House frowns at slow pace of work on Lagos-Ibadan expressway, others
Contractors handling federal road projects must sit up, House of Representatives members warned on Thursday.
They described as worrisome the slow pace of work on some of the projects, despite the huge cash paid as mobilisation fees.
The lawmakers listed the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway for which N62.8 billion had been paid; the Abuja-Zaria (N70 billion) and the Second Niger Bridge (N106 billion). Messrs Julius Beger Plc, CCECC and the RCC are major handlers of government’s road projects.
These issues were raised on Thursday when Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola defended his ministry’s vote in the 2021 budget estimate before the Committee on Works, in Abuja.
He said the Federal Government needed about N6.26 trillion to complete about 711 road projects.
The N6.26 trillion needed by the ministry represents 47 per cent of the N13.08 trillion Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly for consideration.
The ministry’s has N400 billion allocation.
Fashola told the committee that out of the ministry’s N227.964 billion in this year’s budget, N152.150 billion had so far been released, leaving a balance of N75. 814 billion.
He said inadequate funding had slowed down the pace of work on the road projects, adding that about N162.559 billion worth of projects were financed through Sukuk Bond.
The minister said rather than expanding the projects being financed through Sukuk, efforts should be channeled complete the entire green network covering the four major ports in Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar.
Fashola said: “The sum of N77.955 billion was released to the highway (Works sector) from the budget aside from the sum of N162.559 billion for the Sukuk issuance.
“The Sukuk is to be drawn down for works certified only in respect of 44 roads and bridges and the ministry is still awaiting the payment of the first tranche of N54.8 billion is for work done as at 16/10/2020.
“The ministry is currently administering 711 contracts nationwide and as of 1st October, 2020, it has a cumulative unpaid certificate of N392.020 on ongoing highway construction projects.”
On the 2021 budget proposal, Fashola said N435.319 billion was proposed for capital projects and N15.886 for personnel and overhead cost.
He said N15.886 billion overhead cost was insufficient considering the various socio-economic factors such as cost of fuel and the growing inflation rate, among others.
Speaking on the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), the minister said the rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan dual carriageway; construction of the Second Niger Bridge and rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna-Kano dual carriageway were being financed under the scheme by the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Fashola said the 44 roads and bridges being financed through the N162.557 billion Sukuk bond were mainly dual carriageways on major arterial routes A1-A9 on the federal road networks.
He listed the A1 route as: Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Jebba-Jega-Tambuwal-Sokoto-Niger Republic Border; A2 – Warri-Benin-Lokoja-Kaduna-Kano-Kongolam; A3 – Port Harcourt-Aba-Enugu-Makurdi-Lafia-Jos-Bauchi-Potiskum-Maiduguri-Gambrou and A4- Calabar-Ugep-Ikom-Ogoja-Katsina Ala-Jalingo-Yola-Gombi-BamaMaiduguri as some of them.
Others are: A5 – Abeokuta-Ibadan; A6 – Onitsha-Owerri; A7 – Kaiama-Kishi; A8 – Mayo Belwa-Jamtari Jada-Ganye and A9 – Kano-Katsina-Jibia-Niger Republic Border and other major routes like Kano-Maiduguri; Onitsha-Enugu; Sapele-Ewu; Lagos-Badagry and Odukpani-Itu Bridge Head.
He said the ministry was also working on a number of highway projects funded with multilateral loans for which the Federal Government contributes counterpart funding.
Fashola denied that the ministry gives preference to Julius Berger in the execution of high-profile contracts and called for the amendment of the Public Procurement Act, with a view to accommodating small and medium construction companies.
He explained the slow pace of work on the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano dual carriageway for which the contractor had been paid over N70 billion.
According to him, the contractor has had to grapple with heavy traffic on the road and the challenges of staff security, diversion, location of utility such as electric poles, and demolition of houses along the highway.
Some of the lawmakers queried the slow pace of work by Julius Berger on the Lagos-Sagamu-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge after N62.8 billion and N100.6 billion respectively had been paid the contractor.