President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has lauded the decision of the federal government to reconstruct the failed Apapa-Wharf road as its grim state serves as both an embarrassment to the country and a huge loss of close to N140 billion to the government on a weekly basis.
Dangote who spoke to select journalists yesterday said: â€œThe economy loses more than N20 billion daily. It affects businesses across the country. All our operations in the hinterland in Ilorin and in Kano are operating at 40 per cent maximum capacity.â€
Lamenting the state of roads in the country, Dangote said: â€œToday, there is no linkage road going from South-west to the North. You have to go all the way through Ajaokuta, Obajana, Lokoja and you have to go by that uncompleted road Obasanjo started 13 years ago.â€
Commenting in his resolve to personally get involved in the Apapa-Wharf road reconstruction, he said: â€œBecause it is very embarrassing! We canâ€™t just sit and have a road like that which it is the heart of the trade of the country. More than 60 per cent of our countryâ€™s import and exports come through the port and we leave it un-attended. That is why we started on our own. Flour Mills said they would join us, but now government changed the design because they want all the cables and pipes underground and to have a more robust solution.â€
To help in bringing the cost down, he explained that he forced his company to do it at zero profit. According to him, â€œBoth Dangote and Flour Mills are pumping in over 2.5billion for two kilometres double lane on each side making a total of four kilometres.â€
He further explained that the biggest job â€œis drainage, because that is what is destroying the road. We will make sure this problem is sorted out once and for all. This thing should not be allowed to happen. We started discussion with the government over one year and we are happy that we have been given the opportunity to finally fix it.â€
The federal government last weekend handed over the troubled road to Dangote Industries Limited (DIL) and Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN) for immediate reconstruction with concrete overlay.
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the construction of the road was signed by the federal government, DIL, NPA and the FMN.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, signed the agreement for the handover of the road on behalf of the federal government, while Hadiza Usman, Managing Director, NPA, and Joseph Makoju, Honorary Advisor to Dangote and Gbedebo, signed for their respective organisations.
The three organisations are embarking on the project as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Apapa, where they all do business.
The construction work to be handled by AG Dangote, a civil construction company, and joint venture between Dangote Group and AG of Brazil would utilise concrete slabs as against asphalt, common with road construction in this part of the world.
AG Dangote is not new to road construction, they have successfullyconstructed concrete roads in Ibese, Ogun State, and currently working on roads in Obajana, Kogi State, and also in Benin City, Edo State.
Managing Director and Chief Executive of AG Dangote, Ashif Jumar, in a chat with the media also said: â€œWe are building a four kilometer concrete dual carriage road that has a life span of over 40 years. It is a rigid pavement road of 250 millimetres thickness with solid underlying materials. We have already mobilised to site, but our major challenge is the chaotic Apapa traffic and the inclement rainy season. I appeal for patience and cooperation.â€
Speaking at the MOU signing ceremony held at the Conference Hall of Area B Command of the Nigeria Police, Apapa, Makoju said the group was moved by the deplorable state of the road which informed the need to look for like-thinking partners to effect repairs and salvage the road.
According to him, the deplorable state of the road has impacted negatively on businesses, activities and lives of people within the locality.
He explained that the state of the road crippled economic activities as people spend whole days in traffic losing precious work hours
Makoju opined that the two-kilometre road to the gate of Apapa is vital to the nationâ€™s economy and described it as the national economyâ€™s artery.
He commended the managing director of the NPA, whom he said put in extra efforts to ensure the handing over of the road for reconstruction as the project has been on ground for over a year. The new road, he said, would be concrete-based in contrast to laterite base and has a life span of between 30 years and 50 years.
He described the road reconstruction as a higher form of corporate social responsibility as Dangote Group is not asking for tax rebates.
According to him, businesses need to engage with host communities through corporate social responsibility projects to ensure sustainability.
He said: â€œHere at Dangote, we have built houses, new towns, hospitals, schools, roads, markets and awarded scholarships in the communities where we have our operations but this is a higher form of corporate social responsibility. This project is a higher form of intervention on a national level, intervening in provision of critical infrastructure.â€
However, he tasked government to do more in terms of providing a conducive and enabling business environment for businesses to thrive, stressing that if the environment is conducive and right, businesses will thrive and do more in terms of interventions in national infrastructure.