At a Federal Highways Workshop held at the National Theatre, in 1980, a startled gathering was informed that the year’s budget for maintenance of federal roads was N40,000.00 ($72,000.00 at that time), for a network of 29,000 kilometres nationwide. That was the mentality of the golden years of road construction in Nigeria when things were made to last and the paltry amount was for road furniture (road signs and road markings). Nigeria has come a long way from that. In 1993, the World Bank prompted a Road Maintenance Initiative, launched in Abeokuta, organised by the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology and the Nigerian Road Federation. From that external source came the Road Vision 2000 and the eventual establishment of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), carved out of the comprehensive proposal for a full-fledged Highways Agency for funding, planning construction, maintenance and administration of the federal highways network. FERMA resulted in duplication of bureaucracy; with inadequate funding from budgetary allocations of which meagre amounts were expended by successive politically-appointed boards for purchase of all manner of equipment for directorates in each state.
Cutting the cost of road maintenance and improving road conditions are the main reasons why several Latin American countries have started to look for new ways of contracting out road maintenance. With technical assistance from the International Road Federation and German Aid, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay have initiated so called Performance Specified Road Maintenance Contracts on a pilot basis. In addition, Argentina and Chile have let several such contracts recently. In this scheme the Road Authority serves as the owner, but out-sources both the management and production of the maintenance work to a single contractor. Most of these contracts have been operating for more than a year and cover routine maintenance and, in some cases, periodic maintenance and road rehabilitation as well. Extension of the road network, road surfaces and conditions, and the time period vary in each pilot project and will provide a wide basis for evaluation and improvements.