The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has said the Federal Government is concluding plans to complete the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Lagos, within the next two years.
Fashola also stated that the Federal Government inherited a debt of N1tn as outstanding payments to road contractors across the country.
The minister, who spoke on Tuesday while addressing a joint session of the House of Representatives Committees on Works/Power/Housing in Abuja, added that the government’s total commitment to roads was in excess of N2tn.
He explained that the government had decided to prioritise road projects in the country by identifying major ones in the six geographical zones with a view to completing them.
Going by the prioritisation plan, Fashola mentioned the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as one of the projects that would be completed within 24 months.
He said N50bn had been proposed in the 2016 budget to speed up work on the reconstruction of the expressway.
He stated, “The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has been prioritised as a major traffic artery. The bulk of our imported cargo comes from Apapa, Tin Can ports through this road to other parts of the country.
“Food items and livestock from the North also reach the South-West and other areas through the road. It’s in our national economic interest to fix this road.”Another road, which the minister mentioned as having been prioritised, is the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road in Lagos.
Other roads, named by Fashola as belonging to this category, include the Abuja-Lokoja and Nasarawa-Oweto-Otukpo roads.
He explained that the roads would be broken into a three-year plan (2016-2018), with the first phase being roads to be completed in 2016.
He added that 2,000 kilometres of roads would be completed each year, translating to 31 road projects in 2016 and 55 roads in 2017.
“Every zone of the country will be essentially served within available resources,” he said.
According to the minister, the total budgetary proposal for the entire works sector and the parastatals in 2016, is N285.3bn out of which N268bn is earmarked for capital projects this year.
The former Lagos State governor explained that faced with funding challenges, road tolling and payment of other forms of taxes, had become options the government could no longer overlook.
“There is a government policy on tolling, which is still being fine-tuned at the Federal Executive Council level. It will soon get to you (the National Assembly).
“For long, we have not been paying for services. We have to tell ourselves the truth now that this is the way forward,” Fashola said.He stated that the government would no longer condone a situation in which contractors would collect money and abandon site.
“There are contractors, who have collected advance payment of 70 per cent and they are still not on site.
“In the environment where I came from, we will not give you a kobo until you have completed the job,” the minister said.
Fashola called on the National Assembly to consider reviewing some of the laws on road development in the country in order to attract private-sector investments.
The Chairman, House Committee on Works, Mr. Toby Okechukwu, told the minister that the government should articulate its funding plans for the road projects.
Okechukwu argued that the funding plans must be well spelt out so that most of the roads would not end up being abandoned again.
The session was not devoid of drama as lawmakers accused the government of favouring some sections of the country by constructing more roads in such zones.
Members from Bauchi, Ebonyi, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Ondo and Kano states among others, complained that their areas were marginalised.
Fashola said the government was not prioritising roads on the basis of states but geographical zones.