From: Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to take definitive decision on how the second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan Road project would be funded and executed.
The House said it is worrisome that it is still unclear if the big-ticket projects are to be fully funded by government or to be executed under a concession agreement with private firms.
The Green Chamber in adopting a motion entitled: “Need to Investigate Nature of the Contract or Concession Arrangement on Second Niger Bridge and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway”, said the manner of the execution of both projects has not been in accordance with defined methods for executing projects or contracting procedures.
The House, therefore, mandated its Committee on Works, to investigate the nature of the contracts and concession arrangement and report back in four weeks for further legislative action.
Sponsor of the motion, Solomon Maren, told the House that the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, recently warned that the second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan Road could end up as white elephant projects as allocation for the projects in the 2017 budget were not adequate even as they were not covered under concession agreement.
“Contracts for the construction of the second Niger-Bridge and reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Express Road, have continued to feature in the annual budgets without any seeming signal of their completion or the amount required to do so”, the lawmaker said.
Responding to an earlier intervention by the Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun, who presided over plenary, on Thursday, Hon. Maren agreed that two contractors were on site on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, but argued that the Federal Government was still not definite on the funding arrangement for the road and the second Niger-Bridge.
Lasun called on the chairman Committee on Works, Tobey Okechukwu, to speak on the motion, saying the House broke away from tradition to debate an infrastructure motion because of how strategic both projects are to the country’s economy.
Okechuwku disclosed that his committee, having paid special attention to the two projects, believed it has become necessary for the Federal Government to come up with a framework for the completion the projects.
He explained that while the Lagos-Ibadan Road is “supposed to have alternative funding”, the Federal Government has not made a clear-cut decision on the funding plan for the second Niger-Bridge.
Okechukwu, who backed the motion, stressed the need for government to drop the “piece-meal procurement” funding method it has been using.
Also speaking in support of the motion, Mohammed Sani-Abdul who is a member of the joint technical committee of the National Assembly on both projects, opined that even with the litigation on the Lagos-Ibadan Road, work was still going, therefore making the state of the second Niger-Bridge project much more worrisome.
Sani-Abdul traced the non utilisation of the N14 billion 2016 budget allocation and the N10 billion allocated in 2017 for the second Niger Bridge on the fact that the concession agreement for the project was between Federal Government and an international investment company which sub-contracted the project to Julius Berger Plc.
The lawmaker further explained that with no contract between the Federal Government and Julius Berger, the construction firm cannot be directly funded through budgetary allocations for the project.
But Sani-Abdul’s prayer that the House give Federal Government a three-month ultimatum to come up with a well defined funding plan or concession agreement for the two projects failed a voice vote as the Deputy Speaker said the National Assembly was keen on keeping with the wishes of the public that the 2018 budget is passed by December.
The House however passed the motion when it was put up for voice vote.