By Ndubuisi Francis
The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs stepped down a total of 345 projects and committed N10 billion in the current budget to ensure the completion of the East-west road, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, disclosed on Monday.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) also made a provision of N10 billion in the 2020 budget and another N25 billion in the current appropriation to impact positively on the progress of work on the road.
Akpabio, who made the disclosure in Abuja, stated that due to concerns over the security and safety of commuters, the ministry has proposed an extra-budgetary intervention for the inclusion of Sections 1-1V of the road in the 2021 Sukuk issuance programme of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Debt Management Office (DMO).
Akpabio added that the project is at about 78.40 per cent completion (inclusive of the new section IIIA – Eleme Junction to Onne Junction and the Eket Bypass).
According to him, this is against claims by some stakeholders in the region that he lied to President Muhammadu Buhari that the project was 90 per cent completed.
He stated that the move for Sukuk intervention was part of efforts by the ministry to attract adequate funding for the completion of the East-West road project.
He observed that appeals for extra-budgetary funding intervention for the project was yielding fruits, adding that the finance minister had graciously directed the DMO to include the project in the Sukuk issuance of 2021.
The minister noted that due to poor annual budgetary provisions, the contract for upgrading of Section IIIA awarded in 2014 could not commence until the ministry paid the contractors the full mobilisation advance in 2020, regretting that the condition of the road deteriorated during the period of delay.
He regretted what he described as the serious encroachment on the right-of-way initially delineated for the road, stressing that these encroachments lead to right of way constraints, especially at Onne Junction by the power substation belonging to the Niger Delta Power Holding Company.
The development, he pointed out, necessitated a change in intersection design from interchange to flyover bridge.