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FG identifies bane of highways, roads

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Inability to emulate petrodollar countries by adequately invests on the infrastructure of Nigeria’s roads, as being done by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, among others, was identified as a major reason for the low quality and less commendable state of the country’s road infrastructures. These include the highways, bridges and other road furnitures.

This was part of observations made by the stakeholders at the 24th National Council for Works, held in Kebbi State last week, where discussions centred on development around getting “Value for Money in Nigerian Highways”, which was the theme of the event.

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The Minister of Power,Works and Hiusing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, who kick-started the event, also listed other challenges where stakeholders must work together to improve upon in order to remove avoidable costs from road and related infrastructure development.

Among the identified challenges include land issues, compensation, and court cases that he said compound the cost of construction. Besides, he listed conflicts and security breaches which he said pose risks to construction workers and sometimes, escalates costs in many ways, such as insurance, payment of security personnel, delays to project completion, to mention a few;

Others are absence of uniform public sector procurement prices(UPSPP); lack of proper project planning, development and supervision; post-construction maintenance of scheduled and unscheduled natures to achieve asset life cycle expectation and performance, especially, on some critical bridges such as Tamburawa, Tatabu, Third Mainland, Niger Bridge, KotonKarfe , Ijora, Isaac Boro.

He also observed that Government Treasury Operations (GTO) and Payment Systems, review and reform will contribute to achieving better value for money in road development project, including Increasing local content in Nigeria road construction and implementing Presidential Order, among other issues.

In his discourse, Fashola asked a question which he said is penitent, as to why Nigeria has bad roads after almost a decade of prolific receipts from oil boom when oil prices were at $100 per barrel?  It was partly because Nigeria did not invest her money on roads infrastructure in the way that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, to mention a few oil-exporting countries have done. He noted.

According to him, despite that roads are assets that live for longer periods of time and deliver collective national benefits in term of movement of goods and services and contribution to the GDP, it is doubtful that the country got optimum value for those oil incomes between 2007 and 2015.

“In other words, instead of investing our oil receipts on roads, and long-term assets, of infrastructure, we spent the money on recurrent items of expenditure. This is clearly discernible from the Annual Federal Budgets of the past era, where the maximum provision for capital expenditure struggled to exceed 20 percent, when they seldom went beyond the threshold of 15percent. And what was ultimately released by way of cash was scarcely ever in excess of 50percent

“The result of these, of course was that by 2015 when I took office, there were over 200 roads whose contract values were in excess of N2 trillion and for which payments had only cumulated to about N500 billion”, said the Minister, stating that some of these roads had been awarded for upwards of 10 years.

 

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