The present government of President Muhammadu Buhari has already released the sum of N130bn for road construction as against N12.59bn released in 2015.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola made this revelation at an interactive session to mark a year of his assumption of office together with his colleague, the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri at Westwood Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Minister stated that on assumption of office, he and the Minister of State inherited about 206 road projects already contracted out; with outstanding completion costs in the region of N1.5trn.
Fashola stated that while some of the assumptions may have altered about the timing of the budget, the budget was eventually signed into law six months ago and the implementation started in earnest with the releases of N70bn in June (1st Quarter) and N60bn in October (2nd Quarter).
The Minister said with the interactions he had with the contractors, they had not been paid for an average of 2 to 3 years, saying that this explained the stoppage of works, by these affected contractors, lay-off workers and consequently poor condition of many roads.
He said with limited resources against liabilities, the Ministry had to make difficult choices of deciding which of the 206 roads under contract should take first, and how many, therefore the choices were informed by the realities of the economy and the size of the resources.
Fashola said that in spite of the importance of all the roads economically, some were more urgent and more impactful than others, adding that the choices were determined by roads that carried heaviest cargo, to allow farmers, businessman, industries and travelers to drive productive activity.
He further said that other criteria used in making the choice are the roads that support energy sufficiency and put Nigerian resources in roads leading to and from petroleum tank farms so that movement of petrol, diesel and kerosene across the nation will be done with ease. “In addition, the Ministry also chose roads that led to and from major seaport and airport so that maritime business can go on to drive the economy.”
Having considered all these choices, Fashola said that the Ministry re-mobilised contractors back to construction sites across the six geo-political zones.
The Minister also said that consultants who were supervising these roads had been paid, adding that this had helped in recovering lost jobs, and put some money back in circulation, adding it is also part of a measure by government to come out from the recession.
Fashola used the occasion to reiterate the Ministry’s short-term objectives which include the completion of uncompleted road contracts, restore motorability back to as many roads as possible, improve journey times and reduce the cost of travel for commuters. On the medium to long term , the Ministry intend to cover more roads as the resources permit, and increase maintenance capacity of road assets to ensure that Nigerian highways are not neglected again.
Having noted the decay of many bridges across the nation, Fashola stated that the Ministry had developed a three year plan to cover Forty-Two bridges that will require about N277bn authorisation by the National Assembly over the period.