· Describes policy as a very defining legacy for President Buhari
· NNPCL, FIRS other stakeholders pledge to sustain funding till completion
· Contractors pledge timely delivery of quality road infrastructure
· This Minister has set a record of achievements – NARTO President
With appreciable progress being made in the first Phase, the implementation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited and Federal Inland Revenue Service (NNPCL/FIRS) Second Phase for the rehabilitation and construction of 44 critical roads across the country under the Tax Credit Scheme initiative of the Federal Government gained momentum Tuesday as the Minister of Works and Housing convened a meeting of the Stakeholders and briefed the press while also unveiling the roads.
The Meeting came barely a fortnight after the approval of the Memorandum on the proposal by the NNPC and its subsidiaries, NNPC Exploration and Production (NEPL) and NNPC Gas Infrastructure Company Limited (NGIC) to undertake the rehabilitation of 44 roads spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The selected roads, amounting to 4,554.19 kilometres, include those in the South-South zone which are the Completion of Benin-Warri Dual Carriageway, Edo/Delta States; East-West Road, (Section I) Warri-Kaiama in Delta/Bayelsa States; East-West Road (Section II –I) Port Harcourt-Ahoada in Rivers State; East-West Road (Section II-II) Ahoada-Kaiama in Rivers/Bayelsa States and East-West Road (Section III) Onne Junction-Eket in Akwa Ibom State.
Others are Dualization of East-West Road (Section IV) Eket-Oron also in Akwa Ibom; Upgrading of 15-kilometre Port Harcourt-Onne Junction (Section IIIA) in Rivers State; Construction of Eket Bypass (Dual Carriageway) in Akwa Ibom State; Dualization of Lokoja-Benin Road: Obajana Junction-Benin Section II Phase I: Okene-Auchi, Kogi/Edo States; Dualization of Lokoja-Benin Road: Obajana Junction-Benin Section III Phase I: Auchi-Ehor, Kogi/Edo States; Dualization of Lokoja-Benin Road: Obajana Junction-Benin Section IV Phase I: Ehor-Benin City; and Nembe-Brass Road in Bayelsa State. All the roads amount to a total of 1,308.3 kilometres.
The North East Zone has a total of 1,054 kilometres consisting of Rehabilitation of Yola-Mubi-Maiduguri Road in Adamawa/Borno States; Rehabilitation of Maiduguri – Monguno Road; Rehabilitation of Numan-Jalingo Road in Taraba/Adamawa States; Rehabilitation of Yola-Hong-Mubi Road in Adamawa State; Reconstruction of Bali-Serti-(Gashaka)-Gembu Road in Taraba State; and Rehabilitation of Yashi – Deguri – Yalo Road in Bauchi State.
North Central zone has 763.13 kilometres consisting of Rehabilitation of Minna-Zungeru-Tegina-Kontagora Road in Niger State, Section I: Minna-Tegina; Rehabilitation of Minna-Zungeru-Tegina-Kontagora Road in Niger State, Section II: Tegina-Kontagora; Shendam-Yelwa-Mato Junction-Taraba Border with Spurs in Plateau/Taraba States; Dualization of Suleija-Minna Road in Niger State: and Dualization of Lokoja-Benin Road: Obajana Junction-Benin Section I Phase I: Obajana-Okene, Kogi State.
Others include the Reconstruction of the existing Pavement and Completion of the additional Pavement on the Dualisation of Abuja – Lokoja Highway Section Ill: Abaji – Koton Karfe Road in Abuja/ Kogi State; Construction of the Jarmai-Bashar-Zuruk-Andame-Karim Lamido Road in Plateau and Taraba States; Reconstruction and Expansion of Mararaba – Keffi Road in Nasarawa State.
The North West Zone has a total of 980 Kilometres of roads being reconstructed consisting of Dualization of Zaria-Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto Road in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States: Section I Zaria-Funtua-Gusau; Dualization of Zaria-Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto Road in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States: Section II Gusau-Sokoto Road; Dualization of Zaria-Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto Road in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States: Section II Gusau-Sokoto Road in Zamfara State; Dualization of Zaria-Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto Road in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States: Section III Gusau-Sokoto Road in Zamfara and Sokoto States; Dualization and Construction of Kano-Kwanar Dauja-Hadejia Road in Kano/Jigawa States, Section I. Tsalle-Hadejia; Dualization and Construction of Kano-Kwanar Dauja-Hadejia Road in Kano/Jigawa States, Section II. Kano-Tsalle; and Rehabilitation of Kaduna-Pambeguwa-Jos Road in Kaduna/Plateau States.
South East has 297.52 kilometres of roads consisting of Rehabilitation of Aba – Owerri Road NNPC Depot Expressway, Abia State; Rehabilitation of Otuocha – Anam- Nzam- Innoma-Iheaka- Ibaji Section of Otuocha – Ibaji-Odulu-Ajegwu in Anambra State; Construction of Ihiala-Orlu-Umuduru Road (Ihiala-Amaifeke Section) and Completion of Spur in Isseke Town-Amafuo-Uli in Imo/Anambra States.
It also includes Rehabilitation of Old Enugu – Onitsha Road (Opi Junction – Ukehe Okpatu-Aboh Udi-Oji to Anambra Border)in Enugu State; Construction of Omor-Umulokpa Road in Anambra and Enugu States; Rehabilitation of Ozalla-Akpugo-Amagunze-Ihuokpara-Nkomoro-Isu-Onicha (Enugu-Onicha) with a Spur to Onunweke in Enugu State; and Rehabilitation of Old Enugu – Port Harcourt Road (Agbogugu-Abia Border Spur to Mmaku) in Enugu State.
The South-West has a total of 150.56 Km of roads consisting of Rehabilitation and Expansion of Lagos-Badagry Expressway (Agbara Junction-Nigeria/Benin Border) in Lagos State; Dualization of Akure-Ita Ogbolu-Iju-Ado Ekiti State Road, Section I:Akure – Ita Ogbolu – Iju – Ekiti State Border in Ondo State; and Dualization of Akure-Ita Ogbolu-Iju-Ado Ekiti State Road, Section II: Ita Ogbolu – Iju – Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State.
In his remarks at the Meeting and Press Briefing, Fashola described the public private sector agreement as a very defining legacy for President Muhammadu Buhari pointing out that the impact of the “very innovative investment policy” would help Nigeria to really do business both locally and internationally being a sound infrastructure-based investment policy on which business is done.
The Minister, who recalled that back in 2015 at the inception of the Buhari Administration, contractors were being owed two to three years’ payment arrears resulting in the shutdown of many project sites and laying off of construction workers by the companies, added that the Buhari administration arrested the situation by budgetary expansion from N18 billion for the whole of Nigeria’s road by the previous administration to N260 billion in 2016.
“You were being owed”, the Minister reminded the contractors at the Meeting. “Some of the complaints that I heard at the first meetings that I had with many of you when I was first appointed Minister were that you were paid only 10 percent advance payment two or three years ago. That was how bad the construction industry was when we started”, he said adding that some of the roads were contracted back to “the private sector” to go and raise fund to finance them.
Fashola, who also recalled that the roads contracted to the private sector, included the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge, among others, added, “But where was the private sector going to raise hundreds of billions of Naira to fund them”. He explained that the Buhari administration had to utilize more practical funding initiatives like SUKUK.
Recalling the controversies and criticisms that followed the borrowing option which the administration chose to fund the road and bridge projects, the Minister, who acknowledged the concern of the people over debt, however, added, that the debts “are buying roads, bridges, airports and seaports, assets that will last and sustain Nigeria’s development for the next 50 years”.
He pointed out that the administration also met debt when it took power adding, however, that the difference between it and its predecessor was that the debts it met on assumption of office in 2015 had no assets attached to them while the Buhari administration invested its debts on infrastructure assets. He said the choices at the time were either borrow or increase taxation noting that without any of the choices, the economy would collapse.
Faced with the choices, the Minister said, the administration took the borrowing option and also utilized an expansionist fiscal budget from N18 billion to N260 billion, adding that it thereafter supported the SUKUK and also went to recover some of the monies taken away from this country which today, according to him, “are building Abuja-Kano Highway, Lagos-Ibadan and the nearly completed 2ndNiger Bridge”.
Giving a brief history of the NNPC/FIRS agreement, Fashola, who said that the NNPCL was investing its resources into infrastructure, explained the ideology of the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme as “a new model of partnership with the private sector companies whereby government is saying, “Give me my tax in advance and I will invest it in infrastructure”.
“That model is why all of you are here”, he told the audience consisting of funding agencies and government representatives as well as contractors and newsmen adding that the innovation “shows the clear difference between two different government policies and it shows how they affect your businesses”.
On the 44 roads, Fashola, who explained that many of them have been contracted but without funds to execute them, told the contractors, “This intervention, therefore, is to complete those roads and the NNPCL is providing the fund. And this is the crux; because it means that whether we are here, Buhari is here but is going in the next four months, there is sustainability in the completion of these roads. And they have assured me that when you work to specification, the money is there”.
Noting that there are 21 roads in Phase One of the Scheme covering 1,804.6 kilometres, Fashola explained that there are other interventions by other groups like the Dangote Group, the NLNG Group in Bodo-Bonny, the MTN Group in Enugu-Onitsha Highway and others adding that this represented a very defining moment for the construction industry and allied industries.
The Minister appealed to all the communities encroaching on the right-of-way along the road corridors to vacate the places adding that all the claims for compensation by people who have encroached on such right-of-way would not be honoured while they must quit the encroached places or risk forceful ejection.
“Our right-of-way is 45.75 metres from both sides of the centre line. Many of the people who have built petrol stations and shops are inside our right-of-way. We will not pay compensation to those who have trespassed into our land, so they must leave”, he said appealing, however, that where the government needs right-of-way outside its zone, State governments, Village and Traditional Heads should appeal to their people to allow passage.
Fashola added, “These roads are not taking away your lands rather they are bringing prosperity to you and we expect that in the process of nation building everyone must be ready to contribute something”.
Highlighting the benefits of the revitalized construction industry to the economy, the Minister declared, “We have increased the number of quarrying companies, sand quarrying has also increased from 247 to 302. Granite quarrying companies have also increased from 334 to 655 and those who are quarrying laterite have increased from 108 to 259”.
Describing quarrying as a driver of the construction industry, the Minister who said it is impossible to build roads without laterite and granite, added “And this translates to jobs as we build more quarries. I am sure members of NARTO and NURTW who are here can begin to calculate how many trucks trips and how much income that could bring. I was at their AGM recently and the least they could say is “Business is good”. This is the impact of a policy that is driving the economy”.
The Minister also cautioned the Contractors against variation in the contract noting that the agreement was very specific on the variation. He declared, “So if you are going to ask for variation please opt out and say you cannot carry on with the programme. That is one of the reasons we are signing the agreement; and that is from the investors’ side because they are not factoring in variation”.
He appealed to the financiers for timely payment of certificates for work done adding, “We need to improve the governance side of payment so that when receipts come, payments should not be delayed unnecessarily. Delayed payments increase the chances of variation. So, it is critical now that we also, with dispatch ,sign the contracts when we are able, start the work so that we can process all the advance payments”.
He urged the legal department of the Ministry to hasten the preparation of the documents so the agreement could be signed soon adding, “We have just finished our EMBER Months programme so this meeting is very strategic and we should handle it properly. The NNPC and FIRS are ready to go. So, I call on our legal department to accelerate the completion of this agreement.
The Minister also warned the contractors, “Quality must not be compromised; they will have their own consultants. So, if their consultant queries the quality of your job you don’t get paid. We don’t have the money, they have the money”.
Those who spoke at the event included the Group Managing Director of NNPCL represented by the Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Umar Ajiya, the Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Mohammed Nami, who all pledged to ensure the success of the Scheme, representatives of the contractors and President of NARTO, President of the NURTW who all hailed the Buhari administration and the Minister for driving the economy positively through massive investment in infrastructure. According to the NARTO President, “This Minister has set a record of achievements”.