Speaking on the sidelines of the just-concluded, International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, the National President of the union, Najeem Yasin, said government must ensure the emergence of credible managers that will maintain the roads as well as provide alternative roads for motorists, who might not be able to afford the tolled roads.
He added: “If what is realised from the tolled roads or highways would be utilised properly, we would support the reintroduction. Of course, we know that the tollgates could help boost security along major corridors especially at night. There must be alternatives to the tolled roads and the money be channelled into improving the condition of the roads. We think such idea would be welcomed only if appropriate steps are taken to ensure corruption is not allowed to permeate the administration of roads in the country.”
Yasin argued that if prudently managed, the money realised from tolled roads would be enough to maintain most of the roads, thereby saving government the trouble of sourcing for funds to build and maintain them.
“In advanced countries, it is the money realised from tollgates that is used to sustain constant repair of the roads. We know that government alone cannot fund physical infrastructure such as roads, the private sector must come in in one way or another. That is why we are saying that in mobilising funds, government must put steps in place to ensure that the money realised is not frittered away. The tollgates must also be given to international firms that have cognate experience in managing roads. We must not give our roads to people whose sole agenda is to make money at the expense of the jobs they are given. Therefore, I am saying that it is not just about giving road management to the private sector that will do the magic, but offering them to people that have the experience to manage them excellently.”
The process must be transparent, given to people that have the competencies to do it, and then put practical steps in place to ensure sustenance of the initiative over many decades that will stand the test of time,” he explained.
While bemoaning the security challenges confronting land transport sub-sector, the NURTW chief called on the Federal and state governments to device means of tackling the menace.
He stated: “For us, the security challenges in the country affect our member more because we are on the highways every time. Before now, our complaints were about bad road network all over the country except for mega cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. But now, we have security challenges on the road whereby our members are not only robbed and dispossessed of their vehicles, they are now victims of kidnappings. Our vehicles are now longer safe; our lives are also no longer safe on the roads. We are calling on the present administration to do more to curb insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and bad roads.”Yasin, who called for collaboration between the private sector and government, insisted that government should provide the financial support to operators of public transport in the country.
He said: “Government must assist the operators of transport system in Nigeria. The system we currently run saddles the individuals with heavy financial burden in order to participate in the sector. With the current economic situation of the country, it is not easy for individuals to purchase brand new vehicles anymore. If government would succeed in ensuring people move around the country seamlessly, then it must invest in road transport because more people plight the roads more than water, rail or even air.”
Yasin said the union is taking steps to ensure women participate in driving the business and not just as vehicle owners, adding, “We are taking steps to reduce violence that is associated with road transport in the country. We believe that more women will join us as drivers if the environment is conducive for them. We have many women as owners of vehicles, but we hope more will come on board as drivers as we strive to improve the operational environment.”