FG Approves N16bn for NDDC Hqtrs, Says East-West Road Designed to Fail

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• Approves N3bn for Ikorodu light rail, $500m for wagons, locomotives

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

Despite insistence that the country is cash strapped, the federal government yesterday approved N16 billion for the construction of the headquarter of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the South-south region.

Briefing journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the State House, Abuja, the Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru, said the building would be a twin tower with one tower consisting of four floors and the other of 13 floors.

He said the approval had become imminent in view of the huge sum of money being spent on rented buildings by the commission.

“Council has given approval for the completion of the headquarters of the NDDC. This project has taken effect from the date of initiation for more than three years and the rentals for the present occupation is in the neighbourhood of N2 billion within a period of about 12 to 13 years and we find this uneconomical. And so, it is better and safer to have the headquarters building concluded at once so that the savings from the rentals can accrue to some other services.

“The cost of the contract for the completion of the headquarters of NDDC is N16 billion. It is a twin tower. One, four floors, another thirteen floors. You need to consider the time it has taken from the time of initiation of the project till now. So, taken into account all factors of inflation, I think at this moment, given also the exchange rate, considering all the inputs that are necessary for construction of such a project and the amount as N16 billion stands at what we call contemporary in the construction industry,” Uguru said.

Questioned on how sensible it is to spend a whooping N16 billion on NDDC headquarters when important infrastructure such as the East -West road which is of utmost importance to the entire Niger Delta region had been stagnant since 2006, the minister said the East-West road was actually designed to fail.

Uguru who said a whooping N300 billion had been spent on the project since inception without any tangible result, attempted to justify the approval of such a huge sum for the construction of NDDC headquarters, saying fresh moves to review the East – West road project had begun with a view to bringing fraudulent contractors to book.

He argued that whereas the project was originally designed to fail, efforts are currently being made to put it in the right shape.

“The East – West road is a project that has been messed up from inception. Naturally, it was designed to fail by all the agreements and designed concepts that we have seen. And here we are making sure that we put things in order so that we can see the terminal point of that project.

“The project started more than a decade ago and in 24 months we have made the progress on that project, correcting even the construction deficits in the area, then I think you should be able to appreciate what we are doing.

“One, you talk of N16 billion as if it is so relevant in completing the East -West road. I wish to tell you that the outstanding certificate on the East – West road amounts to N300 billion. So, if we put N16 billion there, in fact one and the other are not substitutes. Two of them are essential infrastructure projects that must go on. It udoesn’t mean that if we put that money on East – West Road. Then, it satisfies the needs of housing the NDDC.

“The Niger Delta region has a prime position in our preference to develop the area and so, there are no substitutes. So, even if we are not going to do the NDDC headquarters, it doesn’t mean we will complete the East -West Road. They are all important and I want you to get that into your mind.

I have said East -West was designed to fail and we are doing everything to correct that concept which means if it was designed to fail, it was gone but now it’s being revived.

“We have spent N300 billion on East – West Road and yet, the project has not made much progress. I’m doing a review of the entire contract of the East -West Road because without that, nothing will ever happen on that road talkless of completion. If you have spent N300 billion and you are where you are then… the design, negotiation, contract everything is wrong.

“You designed a project of that nature and give it a lifespan of seven years and then no design in some sectors and yet you are attributing cost to it. So, by what means did you have the elements of costing? These are verifiable facts at any time.

“Right now, I have gotten some of these contracts and I’m sending them to the EFCC, not just for the East -West road. I have got a minimum of 30 contractors that I am sending to EFCC. On the East -West Road, I have taken a private consultants to review the whole cost. So, some contractors will obviously refund money for which the present cost will be discounted.

“So, when you see contractors ganging up and publishing things against me, you should know the foundation. But as far as I am here, I will do something that I feel is right. That decision I think is appropriate enough at this time,” he said.

In his own briefing, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said FEC also approved the award of N3 billion contract for the construction of Ikorodu, Lagos lighter terminal rail contract.

Amaechi who said another contract was approved for the provision of security at the water front as well as patrol boats for the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), added that another $500 million contract was also approved for rolling stocks, coaches, wagons and locomotives for the construction of Lagos – Ibadan and Itakpe – Warri rail lines.

Disclosing that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is Dalian, a Chinese company, while the contractor is CCEC, Amaechi said delivery date for the contracts is December 2018.

Asked when his ministry will extend the construction of rail lines to the South-east, Amaechi blamed the development on former President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he accused of failing to spend billions of dollars at his disposal on rail lines across the country.

“If you come to the Ministry of Transport, you will see that every day, I am meeting with the Chinese because that appears to be the only place where they have funds. I will go back to touch things you may not like which I have said several times. Under Obasanjo, he saved between $65-68 billion dollars. Not even in foreign reserve, Excess Crude Account and I have that we require about $36 billion dollars to complete all these rail works in all the state capitals.

“All of us seated here are journalists when Obasanjo was President. Obasanjo left that money and President Goodluck Jonathan became President and that money was in that account. So, why couldn’t we have spent $36 billion building rails all over the country?

“You didn’t ask President Goodluck Jonathan that question. Nobody asked. I was a governor then. There was no agitation for rail; there was no construction going on. Instead of using that money, we borrowed $500 million to construct Kaduna – Abuja rail. So, I will please plead with everybody to be patient with this government and be patient with my ministry. Let us find money because there is no money.

“Since there is no money, let us be patient. I am an Igbo man. I have said it publicly and privately that I am an Igbo man. The Igbos will not be left out; the Igbos will certainly be taken along at the same time as we are taking every other Nigeria community,” he said.