By Ndubuisi Francis
The federal government has released the sum of N20 billion to fast-track the completion of the East-West Road project.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA), Senator Godswill Akpabio, disclosed this when he met with the Managing Director of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance and the contractors handling Sections I-4 of the road project which is yet to be completed after the contract was awarded in 2006.
Akpabio ordered contractors handling the road to return to site immediately for the speedy completion of the project in line with the presidential directives that Section IV of the road be completed in time to enable the people of the region experience the dividend of democracy as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari during his electioneering.
He urged the contractors to cooperate with the ministry and return to site, explaining that the ministry will soon come up with the timeline for the release of the N20 billion to the contractors after signing the tripartite agreement in line with the presidential directives, which transferred the project to the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund (PIDF) under the NSIA.
The minister said: “The project which was first awarded in 2006 was scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, but this could not be achieved due to inadequate funding. The physical progress of the East-West Road when the project was transferred to the newly created Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in 2008 was just 8 per cent of work done by Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
“However, additional funding received between 2012 and 2015 from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Subsidy Reinvestment and Development Programme (SURE-P) enabled the completion of two Sections which are now ready for commissioning. The outstanding sections and recently awarded upgrade contracts were rescheduled for completion by 2020.”
According to Akpabio, “The overall project achievement stands at an average of 76 per cent of the total 676km (338×2) carriageway for Section I-IV, a total of 611.05km of earthworks, 584.60km of asphaltic binder course, and 523.75km of wearing course, 1143 no. of culverts and a total of 41nos. bridges (total length of 5,483m) with the second 850m Imo River Bridge, Okoso, Mbiama, Patani-Eket and Kaima Bridges have been substantially completed as at March 2019.”
In his remarks, the Managing Director, NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, commended the minister for his renewed energy and commitment to the completion of the East-West Road to accomplish the objective set by President Buhari.
Orji noted that NSIA involvement in the project is to manage the PIDF, set up by the president in 2018, to manage key projects of this administration which includes the East-West Road, Abuja-Kano Highway, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Third Niger Bridge and the Mabilla Power Project.
He explained that for the project to be viable, they would be tolled projects to be covered by tripartite agreement.