• Fashola: Govt wants clarity on firms’ offerings, roads redesigned for concrete construction
By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The federal government and a group of undisclosed private firms are shortly expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which would enable them invest over N100 billion in the reconstruction of the decrepit Wharf Road in Apapa, Lagos State, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed.
Fashola said in a statement from his media aide, Mr. Hakeem Bello on Sunday in Abuja that the design and other requirements for the reconstruction of the road have been concluded and all that was left was for the MoU to be signed for the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The minister, who reiterated that the road remained a priority of the federal government, considering its relevance to the country’s economy, explained that the redesigned road would be built with concrete and was expected to last for up to 30 years.
He said arrangements for the deployment of an enduring solution on the road were near closure, adding that a couple of private companies had offered to provide funding and work with government to fix the road.
“I just want to appeal to residents of Apapa, to people whose livelihoods depend on Apapa, that Apapa is one of the priority roads under our priority of works to solve roads that lead to critical ports.
“We also have Calabar on our radar. But one by one there would be an enduring solution. We’ve done the design, we’ve done everything for Apapa, it is ready. It’s going to be a concrete road and I believe that will last another 30 years. So we are close to starting work,” said Fashola.
He said he was certain work would start in a couple of weeks, noting that irrespective of the fact that the funding from the companies offering to support the project was private sector money, there had to be some transparency on how the project is procured.
The procurement, he stated, would follow established procurement guidelines because according to him, “In government, if you receive a gift, it must have a value and you must declare that value.
“So we needed to get certification of all these prices before we get approval from the Federal Executive Council to allow this to happen, that is the only delay.
“But we are very close; we have held two meetings in the last 10 days with the companies. We have agreed on a heads of agreement. What is left now is to sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding before which we can then proceed to council.”
On the terms within which the firms are pledging to commit funds to the repair works, Fashola explained that the government was seeking clarity on whether what the companies were offering was simply corporate social responsibility (CSR) or they wanted a tax rebate for their investments on the road.
“Year-on-year, you will see that the provisions for the budget funding of Apapa and the Tin Can Island and Mile 2-Oworonsoki Roads, all of which evacuate the ports have not been sufficient really to deal with the cost,” the minister noted.
While appealing to residents and other users of the road to exercise a little more patience, Fashola further said: “The cost that we are getting from the contractor is in the region of about N100 billion and above, and the annual budgetary appropriation that is approved for us is about N7 billion. And then there are debts that we have not met.”
He said the problem of the Apapa area has been compounded by the excess tonnage on the access routes due to the absence of a rail link, which used to take the tonnage off the roads.
He noted: “Apapa has many problems, one of which is the excess tonnage. There used to be a rail link there to evacuate from the ports. From the time we stopped using the rail link and went on to the roads, we started degrading the quality of the roads.
“There is only so much tonnage that you can put on a road,” he pointed out.