, generally, is that roads are damaged not only by excessive axle weight but by a combination of other factors such as:
- Poor Road Design and Construction;
- Poor Road Maintenance;
- Use of low quality materials in construction;
- Poor workmanship;
- Poor Supervision of Construction Work; and
- Heavy Traffic
Other related causes include:
- Lack of adequate funding
- Lack of adequate skilled manpower
If for a moment we accept the view that trucks are also contributing to the damage, then it is important to examine the nature of trucks in use, their carrying capacity and the universally accepted tonnage they should carry. Trucks are of varying sizes as distinguished by the number of axles they have. The maximum weight a truck can carry is also determined by the number of axles it has and the size of its tires. In Nigeria today, we have trucks with the following axle combinations: 4 Axle Single-Tendem; 5 Axle Single-Tridem; 5 Axle Tendem-Tendem and 6 Axle Tendem-Tridem with permissible gross weight ranging from 39 to over 61 tonnes. While acknowledging that we have vehicles carrying as high as 44.74 tonnes, particularly tankers, our fleet is mostly dominated by trucks that carry 45,000 liters which when converted to tonnes will amount to only 33.56 tons. These show that we are still operating within the approved tonnage. Other heavy duty trucks are not under the control of the Association, such as trucks carrying construction equipment and or machineries. The weight carried by those vehicles is actually very enormous and they can damage roads.
In order to address this problem, Hon. Minister, we recommend the following:
RECOMMENDATIONS –SHORT TERM
- The Federal Government should ban the importation of 60,000 Liters Capacity Tanks into the country.
- All Tank Manufacturers and Fabricators should be warned against constructing any truck body or tank of 50,000 or 60,000 liters capacity.
- Trucks of 45,000 liters should be adopted as the maximum capacity that will be allowed to ply Nigerian Roads. Presently, they constitute about 40%-50% of the total truck holding in the country.
- The federal government through the Petroleum Equalization Fund (Mgt.) Board should take a census of all tankers of 50,000 to 60,000 liters capacity in the country.
- Government should allow NARTO 5 years within which to recover the cost of the 50,000 and 60,000 liters tanks before enforcing their ban or the government should acquire them and adapt them to some other uses.
- The government should ban the road transportation of goods in any container with weight of more than 30 tons.
- All electric transformers, generators, equipment, machine, plants and 40ft containers of more than 30 tons should be transported by rail.
- The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing should construct weigh bridges on all federal highways within a distance of 100 km interval.
- Weigh Bridges should consist of permanent/fixed structures as well as mobile weighing vans to be managed by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
- The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing should set up Axle Load Control stations along the major road corridors in the country. The control stations should be evenly distributed across the country, taking cognizance of highways with the most traffic.
- Axle Load control units should organize seminars, workshops and road shows to regularly sensitize stakeholders in the transportation industry and the law enforcement agencies on the axle load control regulations.
RECOMMENDATIONS – LONG TERM
- Government, through the federal ministry of transportation, should continue with the railway rehabilitation and expansion program they started. Similar effort should be made to repair and maintain the NNPC Pipelines. These will facilitate the movement of heavy equipment as well pumping of petroleum products to the hinter land, thereby freeing the roads from too much pressure.
- The National Assembly should undertake the amendment of existing legislations relating to Axle Load Policy for the punishment of offenders.
- The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) should be directed to ensure regular and routine maintenance of the highways.
- Ban the use of steel tanks, sided bodies and flat bodies and introduce the use of aluminium so as to reduce the weight on the road.
- Government to enforce the removal of speed bumps from all federal highways.
- Local Government Councils should be advised to stop people from dumping refuse and hawking on the federal highways.
- Transport Finance Bank should be set up by the government to help transporters to finance the importation of trucks and spare parts. These will make it possible for them to replenish their fleets.
- There should be Public-Private-Partnership arrangement in place to aid road transport infrastructure in the country. Road constructions, rehabilitations and maintenance are capital intensive which require the combined effort of government and private sector to fund and not to allow it in the hands of government alone.
THE PORTNOVO CREEK PHASE II TRUCKS TERMINAL:
Hon Minister Sir, let me use this opportunity to draw your attention to the above project. The Port Novo Creek Phase II was actually ceded to NARTO South West Zone via competitive bidding as a compromise, after a parcel of land situated under the Marine Beach approved for them upon a consideration of the sum of N3.24m by the federal ministry of works could not be given due to an emerging government policy at the time. In compliance with Lagos State Government demand for all trucks to move out of Lagos in order to reduce the traffic congestion we approached the ministry to allow us the use of the Port Novo facility as a replacement for the one paid for but not delivered. After series of meetings and negotiations, the ministry in line with the procurement law advertised for the management of the facility to the general public based upon which we bidded and won through NARTO Business Ventures Ltd in collaboration with Feyi-Fash Nigeria Ltd.
We are constrained to report that up till now we are yet to obtain the certificate of award and the go ahead to take possession of the facility. Meanwhile, trucks are lined up on every major road in Lagos, particularly around Apapa area. We appeal to you Sir, to use your good offices and intervene in the matter and hand over the facility to us without further delay. We are handing over all the related documents in respect of this transaction to you for your perusal and further necessary action.
In conclusion, we wish to observe that although the reason for having axle load limits is to stop vehicles with too heavy axles from damaging the roads this benefit fades into insignificance when viewed against the need to use more vehicles to move the same quantity of goods. In other words, goods will have to be moved on more vehicles which translate to additional costs for the consignee. Therefore, while initial gains/benefits may be recorded in terms of reduced maintenance cost on the roads, these benefits will be offset by increased cost of haulage by the society.
The effect of axle load restrictions in this country will be more felt in the wet cargo segment of the road transport sub-sector where more than 98% of the Petroleum products produced or imported into this country are transported by road. This is because most of the tankers used in the system are accused of violating the tonnage load limit. There is already a growing concern within the downstream petroleum industry that products are not delivered at the retail outlets on time due to bad road conditions and other operational laxities by staff of the various agencies at the NNPC Depots. It is obvious, therefore, that restricting the axle weight to 30 tons will be a recipe for disaster because there will be acute shortage of trucks that will move products to where they are needed; this will ultimately lead to scarcity of the products with all its social, economic and political consequences.
Whatever decision the government wants to take must take cognizance of non-availability of trucks in this country. The total number of active trucks in our system is not more than 20,000. Government should think of how to provide enough trucks to transport the extra load that will be generated due to the application of the axle load policy. We should also be prepared to accept increase haulage cost because goods that will be transported by 60,000 ton capacity truck will have to be transported by two vehicles.
Finally, I plead with you to intervene in the matter of the Port Novo Creek Phase II Trucks Park and ensure the property is rightly handed over to us in line with the result of the competitive bidding carried out and in the interest of equity, having already paid more than three million naira to obtain land from the ministry where we can be parking our trucks.
NARTO and PTD are ready to co-operate with government to ensure sanity, safety and security on our roads. Once more we want to thank you most profoundly for accepting to give us audience despite your other pressing official engagements. We also want to thank the staff of the ministry for giving us all the necessary co-operation anytime we are in need of them to do so.
Thank you, Hon. Minister.
ALHAJI (DR.) KASSIM IBRAHIM BATAIYA
NATIONAL PRESIDENT (NARTO)