By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
The Mjnister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola has attributed the inability of Federal Government to address dilapidated roads across the country to none release of budgetary funds by the ministry of finance.
Fashola explained that most contracts failed due to under budgeting and poor funding.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, he lamented that no dime has been released to his Ministry from the 2019 budget.
He lamented that his ministry hardly accessed adequate funding to perform its statutory mandate hence the littering of uncompleted and abandoned projects across the country.
The mjnister’s explanation came amidst claims by the National Assembly, that about 20,000 abandoned projects litter the country.
Debunking the allegation Fashola recalled that when the Buhari administration came into power in 2015, it concentrated on completing all abandoned projects rather than initiating new ones so as not to forestall development, adding that only N18billion was allocated for works in 2015 budget.
He said that the decision has seen the government making efforts to complete ongoing road contracts left behind by its predecessors despite budgetary constraints.
Fashola said while the public misconstrued the challenges, the progress that has been made seems delayed because some of the projects including newly initiated ones suffered set back due to lack of community support, over-blotted compensation sums submitted by the public and lean budgetary provisions which, most times were not even accessible.
He said that despite these constraints, government never felt deterred, it has been reviewing cost of on-ongoing and abandoned projects to make them viable for completion.
“Today, two of the approvals were to revise the estimates of cost to enable contractors continue work.
“Council approved N519 million revision of contract of Oba – Nnewi – Okigwe Road to cater for change in cost of materials since the project was awarded in 2009. The contract sum revised from N3.7billion to N4.3 billion.
“The second contract that had a revision of estimated cost, is the 67 kilometers Alace-Ugep road in Cross River state, Council approved a revision from N9.16 billion to 11.22 billion, the revised cost is N2.052 billion.
“Council approved the change of contractor for the Chachangi bridge linking Takum and Wukari in Taraba State and re-awarded it at the cost of N2.132 billion.
“Katsina-Ala bridge was also approved at the cost of N3.576 billion, which include total bridge repairs, changing of expansion joints, changing of bearings and rehabilitation of the 3.2 kilometers access road at Ugbema junction in Benue State,” the Minister explained.
The minister further disclosed that despite the increased budgetary provision for the ministry of works from N18 billion in 2015 to about N300bn in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, ”we still can’t find the money to implement the projects, we need community support as well.”
He also lamented that the ministry wasc faced with a challenge of over N10 billion compensation for the second Niger bridge.
”There is a very clear distinction doing a project that is uncompleted and a project that is abandoned. They mean two different things. If you ask me you say there is a report about 20000 abandoned projects, my ministry doesn’t have 20000 projects.
”One of the things we have done including what we have done today finding out why projects have not been completed in some cases the rates have become obsolete so the price of cement has changed, the exchange rate has changed, inflation has gone into the quantities in which it was awarded before we came. So we are trying to resuscitate some of those projects because we know that the contractors will not go back to work if the pricing is not right, that is one thing we are doing.
”It is the government policy to ensure that we complete as many projects as possible. Unlike in the past, this government has focused on completing projects.
”In addition to that, we have increased the budget size so the budget size for all of the Nigerian roads in 2015 was N18 billion. So those are accumulations that we now have to manage and overcome was as a result of under budgeting and under funding.
”Now there is a distinction, we have increased the budget to roughly about N300 billion but we still can’t fund the N300 billion.
”So when we get the approval that is the one half of the story, the other half of the story is that we don’t get all of the cash. So your investigation must include how much is being released against how much is being approved in the budget
”There is yet another problem, the local communities, we are having problems there too. We have problem I think in Sapele-Ewu road, youths, community, compensation issues. Immediately we mobilize to site, people build all sorts of things within the right of way and file all sorts of claims for compensation.
”When you look at how much you have to pay for compensation and how much you have to spend on the roads you begin to do your maths very carefully. So we need community support as well.
”People who want infrastructure must also reasonably be willing to sacrifice. The amount we are facing now in claims in compensation for Second Niger Bridge is already in excess of N10 billion, just for compensation for land and all of that.
”Now you hear the Minister of Finance, you hear everybody saying we need to raise money to fund infrastructure; there is a gap between our infrastructure needs, our commitments to respond and our income. So we have to fund a deficit.
On one hand there is another side of the debate that is saying the country is borrowing too much so these are the challenges.”
We Currently have $30bn Investment Commitments – FG
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite, says Nigeria currently has about 30 billion dollars investment committment from various investors.
Uzoka-Anite said this at the ongoing Ministerial Media briefing in Abuja on Friday.
According to her, the commitments will be redeemed over the course of five to eight years.
She said investments, commitments, and pledges were also received from our oil and gas free zone, adding that last week, some of them committed an additional 10 billion dollars in investments.
“I hosted the managing director of SHELL who explained to me about the investment plans of shell.
“ I know a lot of us are aware that shell is leaving; he came to explain to me what they mean by that.And I can tell you that they are not leaving.
“Rather, they are expanding and increasing their investments in Nigeria; they are selling their onshore assets and increasing their investment in gas and offshore assets.” she said.
Uzoka-Anite, who envisaged more investments into the country, said it would not have been possible without the commitment of President Bola Tinubu led administration.
She said that with increased investments comes job opportunities and economic growth, which wss part of the priority of the government. (NAN)
Nigerian Breweries Records N106bn Loss in 2023
Nigerian Breweries Plc has recorded a net loss of N106 billion for the year ended 2023, as against N13.93 billion posted in its 2022 financials, indicating 860 per cent loss.
Mr Uaboi Agbebaku, Company Secretary, Nigerian Breweries stated this in the audited financial result of the company for the year ended 2023 sent to the Nigerian Exchange Ltd.
Agbebaku said the gross profit of the company for the year under review also fell by 0.3 percent to N212.5 billion, compared to N213.20 billion posted in the previous year.
He stated that the operating profit of the company declined by 15.
The company secretary said that the firm recorded loss in its operating profit due to higher input cost and one-off reorganisation cost despite strong and aggressive cost savings and other efficiency measures.
According to him, the company however was able to grow its revenue by nine per cent to N599 billion, compared to N551 billion posted in the previous year, which was aided by positive price mix.
Agbebaku stated that the Nigeria business landscape experienced significant shifts in 2023, with substantial impact on businesses and livelihoods nationwide.
He explained that the Naira notes redesign which resulted in cash shortage that severely hampered social and economic activities nationwide set the tone for a turbulent year.
Agbebaku said: “High double-digit inflation rates with food inflation at more than 30 per cent and removal of subsidy on fuel.
“Coupled with the impact of the devaluation of the naira which resulted in a foreign exchange loss of N153 billion further exacerbated the already difficult environment for the populace and businesses.
“In a difficult operating environment, the Board will ensure that the company builds on its more than 77 years’ experience of operating in Nigeria to cope with current realities.
He said the company would continue to be resilient and forward-thinking, leveraging on its broad portfolio, strong supply chain footprint and passionate workforce to drive long-term value creation for its shareholders and other stakeholders.(NAN)
NDLEA Tincan Command Intercepted 876.453kg Illicit Drugs, others in 2023-Commander
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Tincan Special Area Command, says 876.453 kilograms of various illicit drugs and controlled substances were intercepted in 2023.
Commander Mohammed Abubakar of the command said this in a statement in Lagos on Thursday.
He listed the drugs as cocaine worth 24kg; Canabis – 852.
According to Abubakar, a total of 15 individuals were arrested and prosecuted during the period, out of which 10 were convicted.
He added that the feat was achieved through relentless efforts and meticulous investigation, which led to the dismantling of several drug trafficking networks and the subsequent prosecution of individuals involved.
“The Tincan special area command has been at the forefront of strategic operations in the area, targeting illicit drug smuggling activities and apprehending those responsible.
“In recent months, the efforts have culminated in multiple successful seizures and arrests, emphasising the agency’s commitment to eradicating drug-related crimes within our society.
“In one operation carried out at the Tincan port, a notable seizure of illicit drugs (Cannabis Indica also called Colorado) totalling 161.5kg was made, along with sum of 22,900 dollars offered as bribe to officers.
“The intercepted drugs, were concealed within cargo shipments of used vehicles from Montreal Canada, indicating the ingenuity of the involved drug traffickers,” he said.
Abubakar said that several investigations were conducted in collaboration with national and international law enforcement agencies, leading to the identification and apprehension of some of the key players in these drug networks.
The NDLEA boss noted that the combined efforts proved fruitful, resulting in the arrest of some of the persons directly involved in the importation, distribution, and sales of illicit drugs.
He said that throughout 2023, the command embarked on various sensitisation and enlightenment activities within and around the Tincan island port.
He listed them to include advocacy visit to all stakeholders in and around the port, public enlightenment and lectures, rallies and engagement of traditional rulers and non-governmental organisations around the port environment.
“All the activities were carried out under aegis of ‘War Against Drug Abuse’ (WADA) and was designed to reduce demand and abuse of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances in Nigeria.
The NDLEA Tincan special area commander appreciated stakeholders in the maritime industry, and other relevant government agencies for their unwavering support and collaborative effort in these operations.
He added that their dedication and joint action had played a crucial role in the successes achieved thus far.
He also urged all licensed Customs clearing agents to stop the practice of authorising third party individuals to clear cargo under their company stamp.
He pointed out that the practice, automatically made the company liable to any cargo cleared, using its name and stamp.
“This may become a real problem when illicit drugs are discovered and the company cannot provide any tangible information or whereabout of the owners of the cargo.
“Clearing agents have the responsibilities to not only adhere to laws but to cooperate with law enforcement agents undertaking an investigation.
“The NDLEA Tincan special area command sends a strong message to all those involved in drug trafficking and other illicit activities, we intend to use every available resource to bring them to justice and put an end to their illegal operations,” he said.
He said the command would continue to enhance their intelligence capabilities, invest in modern equipment, and provide training for its officers to combat drug trafficking effectively.
“The agency urges the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities related to drug trafficking to the NDLEA or relevant law enforcement agencies. Together, we can create a safer and drug-free environment for all Nigerians,” he said. (NAN)
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