By Emmanuel Addeh
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has visited the Abuja-Keffi and Akwanga-Makurdi expressways on an on-the-spot assessment of the extent of work on the critical inter-regional arteries.
Speaking during the inspection, the minister said any Nigerian who has issues with the federal government’s borrowing should know that some of the monies were being spent to revamp the country’s deteriorating roads.
Fashola stated that the ultimate objective of the expansion of the Abuja- Keffi expressway is to ultimately reduce traffic congestion and travel time for commuters, adding that the road would be built to international standard.
The minister maintained that the government has a lot of work to do, but was being constrained by the paucity of funds, the reason borrowing has become inevitable.
“The main purpose of the Akwanga to Makurdi highway, which we flagged off about two years ago, and is one of the roads being funded with the China EximBank loan, is that it is very critical and strategic for linking the North-central to the North-east, and from there to other parts of the country.
“For those who have issues about borrowing, they can come and see what the borrowing is being used for; all of the people who are working here would probably not have this job without that borrowing.
“Because we have a lot to do, we don’t have enough to do them at the same time. So this is part of the dualisation project construction of a brand new highway to complement the existing one,” the minister stated.
Fashola said the residents of Mararaba -Nyanya would soon see that all the sacrifices they had to endure would be worthwhile, citing the Abuja-Keffi expressway as having attained 45.8 per cent completion.
The minister, who also inspected the over 260km Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia -Makurdi highway project, promised that it will be built to the quality of any road in any other part of the world.
According to him, ultimately, the purpose is to make life better for those who use that axis to reduce the travel time and to reduce the congestion around there.
“That is essentially what we hope to achieve and believe me, you will see when it’s all done that it will make all the sacrifice worthwhile,” he said.
He disclosed that he did not foresee any challenges with funding on the road, explaining that negotiations with land owners were a normal phenomenon when building infrastructure all over the world.
“You want to pass through people’s land you have to meet them, you have to agree with them, you have to explain to them, these are all the governance protocols around the world about finding international projects,” he said.
He added that it wasn’t possible to close the road so as to reduce the difficulties being encountered by the people, stressing that by the timeline, the project could be completed in the next one year.
“We can’t close up the road, we can’t construct almost 300-km of the highway at once, so we do it in sections.
“The road is billed for three years. We have done two years and there are no challenges of any significance to the funding. The counterpart side of it is still a matter of budget, so, if we don’t put our part we won’t get the 85 per cent.
“But that is not the conversation of the moment because in a real-life situation when you design a road there are challenges,” the minister explained.