Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road Project And Unfolding Discordant Tunes




Julius Berger truck on site.

The award of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria- Kano road project by the federal government was greeted with excitement by many Nigerians especially those who reside in the northern part of the country.

Considering the importance of the highway linking the nation’s capital city to the northwest, it was not surprising that the project was awarded to Julius Berger Plc.

However, while the people await the completion of the project, recent developments especially discordant tunes coming from the House of Representatives, the Contractor and the Federal Ministry of Works is disturbing and worrisome.

The chairman, House Committee on Works, Hon. Abubakar Bichi at a public hearing recently, fumed about “slow pace of work” while the Managing Director of Julius Berger Plc, Dr. Lars Richter, countered with “working on schedule” submission.

During an inspection tour of the project, Bichi was quoted to have said that, out of N155 Billion cost for the Kano-Abuja Road, N70Billion has been released to Julius Berger, adding that from Abuja to Kaduna which is 165kilometers, only 10km of work has been done.

Work in progress on the Abuja – Kaduna – Kano road

Bichi also said that of the 75 kilometers project section from Kaduna to Zaria only 6kms of work has been completed; and in the 157 kilometers from Zaria to Kano, only about less than 20kms has been completed; meaning that only about 10% of the works have been implemented.

Responding, the contractor, posited at the public hearing that the project works had progressed to 49%, stressing that the onus of proof that only 10 % of the works had been done rest on the person(s) making the assertion.

Determined to unravel the truth, Forefront, an Abuja based online news platform set an investigative enquiry in motion. Read the findings below:

“Checks that were independently verified and empirically clarified over the status of the Abuja-Kano Road works and other priority projects being handled by the construction giant, indicate that the House is likely to being in pursuit of a selfish agenda and do not possess the technical know-how to carry out an evaluation that would stand the test of time. This much was revealed based on enquiry sought to clear the opaque allegations aimed at casting aspersion on the Abuja- Kano Road project thereby distracting the public.

Findings by Forefront indicated that while the payment of about N70 billion referred to by Hon Bichi was made to the contractor, it was discovered it include the initial 15% (i.e. about N23billion) of the project cost of N155 billion that was paid as advance payment for the contract. An official at the Federal Ministry of Works, who does not want his name mentioned, told Forefront that this is a common contractual practice in engineering as he explained that the figure (N23Billion) is already being paid back periodically by the Julius Berger being the contractor to the client which is the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The ministry source further said that beside the N23Billion advance payment which is being deducted or paid back by the contractor, the balance of the N70billion is the actual payment for works duly executed and properly certified by the client, and even further certified twice by international consultants under international due diligence standards, before any payment is made to the contractor. He said this is what the House of Reps Committee is refusing to accept for reasons difficult to understand and comprehend.

According to him; “We showed the House Committee other contractual agreements with different contractors and how projects are executed and payments made, but we are at a loss with what the House Committee really wants.

“I can tell you that, this is one of the best roads in Nigeria as the contractor has brought in novel equipment which guarantees strength, speed and environmental friendliness. This is the first time, we are having a Cold Recycling Methodology Equipment being brought into the country by a contractor. The technology will guarantee the road to last for a minimum of 30 years before the next maintenance is expected to be carried out like in the United States”.

To further give substance and relevant community input to our report, Forefront visited the site as well as the communities along the project corridor to sample their opinions on the progress of the project. Our visits to the communities revealed that at certain portions of the road project, electrical poles are still standing thereby disrupting the project right of way even at the moment thereby suggesting that there are still pending issues of compensation for relocation of services and clearance of right of way for certain parts of the project.

This was explained by the Ministry official, who said that there are still some pending issues to be resolved relating to compensation which the government (client) is working to resolve to enhance speed of project implementation by the contractor. Unfortunately too, the outbreak of COVID-19 that slowed down activity in every sector also posed some challenges constraining effects against supply chains, equipment and staff movement for the contractor thus affected negatively the agreed scheduled work plans.

When contacted, the contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, insisted that as a company’s policy, it has a strict compliance to confidentiality clause in its contract with its clients and therefore refused to oblige inquiries from Forefront but instead directed us to the Federal Ministry of Works for any information we need on the Abuja-Kano Road project and any other of their works under the purview of the Ministry.

However, Hon. Bichi was reported in the media (not Forefront) to have said that; “the unit cost of the project per kilometre stands at about N450 million. This is far from what the zonal Director of Works for North West, Engr. Esan Folurunsho and the Engineer Representatives supervising the project, Engr. James Zira said as they enthused that “the materials being used for the road project was cheaper for Nigeria”.

On the whole, there are still a number of clarifications needed to be made on the on-going Abuja-Kano Road project. For instance, what is the actual nature of the contract signed for the project? This question can only be answered by the contract-awarding authority, that is, the Federal Ministry of Works. Attempts made to reach the Minister of Works, Mr Raji Fashola were unsuccessful as he was hardly on seat as he was said to be busy on project supervision and inspection.

Similarly, the public needs to be told by the Federal Government if the contract is rehabilitation or total reconstruction of the entire project from Abuja through Kaduna, Zaria to Kano. What work is the contractor expected to carry out?

Expectedly, Nigerians will also want to know whether Julius Berger the contractor is actually working according to the schedule agreed by the parties to the contract. If the answer is yes, what then is the basis for all the furore being hyped against the on-going Abuja-Kano Road project by the House Committee on Works? Based on analytical perspective, a relevant suspicion logically arises whether by any circumstance, it is possible that there are pending and unresolved contractual issues that are hindering the scheduled and operational execution of the project works.

There are however observed disruptive breaks in the progressive flow of the works occasioned by noticed electrical poles standing in the right of way on certain portions of the road project which is constituting a hindrance to project progress, beyond the control of a contractor.

A sincere, honest and patriotic clarification of the above issues to the concerned public will go a long way to douse the unhelpful misconceptions and to a large extent, falsehood that have dogged and polluted the narrative of the Abuja-Kano Road project in the recent time.

Whatever the considerations and interests at play on the road project, the interests of the people and the strategic long term socio-economic well-being of the nation should be prioritised and allowed to prevail. If Nigerians generally are agreed that the Federal Government, in its wisdom, has chosen and employed a most qualified engineering contractor for the Abuja-Kano Road project, it behoves all stakeholders to reasonably give truth, goodwill and peace a chance to ensure the successful actualization and delivery of the project for the beneficial use of all citizens.

As Nigerians watch the unfolding scenario, the onus of clarifying and clearing the misconceptions and presumptions surrounding the status and direction of the project rests squarely on the stakeholders and managers of the project.

May the stakeholders handling this all-important project muster the good conscience and courage to avail Nigerians a successful completion and delivery of the Abuja-Kano Road project.

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