Minister of Works , Dave Umahi, has sumned the budget for road projects inherited from past administration to about N14 trillion, covering 18,000 kilometers.
While addressing journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after a meeting with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the weekend, said the roads are 2,604 in number.
He further disclosed that the administration had paid N4 trillion out of the N14 trillion owed in contracts, adding that government had already identified funding sources to offset N4 trillion more of its outstanding debts, leaving N6 trillion funding gap.
According to him, some road projects that have lingered for about two decades and were never appropriated will, therefore, be terminated.
He said: “The ministry inherited a total of 2,604 projects, worth N14 trillion and for 18,000 kilometers of road, that’s what we had. Between when we came on board and now, about N4 trillion has been paid and so that is a balance of N10 trillion remaining.
“Now, in this N10tn, we have defined sources that could fund up to N4tn. So, we have a funding gap of about N6tn. That is what is there now.
“We have a number of programs for road development under the previous administration. We inherited all the projects; we have not dropped any of them. But curious to know that some of these projects have lasted for 20 years, some 10 years. In fact, in most cases, they were never appropriated throughout every tenure.
“So I went to seek Mr. President’s nod so that I will be able to terminate some of the projects that have stayed up to 10 years without any defined source of funding.”
Umahi, however, lamented the current appropriation system for federal road projects, saying the piecemeal disbursement of funds to contractors is frustrating delivery, adding that he had already appealed to the President to engage with the National Assembly to prioritise projects.
“Just look at over 2600 projects, 18,000 kilometers of roads, and N14tn. That is huge! And the worrisome part of this is that even the ones that are being funded properly, the roads hardly last up to five years,” he complained.
He noted that the short lifespan of roads necessitated his recent proposal to the President to redesign and construct yet-to-be-completed federal roads using reinforced concrete.
“So I briefed Mr. President on what we are doing by introducing reinforced concrete technology for our road pavements,” he said.
The Minister vowed to “fight” entities poised to frustrate this plan, saying, “I know that there are a lot of fights from contractors, but I’m David, I’m known for fight and I will fight this because I’ve reported myself to Mr. President.”
Meanwhile, Umahi said he had received the President’s blessings to adopt the concrete reinforced pavements for roads across the country.
His words: “Incidentally, Mr. President is also an infrastructure guru and he fully supports that we should use reinforced concrete for our road pavements.
“So there is no other place you can report me other than to report me to God. So Mr. President is supporting me that way. We’ll redesign our roads in reinforced concrete pavement.
“I’m aware that the contractors have been quarreling and arguing. So, I want to declare that I’m open to any kind of blackmail, but my eyes are on the ball. And my eyes are on how we can get Nigerians to have value for the money. That is the assignment President Bola Tinubu gave to me and I’m going to do that with the fear of God”, he said.