Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen
Senator Danjuma Goje, representing Gombe Central senatorial district, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, from Abia South senatorial district and Senator Babafemi Ojudu, a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), representing Ekiti Central senatorial district, Wednesday disagreed with their colleagues and the Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, over what the trio termed inequality in the distribution of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) projects across the six geopolitical zones, states and federation.
The disagreement forced the meeting into a closed door session between the senators and the ministry officials.
Beside the over concentration of projects in a state like Enugu Goje also raised the alarm at the mix up in the nomenclature and classification of the various projects, citing for instance the Abraka-Sapele-Warri that was found in the North-central zone, while ongoing projects in Zamfara State were named in South-south geopolitical zone of the country.
The minister appeared before the 10-member Senate Committee on Works headed by Senator Basheer Mohammed to defend the 2013 budget of N183.5 billion which had a shortfall of N15.4 billion against its 2012 budget appropriation of N199.3 billion.
While answering questions on the equity and fairness of the projects, Onolememen said: “Let me state that the rehabilitation of federal roads across the country comes with a presidential directive and a policy of the ministry to deal with all the major artery roads which run across the entire country like the three major roads which run from North to South, the Lagos-Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso Ilorin-Mokwa to Kaduna, and the second one which runs from Warri, Benin-City, Auchi, Lokoja, Abuja to Kaduna up North and the Port Harcourt-Aba-Umuahia-Enugu-Makurdi which leads to the North-eastern flank, while the last artery road running from Onitsha-Benin-Ore and back to Lagos.”
He stated that the wrong nomenclature on the classification arose from the Budget Office in the course of the transmission of the statements and final clarification, adding that the mistakes will be dealt with accordingly.
According to him, all that the ministry was doing is to concentrate on major roads to ensure the rehabilitation of key arterial economic routes which helps to support the country’s economy, adding, that that is why these major roads come under the presidential initiative projects which is the primary focus of the Ministry to make sure that these roads are rehabilitated and made motorable for all Nigerians.
“Beyond that, we also have zonal intervention projects that take care of these projects you talked about,” he said.”
Onolememen added that the ministry is going into construction of new roads in the 2013 budget.
Senator Goje however counselled that the seed of inequality, injustice and discord should not be sown in the course of projects distribution across the country.
While also venting his displeasure at the lack of projects in Ekiti State, Senator Ojudu said: “I’m embarrassed about the neglect of federal roads in South-west. “I’m disappointed that the road the Akure-Ado Ekiti Road which should take 45 minutes now takes about two hours to drive and yet out of a budget of N183 billion, what was allocated which is meagre N50 billion is highly unjustifiable and unaccepted.
“I want you people to note that the major trailers from the North ply through these routes.”
While also seriously complaining on the over concentration of over 25 FERMA projects in Enugu State alone at the disadvantage of Imo and Abia States in the South-east states which were allocated just three projects, the Senator representing Abia South stressed that he totally rejects such obvious inequality in the distribution of FERMA and constituency projects across the country.
Abaribe said: “Mr. Chairman, I cannot accept this and we are not going to accept this.”
Senator Ayogu Eze, who is the Chairman of the committee and hails from Enugu State, was absent during the budget defence of the ministry.