Isaac Anumihe and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives Committee on Works, yesterday, grilled the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, over the slow pace of work at the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Highway. The lawmakers expressed concerns that despite the huge sums of money so far collected by the contractors, Julius Berger Plc and Reynold Construction Company( RCC), not much work has been done on the projects. They queried the minister for the alleged preference for Julius Berger in the execution of high profile projects in the country.
Fashola appeared before the House Committee on Works for an appraisal of the 2020 budget performance and defence of the 2021 budget proposal. A member of the committee, Ben Igbakpa, had queried the Minister on why the volume of work done on the three projects, which is funded through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).
Igbakpa noted that despite the availability of funds for the second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Abuja-Kano Expressway, which the government considered very critical, the projects are still behind schedule.
“For instance, Julius Berger has received N70 billion for Abuja-Kano Road, even as only 44.42 percent of the work has been completed as at date. Julius Berger has also received N62.8 billion for the Lagos -Sagamu-Ibadan Road, ( Section 1), with just 42.7 percent of work done. Julius Berger also received a sum of N100.6billion for the second Niger bridge, that is 42. 9 percent. RCC had received N92billion for Lagos- Ibadan(Section 2), for 46 percent of work done . Why these delays when the funds are available?”, the lawmaker queried.
However, Fashola explained that there are a lot of factors responsible for the slow pace of work on the three projects, as well as other ongoing projects across the country. According to him, delays on the projects are caused by variations in the original designs, and staff security among other factors.
He said “the other point that I have heard is that the Lagos -Ibadan and Second Niger bridge are moving faster than the Abuja-Kano, that is true. The reason that is true is that they started earlier.
Lagos-Ibadan was awarded first in 2007, canceled, reawarded in 2012. So we inherited an awarded contract. Second Niger bridge I believe was awarded in 2010 and the Abuja-Kano I think was awarded in 2018. So, there is a different in start time.