By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has said the federal government’s expenditure on the country’s infrastructure sectors in the 2016 budget is meant to reenergise the economy and take it out of recession.
Fashola in a statement from his senior communications aide, Mr. Hakeem Bello, yesterday in Abuja stated that these were parts of the steps the government was taking to move the country from economic stagnation.
The statement noted that he said these at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, USA, while presenting a paper on “Leadership and Politics of Reform In Africa: Lessons from Nigeria.”
According to him, the immediate and long term solution to the country’s problem of economic recession lay in massive investment in infrastructure which he added has already commenced.
He explained that the reported huge investment in infrastructure does not mean that Nigeria lacked infrastructure but that what was available was insufficient for the population and that although the past administrations failed to utilise resources of the oil boom period to make the needed investment, the present administration was determined to turn the situation around even with the lean resources available to it.
He spoke specifically on the sectors under his ministry, that most of the problems, especially in the power sector, were not technical but man-made.
Fashola said he has evolved clear roadmaps that were already being implemented to achieve sustainable solutions to the problems in the three critical sectors he manages.
He said in the works sector, especially roads and bridges, that the ministry inherited 206 roads that were not budgeted for or poorly funded, but that the roadmap he designed consisted of identifying and prioritising on heavy traffic bearing roads that convey essential goods and services across the country.
“We have to build roads that evacuate our sea and airports, roads that drive our energy for now, roads that go to the tank farms to evacuate fuel from South to North and roads that sustain us, that is roads that bring in our feed stock, cattle and vegetables and livestock from the North down to the South,” he said.
He further stated: “And that is why you see us building from Lagos-Ibadan road to Ilorin, to Jebba to link all the way to Kaduna and Kano and go on up North. And we are doing the same thing trying to connect River Benue through the Loko- Oweto Bridge and the Second Niger Bridge; Kano-Kaduna, Kano-Maiduguri. Those are the choices we have made , because this is a period of hard choices trying to do more with less.”
Speaking on road contractual liabilities inherited by the government from its predecessor, Fashola said: “The total outstanding contractual liabilities are in the region of N1.5 trillion and this administration is taking them in batches starting from the critical heavy traffic highways that evacuate goods from ports, fuel from tank farms and move foodstuffs and agro-produce across the country.”
He said in the power sector, that the problem was that of insufficient power to distribute. He however listed some of the projects currently being implemented to increase power to include the 450 megawatts (MW) Azura Power Plant in Edo State, the 700MW Zungeru Hydro Power Plant in Niger State, the Gurara Hydro Power Plant in Kaduna, the Kashimbilla Plant and the 115MW Kaduna Plant.
He also listed areas where transmission expansion projects are currently ongoing to strengthen the country’s transmission network to include the Eastern Axis where the Ikot-Ekpene – Alaoji Transmission project takes off up to Enugu from where it would boost power all the way to Makurdi, adding that the local issues that earlier hindered work had been resolved.
The minister also maintained that the privatisation of the power sector, in spite of its challenges, could work.