N392bn Debt: FG to Focus on Priority Projects, Says Fashola

Babatunde Raji Fashola

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has disclosed that due to the burden of unpaid certificates totaling over N392 billion, the federal government would carefully select projects to execute in the 2021 budget, instead of starting new ones.

A statement signed by the Director of Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Boade Akinola, noted that Fashola stated this during the 2021 budget defence of his ministry before the House of Representatives Committee on Works, and reiterated that the budget would focus on road projects, especially those on routes A1-A9.

Fashola explained to the committee that the disparity between the liabilities in unpaid certificates and the budgetary provisions over the years had compelled the ministry to prioritise its capital proposals in order to make appreciable impact.

According to him, “Given the wide disparity between the liabilities in unpaid certificates in the total sum of N 392, 019, 827, 093.87 and the budgetary provisions over the years, it has become imperative that the ministry prioritised its 2021 capital proposals.

“This is being done in order to make appreciable impact within the period of 2021 to 2023, which can be physically experienced by road users. The focus of the 2021 budget proposal of the ministry remains the completion of some priority road projects, especially those on routes A1-A9.”

The minister stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly emphasised on the need to focus the budget on completion of projects, explaining that the ministry has given priority to 18 roads and bridges that have already attained some appreciable physical achievement for completion within a period of 12 to 15 months by December 2021.

He noted that among the prioritised road projects are roads and bridges that lead to ports and major agricultural hubs across the six geo-political zones, pointing out that focus was also made on roads
that attained 70 per cent completion.

In the same vein, Fashola told the committee that his ministry had categorised the total of the 711 highway projects currently being undertaken in the six geo-political zones of the country according to the available funding mechanism.

According to him, the funding mechanisms include the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), highway projects financed with Sovereign Sukuk Fund, and those financed under tax credit and others from multilateral loans.

“The ministry has selected two roads and a bridge per zone for enhanced funding in the 2021 budget to achieve appreciable progress on the projects. Also targeted for adequate funding is the federal government counterpart fund for the projects financed by the China Exim Bank.

“The major challenge to the ministry’s efforts towards the timely completion of projects is inadequate budgetary provision and releases for projects to sustain annual cash flow requirement levels,” he lamented.