BY EMEKA EJERE
The minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, said on Thursday that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway will now be completed in the first quarter of 2022.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is part of projects funded under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
Other projects under the fund include the Second Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Highway
Mr. Fashola confirmed all three projects are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2022.
The road project, awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria and Reynolds Construction Company Limited (RCC), at a sum of 167 billion naira, was earlier scheduled to be finished in 2021.
Fashola, while guesting on Channels Television’s Politics Today, said the delay was due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed construction activities and affected government revenues.
“As I speak to you now, we have lost essentially the prime of our working period which is the dry season in the Covid period,” he said. “We have to regain and recover all of that.
“We have also lost some of our expected revenue plans. At the time Covid hit Nigeria, we were doing 2.59 percent growth rate. Now we are heading for a recession globally and Nigeria will not be insulated from that.
“We are working on plans to bring the economy back on track.”
Mr Fashola noted that while work was suspended during the coronavirus lockdown, earnest efforts were made to resume once the federal government started to lift restrictions.
Some 11 contractors executing 53 projects in 26 states were “remobilised back to site in the first week of the easing of the lockdown,” Fashola said.
“We had to work with the Governor to allow men and materials to move,” he added. “We also had to develop new safety guidelines for the construction.”
Assessing the efforts of the Buhari administration over five years on improving road infrastructure across the country, Fashola said much had been done with very little.
“Given the circumstances and the results, we have done a lot much more with less resources,” he said.
He cited refunds – near N700bn – made by the federal government to states for federal road projects worked on since 1999.
“These are debts that the previous government handed over at the time oil was selling at over $100 per barrel,” Fashola said.
“Those roads were neglected then. These governments have inherited them at the time when revenues have dropped significantly, sometimes to as low as $20 per barrel.
“With much less resources, we have committed to more radical infrastructure development across Nigeria. So as I speak to you now, we are executing 600 road projects across all the states.
“We are in universities repairing internal roads that have been left behind.
“The Abuja-Kaduna highway is under construction, so is the Bodo-Bonny bridge. Second Niger-Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
“What is the impact? Although we haven’t finished, any road user today will tell you that their journey times have been improved, compared to when we resumed on the major highways.”
On Wednesday, the federal government said it will no longer pay states for constructing federal government roads.
“What the states have done is that they have spent money on roads that have become integral to the development of their cities,” Fashola said.
But after paying back nearly N700bn to states for federal road projects, the Buhari administration will no longer make refunds, Fashola stressed.
“So what the president has done is to say I will pay the inherited debt, I promised to do so. And he has kept his promise. But please leave my roads alone, go and face your own roads, don’t impose priorities for me, I have mine.
“From January 2016, all the states were notified – don’t touch federal roads again if you want a refund. If you do not want a refund and you want to do it, take permission, approval from the Ministry of Works.
“Because the states too have not completed all their roads, neither have the local governments; we are now focusing on over 600 roads that will impact lives in a very positive way.”
In 2020, the federal government recovered $308m looted by military dictator, Sani Abacha, and pledged it towards the construction of three key infrastructure projects – the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Expressway and the Second Niger bridge.
On Thursday, Fashola explained that the funds are not domiciled in the Ministry of Works.
Instead, the funds go into the sovereign wealth fund, managed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, Fashola said.
“I can’t confirm whether the money is ready because it didn’t come to my ministry,” he said. “It was released to the Nigerian government through the Central bank and I believe on to the NSIA.
“So what happens simply is that the contractor does his work. Our staff, from the controller to the directors at the ministry, provide technical governance to make sure that the work is properly done, certified, and then we send the certificate that we validate to the NSIA.
“The NSIA also have their own technical consultants who crosscheck; and if they are satisfied, they pay.
“That is how we have done it in the past 18 months and these funds, when they come in, if they come in, will not change the governance process.
“And there are plans by the attorney-general to also expand the governance process and oversight for it. What we are concerned about is making money work for Nigerians.”