Financing arrangement has been made by the Federal Government in the 2017 budget for the rehabilitation of roads designated as critical in the six Geo-political zones of the country.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola stated this during a press briefing to report activities in the Ministry one year after assumption of office.

In the section of his presentation, ‘2017 and Beyond – Works, said “Going forward in 2017, we have developed proposals for the budget to intervene in critical roads in the 6 (SIX) Geo-political zones that lead to and from major food producing states based on information supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We plan to do the same for states that produce minerals from mining activity, and for states where we have strategic fuel depots. For decades, we have paid almost no attention to bridges built across the country as though they are indestructible.

“We are beginning to see erosion, stress, and in some cases failures and near collapse in Kano (Tamburawa), Lagos (Ijora), Kogi (Lokoja) Ogun (Long bridge on Lagos-Ibadan) Kaduna (Jaji) and other places.

“Although we have started some work in a few places, we have only about N2 Billion to work in the 2016 budget. We have nonetheless developed a 3 (THREE) year plan to cover 42 (Forty-Two) bridges that will require about N277 Billion authorization by Parliament over the period.

“We received representation from parliamentarians about roads in their constituencies and from the monthly FRSC reports all of which have been factored into our next three-year plan.
“How far we go, how much we get and how much we can do, now depends on how much money the country can get, and how much she gets approval to spend.”

He said, “This ministry as we all know is responsible for civil works, especially the construction of roads, bridges, buildings and other similar civil engineering undertakings.
“As I mentioned during my briefing on the agenda setting, we had inherited about 206 road projects already contracted out; with outstanding completion costs in the region of N1.5 Trillion.

“Although the works ministry share of the 2016 appropriation was N260 Billion, which was a lot more than the 2015 budget of only N18 Billion that the last administration left, it is a drop in the ocean against the liabilities that were outstanding to contractors.

“Our interactions with contractors showed that many of them had not been paid for an average of two to three years before we resumed, and this explained the stoppage of works, by the contractors, the layoff of workers, and consequently poor condition of many roads.

“With limited resources against liabilities, with debts already owed, we had to make difficult choices of deciding which of the 206 roads under contract we should start with, and how many. Our choices were informed by the realities of our economy and the size of our resources.

“We resolved that all roads are economic roads but that some were more urgent and more impactful than others. So our choices were determined by roads that carried the heaviest cargo, to allow farmers, businessman, industries and travelers move their goods and themselves across the country in order to drive productive activity.

“Secondly, we chose roads that support our energy sufficiency and put our resources in roads leading to and from petroleum tank farms so that we can move petrol, diesel and kerosene across Nigeria.

“We also chose roads that led to and from our major sea and airports so that maritime business can go on, to drive the economy.

“Therefore, we re-mobilised contractors back to work on roads across the six Geo-Political zones. Some important roads in this category are: The Port Harcourt- Aba Road, where mobilization was delayed until Monday 31st October because of rains, and the difficulty of establishing a works yard.

“Sokoto – Tambuwal – Makera-Kontagara Road where work is going on, – (Sokoto-Kebbi-Niger States); Ilorin-Jebba Road, – (Kwara State); Loko-Oweto Bridge, – ( Nasarawa/Benue States); Shagamu- Ibadan, – (Oyo-Ogun State); Shagamu – Lagos, – (Lagos-Ogun State); Ogbomosho-Oko-Ilogbo-Osogbo , -(Oyo-Osun State); Funtua-Katsina , -(Katsina State); Wukari-Akwana, – (Taraba State); Abriba –Arochukwu – Ohafia , – (Abia State);
Abuja – Lokoja – Airport , – (FCT/ Kogi State); Oji-Achi-Obeagu-Mmaku-Awgu-Ndeaboh-Mpu-Okpanku , -(Enugu State); Ajase Ipo – Offa – Erinle – Osun State Boundary , – (Kwara State); and Ikot Ekpene Border- Aba – Owerri Dualisation, – (Akwa Ibom/Abia and Imo States).

According to Fashola, “We also paid consultants who are supervising these roads and had been denied payment for 2 to 3 years. This has helped to recover lost jobs, and put some money back in circulation, as part of a government strategy to build out of this recession.

“As I said during our first briefing, our short-term objectives are to complete uncompleted road contracts, restore motorability back to as many roads as possible, improve journey times and reduce the cost of travel for commuters.

“This has clearly started on the roads I have spoken about; and the results will accrue as progress on the works improves over time and the roads are completed.”

He said in the medium to long term, “We intend to cover more roads as our resources permit, and increase our maintenance capacity of road assets to ensure that we do not neglect our highways again in the manner we have done over the years to our collective detriment.

“The first step to maintenance is to restore the authority of all the states controllers of works, to charge them to take responsibility for all federal roads within their states posting, and to bring up an annual budget that will be submitted to Parliament.

“This will help us decentralize authority over road maintenance, vest responsibility on the people who are on ground and closer to the Roads so that they can resurface damaged roads, clear over-grown vegetation, enforce axle-load compliance, install signs and lane marking and gradually restore our highways back to contemporary quality.”

By: Bennett Oghifo

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