Contractors Are Set To Be Liquid Again As Construction Of Second Niger Bridge Progresses Steadily
Tony Ailemen, Abuja
Federal Government yesterday put a lie to insinuations and claims, that construction of the Second Niger Bridge was suspended moments after it was flagged off by then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Antagonists of the former president had variously claimed that the inauguration of construction work on the bridge was political deceit by the past administration against Nigerians.
But clarifying the true position yesterday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Mr. Dauda Kigbu, said at no time was work on the project suspended.
According to him, work on the second Niger Bridge had progressed steadily from the day it was initiated.
Meanwhile, barring last minute change of mind, contractors handling Federal Government projects across the country will soon begin to receive payment alerts as President Muhammadu Buhari is said to have directed the Accountant General of the Federation to release funds to settle contractors.
The UNION gathered that the release is a fallout of ongoing parley between the President and heads of government Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The UNION also gathered that funds released so far is a far cry from what the MDAs are demanding. It was disclosed that while contractors working on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) projects are being owed about N30billion, Federal Government was able to release a paltry sum of N5 billion only.
The UNION gathered that in the bid to solve the MDG project delays, funds would be given to the MDAs within the next two weeks to enable them to meet payment demand to contractors.
Mr. Kigbu confirmed these yesterday while speaking with State House Correspondents shortly after taking his turn to brief President Buhari on the state of affairs of the Works Ministry.
The President had initiated the exercise to enable him to have a proper insight into the affairs of the MDAs with the view to comparing with what he received as handing over notes from his predecessor.
The brief will also enable the President to make informed decisions when he finally begins to implement his economic blueprint, which will soon be unveiled and handed over to new ministers. Yesterday was the turn of the Permanent Secretary in charge of the Ministry of Works.
When asked about the status of work on the second Niger Bridge, Mr. Kigbu declared thus: “As we speak, there are ongoing activities, particularly early works.
Remember that, that particular project is under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement which I have elaborately mentioned. “I took the President through the activities of the Ministry of Works. As you may be aware, 90 per cent of the ministry’s mandate is mainly on roads.
“I went through all the major projects across the country and I emphasized the need for seeking other sources of funding outside of the national budget, particularly looking at PPP model as well as looking at various supports like multilateral supports from agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and similar bodies”.
Former President Jonathan had during his tenure assured that the Second Niger bridge project, scheduled to be completed in 2017 would be well funded through funds raised outside the normal budgetary processes.
He had also assured that funds would not be a problem of the project as government had set aside funds for the construction of the bridge, a position that was confirmed by the permanent Secretary of the Works Ministry.
The Permanent Secretary also disclosed that President Buhari had assured of his commitment to the project and indeed roads across the country, adding that “he is passionate about roads because roads are central to national development.”
He confirmed that “he will look into the suggestions because if you look at the multilateral support, for example, it always has some moratorium period, a reasonable period for repayment and the interest charged is almost one per cent”.
Commenting on roads with highest priority, he noted that although all the roads would be given equal attention under the current administration, a few others such as the Enugu-Port Harcourt road, LagosIbadan expressway and the Mokwa-Bida roads would be top on the agenda.
“The projects span across the entire country and I will not be able to tell you that one is more important than the other because you know the complexity of this country.
“I can however tell you that we are working right now on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; we are also looking at Enugu-Port Harcourt Road and Mokwa-Bida Road as well as a number of others across the country”, he said.