Coronavirus: Fashola Urges Contractors to Source Materials Locally

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Babatunde Raji Fashola

Promises uninterrupted funding of Itu-Odukpani road project

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola at the weekend charged contractors handling the Aba/Ikot-Ekpene Road, to source and deploy equipment locally to fast-track the pace of work on the road project, pending the reduction of the spread of Covid19 virus in China.

Fashola has also assured that the construction of Itu-Odukpani Road would be financed from the Sukuk fund in order to ensure that work does not stop till the project is completed.

The minister was reacting to the complaints by one of the contractors attached to Messrs CGGC Global Projects Nigeria Limited, who told him that the equipment and some of the personnel they wanted to use were stuck in China as a result of the outbreak of corona virus.

 A statement by a Deputy Director of Press in the ministry, Mr. Stephen Kilebi, noted that the minister also directed that all broken down vehicles along the highways in the country should be removed, stressing that they were hindering smooth work on most of the roads.

“Start hiring local equipment and hire local people that you need, start training them for engagement while waiting for the one from China. 

“Try and repair the bad portions first before the rains come, so that these people will know that their government care about them. So, if you do not finish the construction of the road, they will know the road is getting better,” he said.

At the Odukpani-Itu road in Cross River, the minister expressed optimism that the contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria Limited that is handling 21 Kilometres of the road will do everything possible to ensure that the road is usable during the rainy season.

He said the federal government had enlisted the project as part of the SUKUK funding scheme, assuring that work will not stop.

Fashola assured Nigerians that his ministry had made plans to immediately remove any broken down truck on the highways as part of measures to ensure free flow of traffic this year while construction work is on-going.

He also inspected the rehabilitation of the Odukpani- Akpet-Alesi -Ugep road  in conclusion of his one-week tour of some federal roads in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones of the country.

He said: “Government intends to adopt a strategy of immediate removal of broken down trucks along Nigerian highways to avoid commuters being delayed. This would also apply to all the highways where trucks get stuck easily like the Numan road in Taraba state, Calabar-Itu road and Abeokuta-Ota road.

“We want to ensure that this time our contractors are better prepared for the rainy season, so we need to evolve a strategy where our contractors are mindful that we have the construction work, but the roads must remain motorable during the rainy season”

He added that President Muhammadu Buhari was anxious to see that the 67km road was completed knowing its importance to the economy of Cross River State.

Meanwhile, Fashola has assured that the construction of Itu-Odukpani Road would be financed from the Sukuk fund in order to ensure that work does not stop till the project is completed.

The minister stated this when he visited the project site last week to officially inspect the extent of the ongoing works on the project, which is being handled by the Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.

Fashola disclosed that the ministry has made an application for the Itu-Odukpani Road works to be funded from the Sukuk funds’ steady infrastructural development works. He insisted that there would be no going back on the new funding strategy of the Itu-Odukpani Road, which he described as “a strategically important road” in the country.

He also commended Julius Berger for its commitment to deliver on the Itu-Odukpani Road construction and rehabilitation contract irrespective of challenges.  

The minister also urged the contractor to remedy the very bad portions of the road to make it useable during the rainy season.

“The Buhari’s administration will deliver the high priority Itu-Odukpani-Calabar road,” Fashola assured.

Responding to Fashola’s assurance, the Regional Manager for South-east and South-south Operations of Julius Berger, Mr. Jurgen Fischer, expressed the company’s appreciation to the government on the heart-warming information that the project would now be funded to completion from the Sukuk funds.

Fischer assured the minister of Julius Berger’s unflinching commitment to deliver on its contractual obligations on the Itu-Odukpani Road project.