The on-going reconstruction of the Wharf Road in Apapa, Lagos is a unique intervention that is led by the Dangote Group, and is well appreciated by President Muhammadu Buhari, says the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. The minister, who inspected some rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in the Apapa axis of Lagos at the weekend, states that the model, though helpful, would not be ideal for building social infrastructure. Bennett Oghifo reports
“The responsibility of the private sector is not to build social infrastructure, that is government responsibility, but we are seeing a global development, wherever there is a commercial benefit the private sector can come in.”
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola stressed this point, during his inspection of on-going reconstruction and rehabilitation works on some roads in Apapa, Lagos, at the weekend.
Fashola said, “President Muhammadu Buhari appreciates this public gesture and civic obligation from the private sector- Dangote Group, Flour Mills Nigeria and NPA, which is a government institution. Nevertheless, this is what the president is talking about; coming together to improve Nigeria, to contribute to the development of our country.
The model is good, the minister said, adding that he was in a meeting with the infrastructure sub-committee of the Industrial and Competiveness Council that was set up by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo. “These are some of the things we are looking at, how private sector can intervene in critical infrastructure such as roads, drains, power assets, among others and it is looking good.
“We are working with the Ministry of Finance, who are reviewing the existing regulations; the type of regulation that Dangote and Lafarge utilised on the Obajana road, where they can invest money on a road that the public will use and claw it back through tax relief.
“But that can’t build Nigeria, but it would help. It will also apply to power assets; we are looking at partnership also in housing. As I say, it is easier to say it than to do it because you have to go through all sorts of agreements, among others.”
The minister, who saw manholes without their covers on Funsho Avenue, also inspected road rehabilitation work at Ijora, where he instructed the contractor to find a suitable material for use as bridge rails to replace the aluminium being stolen. He also noted the absence of street lights at some points.
Giving update on the two-kilometer Wharf road being reconstructed with concrete by the Dangote Group in collaboration with Flour Mills and the Nigerian Ports Authority, the minister said work was progressing without hindrance to traffic because of the presence of a traffic management consulting firm.
“We are standing in the first 500 metres of excavated section; this is a 200 metres road/2 kilometres road linked to the Port. They are going to work in four sections and will take about a year to complete.”
The road’s alignment, he said had to be shifted because of some critical services like gas pipelines and cables that could delay the project and probably increase its cost if they were to be relocated.
He said, “They had to adjust the alignment of the drain in order to preserve the gas pipeline. This is what happens in construction, with all your best plans; you don’t know what is under until you actually start excavating and then you fix things as you go ahead. But that wouldn’t be a problem. They have also employed a traffic adviser, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, who was Commissioner for Transportation, who, incidentally, knows this place very well.”
According to the minister, “We want to restore some motorability here (Wharf Road) while the Liverpool end is still being designed for award. This is so critical to the national economy, if this place collapses, our Port will shut down. We are trying to avoid that while we are doing this, we are also trying to do some maintenance of the bridge, the ramps,” which he said have been under unbearable pressure from heavy tonnage vehicles.
He said, “We hope that while we are doing this and fixing the port, and with my colleague who is in the Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, who is working on the rail tracks things would be fine. As the rail comes on, then we will have a more reliable port evacuation system and then our roads will be better for it, because we will be able to move all of this heavy cargo through rail tracks.”
He said they were organising with the residents association of Apapa to see how to minimise the impact of construction on residential community activities, saying everything was set and that the results would show down the line.
The minister, who entered one of the drains, cast off site, to measure its height put it at about 5ft and 1.3 metres wide, stating “once the finish the excavation of this section and they are ready to lay the drains, it is going to be almost automatic, they will use mechanical shovels to excavate and insert and get the alignment.”
He also noted the presence of a concrete laying machine and the thickness of a sample of concrete overlay done close to the construction site. “The machine that will lay the concrete has arrived and waiting to start work. So, we are good to go.”
Addressing the cost of the project, which the minister said was slightly over N4 billion, he said, “This was cost with the private sector, so there are no hidden corners and, most times, there are none.”
He said the work was tedious and needed to be handled with care, particularly with the replacement of cables destroyed during excavation and several other functions, adding that it was easier to build in virgin area than in a fully built-up area like Apapa.
Fashola said the reconstruction work would result in “very efficient business-friendly Port that improves the ease of doing business.”
Another treacherous stretch of road being rehabilitated is at the Ijora-end of the bridges from Alaka and Orile. This portion has been rehabilitated over but erodes within a short time because of its water content and maybe poor workmanship.
The rehabilitation work is being undertaken by Reynold Construction Company (RCC), the construction firm that is also handling the Sagamu-Ibadan stretch of the Lagos-Ibadan road.
The Project Manager, Mr. Vanin Harel said, “We are doing a perfect job, how it was supposed to be; it will last for more than 10 years,” and when reminded by the minister that the area was swampy with drainage under the road, he said the culvert was blocked and that they would construct new culverts. He said putting asphalt overlay on the bridges was part of their work.
The Lagos-Ibadan road contract, he said was still on and that the contractors have been paid the first tranche from budget releases, “but the reality is that we have about N15 billion in unpaid certificates at the time the budget was passed and now we have a budget of only N10 billion. So, whatever we have paid to them is for work already done.”
The minister said they have plans to work ahead, particularly to ease traffic that is expected to increase across the country towards Christmas up to the end of the year.