Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has asked the federal government to include the East-West Road among other critical projects being funded from the Sovereign Wealth Fund to ensure its completion in 2022.
The governor also condemned the federal government’s directive stopping states from funding rehabilitation of failed federal roads describing it as inimical to the effective development, management, and maintenance of road infrastructure across the country.
Wike in a statement signed by his Special Assistant, Media, Kelvin Ebiri, spoke yesterday at the 26th meeting of the National Council on Works in Port Harcourt.
The governor said that the theme of the meeting, “Infrastructure Development, Job Creation and National Economic Growth”, was fitting to the view that road infrastructure plays a critical role in enabling economic development, poverty reduction and inclusive progress.
He said that the East-West road was too important to the economic prosperity of the South-south region and the nation regretting that it had been under construction for over 15 years without any end in sight for its completion.
The governor observed that the federal government seemed overwhelmed with the construction and provision of too many road projects across the country.
He suggested it would be better for the federal government to complete most of the ongoing road projects before embarking on new ones.
He advised the government to reconsider its directive stopping state intervention on federal roads saying it would upset the economic growth of the affected states.
He said: “It makes progressive sense as a development strategy therefore for State Governments to reconstruct such federal roads with reputable contractors on behalf of the Federal Government and get refunded after due verification of the price and quality of work done.
“The federal and state governments need to consult and collaborate regularly to accelerate the delivery of road infrastructure to advance and realize the hopes and aspirations of our people for development and decent living.”
Wike explained that the state government was presently constructing six flyovers at a federal government road to ease the perennial traffic congestions on the problematic intersections of Port Harcourt – Aba expressway.
“Let me, therefore, appeal to the Federal Government to continue to collaborate with the State Governments on road development by allowing States to fix federal roads with the assurance of a refund,” he said.
The governor said his administration had consistently dedicated over 65 percent of the state budget annually for the construction of new roads and reconstruction and maintenance of existing roads across the state, including federal roads.
In his remarks, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of human mobility to the health of any economy with the urban poor appearing to be the worse hit as a result of the lockdown.
“Part of measures adopted by the Federal Government to kick-start economic recovery processes was to focus on agriculture including the resumption of construction work in 26 states with its attendant multiple effects on the local economy,” he said.
Fashola explained that against the former practice of flexible pavement connection module that was cost-intensive, his ministry was ready to unveil the rigid design manual considered cost-effective.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero advocated the establishment of an Infrastructural Bank as an alternative source of funding for federal road projects.
He said it had become practically difficult for the Federal Government to fund the 711 roads captured in the federal budget.