The groundbreaking ceremony to begin the reconstruction of the 32-kilometre Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki-Ojota in Lagos was performed yesterday by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari. The reconstruction of the road’s Section 1, Sub-section A, will begin from the Olorogun Michael Ibru Boulevard (former Creek Road) end of Port Novo Bridge and Liverpool road, in Apapa, through Coconut, Beachland Estate interchange bridge, Cele Bus Stop, Anthony Village, to Old Lagos Toll Gate.
The whole length of the road will be paved with reinforced concrete by Dangote Industries Limited at a whopping cost of N73 billion, using the Road Trust Fund policy. The fund is a form of public, private partnership, conceived to accelerate the provision of federal roads by allowing private sector operators to collectively fund road projects in exchange for tax credit.
“The Road Trust Fund policy gives private sector operators an incentive to fund infrastructure with government. This is an innovative and laudable scheme, we are putting our money upfront,” said the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
“We are actually advancing our tax to government upwards of almost four to six years. This is a novel idea that will, no doubt, lead to rapid economic growth through significant infrastructure improvement. We look forward to doing more of this infrastructure with government,” he added.
Dangote lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for establishing the Road Trust Fund, which he said is targeted at constructing major commercial corridors with heavy vehicular traffic, saying, “This will surely open up the economy, boost our ease of doing business and also improve our ranking considerably in the annual global competitiveness report.”
He said last year, his company’s corporate tax, withholding tax and education tax alone got to N97.6 billion and that he was sure that this year, “Our taxes will be over 160 billion, by next year it should be over N200 billion. So, it is a wise thing for us to work with the government, because those roads that are not delivered on time, can actually be delivered on time and on budget, because if there is money for it, then there will be no excuse to increase cost.”
Dangote said the project, which would be the largest concrete road in West Africa, had a two-year construction period and it would be completed on budget and ahead of schedule, adding that the road would have a minimum lifespan of 45 to 50 years.
“I want to assure your excellences that this road will be the first road we will finish ahead of schedule in the country, and it will also be finished on budget and it would be the largest concrete road in West Africa. I promise you it will be completed ahead of schedule; with this road our own name will be at stake,” Dangote stated.
He said they would make sure that the road was done properly and delivered free of trouble, stressing that on completion, the revenues of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and that of Dangote and other companies doing business in Apapa would quadruple.
Dangote said his company was not participating in this scheme or advocating the use of rigid concrete because they produce cement, “rather we believe in opening Nigeria.” He said they would not leave any stone unturned in ensuring the road was done properly. He thanked the Chairman of Chargoury Group, whose Hitech Construction Company is partnering with them.
Dangote thanked the present and previous governors of Lagos State for making their projects in Ibeju Lekki possible, adding that “people need to realise that the revenue from that project alone is one and a half times the budget of all the states and local governments of Nigeria.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing recalled that the road being reconstructed was built between 1975 and 1978 and since then it had not been expanded, even with the increase in port activities and vehicular movement. Fashola said there would be a lot of pain and distress during the reconstruction period but explained that truck owners and drivers should stick to a lane to enable other road users go through.
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said PPP was the way to go in infrastructural development and concrete pavement was the best solution for the Lagos terrain. Ambode thanked the federal government for refunding the money the state spent on federal roads within the state.
The groundbreaking was attended by Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya; Senator Oluremi Tinubu; Chairman, Apapa Residents Association, Brig-Gen. Sola Ayo-Vaughan (Rtd), and the leadership of the Association of Owners of Trucks and the Drivers’ arm, among others.
The Vice President of NATO, Abdullahi Enuwa, asked for advice on alternative routes to use and also said there should be palliatives.