By Ndubuisi Francis
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate release of N19.67 billion to fast-track the completion of sections I-IV of the East-West Road project by 2021, in a bid to address infrastructure deficit in the region and boost the economic life of the people.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, disclosed this during a meeting with contractors handling different sections of the road projects, in Abuja.
The minister explained that the road, which was conceived in 2006 during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, was to be completed in 2010, adding that this was stalled principally due to paucity of funds.
A statement issued by the Director (Press & PR) in the ministry, Deworitshe Patricia, said the minister noted that in April 2009, the project was transferred to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs with the mandate of fast-tracking its completion, adding that this could not also be realised due to inflexible terms prescribed by financial institutions in this regard.
Despite the checkered history of the project which may not require less than N102 billion for its overall completion, Akpatio noted that President Buhari, in line with the determination of his administration to address the issue of infrastructure deficit in the country, decided to consider issues surrounding the delay in the completion of the project with a presidential pronouncement on June 18, 2020, to ensure that what needs to be done is put in place for the completion of the road by 2021.
Akpabio said: “The project, which starts from the Delta Steel Company Roundabout in Delta State, transverses through Kaiama in Bayelsa State, goes through Ahoada in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, down to Eket and from Eket to Oron in Akwa-Ibom State, is to complete the Section I-IV being part of the two sections that had previously been completed. Section–V, which covers 23km from Oron to Calabar, is still under process.
“Considering the disposition of the region to the stability of Nigeria’s economy, the project will not only redress infrastructural deficit in the region, its completion would assist the oil industry in terms of moving goods that will facilitate oil production, movement within the area, restiveness and boast the economic life of the people and the Nation at large.”
The Buhari administration, he said, has undertaken more infrastructural development projects than any other government, stressing that the East-West road would be one of the legacy projects of this administration.
He thanked the contractors for being committed to ensuring that the presidential mandate is achieved by re-mobilising back to site even when funds have not been made available and assured them of the people’s cooperation.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, in his remarks appealed to the contractors to work hard to fulfill the president’s mandate.
The contractors thanked Akpabio for giving them the opportunity to work with the ministry and reiterated their readiness to remobilise back to site immediately to meet the 2021 completion target.