08 January 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – Worried by the apparent disregard for sane packing by fuel tankers and other trucks, the Federal Government has engaged the services of military task forces to recover the rights of way on the highways, and to ensure disciplined parking of trailers on the 22 major flashpoints across the nation.
The Minister of State for Works, Alhaji Bashir Yuguda at a meeting with the army task force chaired by Major-General Funso Samson Owonibi and the Nigerian Association of Roads Transport Owners, NARTO in Abuja, late December, said that the ministry did not engage the army to harass or intimidate other Nigerians but to reclaim government right of way and ensure sanity on the Federal highways
“As a taskforce, you are free to co-opt any other arm of government that you feel should be part of this operation. The issue of indiscriminate parking on the road is not acceptable, it endangers the lives of Nigerians, it endangers the lives of road users. Our roads have been abused so what we are trying to do is to make sure that we reclaim our roads and that is why we are partnering with the Nigerian Army to help us recover our right of way and ensure compliance of trailers on the highway,” he said.
Continuing, the Minister said: “We have identified areas where we have a lot of indiscriminate parking by trailers, areas where we have NNPC depots. So, what we have done through the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, is to develop trailers parks and move the trailers from the highways gradually”.
FERMA Managing Director, Mr. Gabriel Amuchi, an engineer, said that the 22 flashpoints are strategic locations that required urgent attention nationwide.
The 22 flashpoints as identified by the agency are Tegina, along Makwa Road in Nigeri State; Mararaban Jos along Abuja Kaduna carriageway in Kaduna; Nataco in Lokoja, Kogi State; North Bank along Lafia-Makurdi in Benue state; Obajana in Kogi state; Ganye Junction in Adamawa state; Bulunkutu Market juncture in Maiduguri ; Wudil along Kano-Maiduguri road; Tafa along Abuja-Kaduna road; Saminaka trailer park in Kaduna; NNPC depot along Gusau in Sokoto state and Obollo Afor in Enugu.
Others include: Lokpanta along Enugu-PortHarcourt dual carriage way in Abia state; Mgbidi along Onitsha-Owerri road in Imo state; Umunede along Benin-Asaba in road in Delta state; Avielle in Benin-Auchi Road in Edo state; Oluku Junction on Benin-Shagamu road; Onne, Eleme Junction in Akwa Ibom state border road in River state; Ojoo-Iwo road in Oyo state; Akinyele cattle market along Ibadan-Oyo raod; Ogene, Shagamu along Lagos-Ibadan road in Ogun state and Ore along Benin-Shagamu dual carriage way in Ondo state.
Amuchi stated that following the problem arising from the illegal parks on most of the Federal highways, the agency has no other option than to embark on the construction of the six (pilot) modern parks with one each in the six geographical areas of the country.
He said the agency would ensure the completion of the parks for articulated vehicles and called for assistance by the road unions.
“We appeal to drivers of articulated vehicles to maintain a straight line on the road shoulders for now, as the arrangement has been made for the speedy completion of the parks”.
Also speaking to Vanguard Homes & Property, Chairman of the task force, Major-General Funso Owonibi sued for the cooperation of the unions in the execution of the assignment.
“We know the sensitivity of their going on strike at any given opportunity. Already we are experiencing scarcity and that is why the army is looking at involving them in a dialogue so as to resolve issues amicably with them,” he said.
NARTO speaks National President of NARTO, Alhaji Kassim Bataiya, said the Ministry engaged the army to ensure that trailers park on the right shoulder of the highway and not on both shoulders as a temporary measure until the park being designed for them are ready for occupation.
He admitted that the association was not pleased with the way trailers are parked on the highways. According to him, these trucks are usually parked at the owners risks. He however appealed to the federal government to thread softly on the issue.
“Our drivers are not violent. It depends on the approach. If they are approached wrongly, they will react wrongly but if you approach them in the right way, of course they will respond to the approach.
We have 49 flashpoints across the country where trailers and trucks park indiscriminately for lack of space, parking lot or resting place for the drivers and tankers and we have a mandate from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC to supply 99 percent of petrol to Abuja and its neighbouring states,” he said.
Bataiya however stated that tankers were not the only ones constituting nuisances on Federal highways. He alleged that markets had taken over federal highways and eaten deep into the shoulders of the roads.
“We invested over N50million to procure three toying vans that is capable of toying a trailer load of 60 tonnes of fuel even when the trailer is stocked a 100 meters deep ditch, the vans will pull it out,” he disclosed.