Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen
By Festus Akanbi
Fresh indications emerged at the weekend that the federal government is yet to re-award the contract for the reconstruction of the 105-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan Expressway after the termination of the contract with Bi-Courtney Consortium.
The Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, had while announcing the cancellation of the contract with Bi-Courtney, said the Federal Ministry of Works had engaged the services of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and RCC Nigeria Limited to commence work immediately on the reconstruction of the expressway. While Julius Berger will handle Section 1 from Lagos to the Shagamu Interchange; RCC Nigeria Limited will be responsible for Section II from Shagamu to Ibadan.
However, competent sources in the ministry disclosed that so far discussions between the Federal Government and the two construction companies were for a rehabilitation project to make the road mortorable for Christmas and the New Year.
"There is nothing like a reconstruction contract at the moment. Both companies are just required to make the road appear good for the yuletide season," they said.
They explained that government is anxious to fix the road but that the contract for major work on the road would be awarded before the end of first quarter of next year.
"The federal government is determined to go through due process and an open bidding is to be conducted where equal opportunity will be given to all," they said.
According to the sources, the management of Julius Berger and RCC are yet to sign any contract paper with the federal government on any reconstruction work although he confirmed that the two construction companies have been engaged to fix the bad portions of the road.
They said all things being equal; the two firms are to fully move to the road this week.
The concession contract which was awarded to Bi-Courtney in May 2009 was to have covered a 25-year period during which the firm would toll the road and recoup its investment under a Build-Operate-and-Transfer, BOT, in the deal worth N89.5bn.
But a combination of funding constraint on the part of the concessionaire and government’s red tape scuppered the project, with rising cases of mishaps on the road.
Bi-Courtney, which failed to get the needed funds from its bankers on time, also blamed the delay in the project’s execution on a corresponding delay by government in the approval of the design for the construction of the 105-km road.
The design was approved just last year May (two years after the contract signing), the company claimed, a condition that had to be met before construction work could commence proper.
Economic watchers had wondered how the federal government would go about the re-award of the project given the fact that the project was not captured in the 2013 budget.
Other questions raised included whether or not the new contractors would rely on the project design submitted by Bi-Courtney.