By Tony Akowe, Abuja
Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola said on Wednesday that the Ministry need about N6.26 trillion to complete the about 711 federal high road projects across the country.
The Minister who spoke while defending the 2021 budget estimate of the Ministry before the House Committee on Works headed by Hon. Abubakar Kabir Bichi however said that inadequate funding has slowed down the pace of work on the road projects.
Fashola said it was difficult for the Ministry to accomplish all its objectives due to paucity of funds, but said that rather than expanding the projects being financed through Sukuk, efforts should be channeled toward the completion of the entire green network covering the four major ports, Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar.
He disclosed that out of the N227.964 billion budgeted for capital projects in the 2020 budget, about N152.150 billion has so far been released to his Ministry (representing 66.74%), leaving a balance of N75.814.
He said about N162.559 billion worth of projects were financed through Sukuk Bond.
He said “The sum of N77.955 billion was released to the highway (Works sector) from the budget aside 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 number of contracts nationwide and as of 1st October, 2020the ministry has a cumulative unpaid certificates in the sum of N392.020 on ongoing highway construction projects”.
Speaking on the 2021 budget proposal, Fashola disclosed that the sum of N435.319 billion was proposed for capital, personnel and overhead cost for the Ministry of Works and Housing and its six parastatals, adding that the N15.886 billion overhead is insufficient due to various socio-economic factors such as cost of fuel, inflation rate, among others.
Responding to questions on the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), the Minister said three key national priority highway projects which include the rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan dual carriageway; construction of 2nd 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 were being financed through the N162.557 billion Sukuk bond are mainly dual carriageways on major arterial routes A1-A9 on the federal road networks.
He listed some of them to include A1 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; A4 Calabar-Ugep-Ikom-Ogoja-Katsina Ala-Jalingo-Yola-Gombi-BamaMaiduguri; 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, Odukpani-Itu Bridge Head.
He also disclosed that the ministry is also working on a number of highway projects funded with multilateral loans for which the Federal Government contributes counterpart funding.
The Minister denied allegations that the Ministry gives preference for Julius Berger in the execution of high-profile contracts and called for the amendment of the Public Procurement Act with the view to accommodate small and medium construction company.
Speaking on the slow pace of work on the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano dual carriage way despite release of over N70 billion to the contractors, the Minister explained that with approximately 40,000 vehicles plying the road daily, the Contractor has to grapple with the challenges of staff security, diversion, location of utility such as electric poles, demolition of houses as part of efforts to get Right of Way.
Some of the lawmakers who spoke during the exercise including Hon. Ben Igbakpa queried the slow pace of work done by Julius Berge, despite release of N70 billion for Abuja-Zaria, N62.8 billion for Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan; N100.6 billion for the Second Niger Bridge while RCC has so far received N92 billion for Lagos-Shagamu contract.