By Jude Opara, Abuja
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on Thursday told the joint Senate/ House of Representatives Committee on Works that 459 roads projects across Nigeria should for now be the priority of government instead of starting new ones.
The former governor of Lagos State who revealed this while defending his ministry’s 2020 budget told the lawmakers that across the country, there are about 459 abandoned road projects located in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
“As we are all aware, we are operating under a difficult fiscal terrain and if you compare this budget of N10trn to that of 2014 which was N4trn you will see the difference because then a dollar was N160.But the trend has remained same and we are forced to make choices because of limited resources. Therefore, we need to give priority to the existing roads numbering about 459 projects across the six geo-political zones of the country.
“By so doing we will not be leaving anybody behind and this is very possible if we can do it as these roads are linked to the airports, sea ports, major agricultural farms and major fuel depots in the country.”
The minister however expressed concern over the attitude of communities once a road contract is awarded in their domain, saying instead of them assisting the government to provide such social amenities, some of them rather make it difficult for the projects to be completed in good time.
“They even go to the site to start digging graves so that the compensation should be high, this has been a major challenge to us. At times they ask for insertion of their name in an old existing road and other demands that in most cases delay commencement of projects, these are some of the challenges we face on a daily basis.”
The minister also re-echoed his earlier call for a national infrastructure bond where money can be secured to maintain and construct new roads.
He said” a N10trn infrastructure bond could go a long way in helping us have a well-maintained road network.
But in his own submission, the Senate Committee chairman, Adamu Aliero said the issue of road projects should gradually be shifted to the private sector like it is the practice in most countries of the world, even in Africa.
“In countries like Egypt and Morrocco the issue of roads has been moved to the private sector and they are doing very well, there is nothing wrong if we begin to think along that line moving forward.
However, on the issue of compensation, Aliero said the federal government should be ready to intervene when there are issues of disagreement with the host communities.