The Federal Government will next year focus attention on the completion of ongoing projects , which have to do with the repairs of roads and bridges, leading to the ports and major agricultural hubs across the six geopolitical zones of the country .
The Minister of Works& Housing , Babatunde Fashola stated this while defending his Ministry’s 2021 Budget ,adding that the decision to prioritize these projects was in line with the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom, he recalled repeatedly emphasized the necessity to focus the Budget on completion of projects.
He said Government will focus on the completion of ongoing road and bridge projects in the country rather than beginning new ones, in the implementation of the 2021 Budget
Fashola listed roads whose completion would be prioritized during the budget year to include those categorized as A1-A9 adding that 18 of such road projects, which have reached appreciable level of completion have been identified across the country for completion within 12 to 15 months.
According to him, other categories of road and bridge projects on which the Ministry will focus for completion during the budget year also include those that have attained 70 per cent completion adding that subject to the availability of funds, such projects would be completed as early as possible.
The Minister, who was accompanied by the Minister of State, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Ernest Umakhihe, Directors and other top Ministry officials, said the Ministry would also focus on the maintenance of about 50 Bridges nationwide as a measure to avoid further deterioration of the structures, which he described as critical.
Pointing out that some bridges which connect several geopolitical zones and Federal roads had not been maintained for several years before this administration, Fashola added that some of the Bridges required replacement of expansion joints and hand rails while others required major underwater repairs of exposed piles, pile caps and piers.
“Bridges like the Third Mainland Bridge, the Koton Karfe Bridge and the Makurdi Bridge are part of about 50 bridges being rehabilitated simultaneously among others”, he said adding that the Ministry also had its focus on the completion of the construction of Chanchangi Bridge along Takum-Wukari Road in Taraba State and Ikom Bridge along Calabar-Ikom Road.
Expressing the need for the support of the National Assembly in realizing the stated objectives, Fashola, who put the estimated cost of rehabilitating all the bridges at N80.984 billion, however, pointed out that there was need, in the course of each year, to address washouts and erosion envisaged with the subsiding discharge of flood waters nationwide.
“We are mindful of the limitation of resources but the frequency of these natural disasters caused by Climate Change and aging infrastructure must compel us to think of making provisions for emergencies”, he said adding that the international Best Practice for such Emergencies was between 5 and 10 per cent of the Capital Budget.
Fashola, who said the Ministry has also selected two roads and a bridge in each of the six geopolitical zones for enhanced funding during the budget year, also listed for adequate funding the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Counterpart Fund for projects financed by the China Exim bank.
On the Ministry’s interventions on internal roads in Federal Tertiary institutions across the country, the Minister, who said out of the 43 such projects 18 had been completed, explained that inadequate budgetary provisions had stalled the projects.
He said the Ministry started them since 2018/2019, adding that the 17.35 percent cut in the 2020 Budget made it impossible to pay Contractors who were being owed N3.31 billion while the money required to fix the remainder is N3.54 billion.
Reiterating that the major challenge of the Ministry in completing ongoing projects on time was inadequate budgetary provisions, the Minister explained further that apart from the fact that the funds were inadequate, there was also the problem of timely release of funds to sustain annual cash flow requirement level .
He added that though funds from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) and SUKUK Bond had helped to bring some funding relief, the Ministry’s exposure had continued to expand due to annual addition of new projects.
He said although the sum provided for Highway projects in the 2021 Budget was an improvement over the 2020 Budget provision for the Sector, it was still inadequate to address the funding challenges of Highway projects pointing out that with about N1.2 Trillion as the Year 2021 projected cash flow requirement, funding for works planned to be executed on the projects in 2021 would have to be “efficiently optimized”.