Minister of Works, Engineer Dave Umahi, has said the current administration inherited at least N14 trillion worth of 2,604 road projects covering 18,000 kilometers from the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
He stated this at the weekend after his first briefing session with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“The ministry inherited a total of 2,604 projects, worth N14tn and for 18,000 kilometers of road, that’s what we had,” he said.
Umahi said his ministry had paid N4trillion of the N14trillion owed to contractors constructing various road projects nationwide since assuming office on August 21.
Umahi said, “Between when we came on board and now, about N4trillion has been paid. And so that is a balance of N10trillion remaining.”
The former governor of Ebonyi State hinted on the plan to terminate some road projects that had lingered for about two decades and were never appropriated.
Umahi, who disclosed that his ministry had identified funding sources to offset N4trillion of its outstanding debts to contractors, added that there would still be a funding gap of N6trillion.
“Now, in this N10trillion, we have defined sources that could fund up to N4trillion. So, we have a funding gap of about N6trillion. That is what is there now.
“We have a number of programmes 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,” he added.
Umahi, who rued the current appropriation system for federal road projects, said the piecemeal disbursement of funds to contractors was affecting delivery and had urged President Tinubu to engage with the National Assembly to priotitise projects.
“Just look at over 2600 projects, 18,000 kilometers of roads, and N14trillion. 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,” Umahi said.
He said 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 also pledged 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.”
Umahi said he had received the president’s backing and would proceed with the plan to use reinforced concrete despite fights from contractors.
He said, “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.”
The minister, while using a solidarity visit paid to the president last Thursday by a delegation from Rivers State as an example, said he had written the NNPC to release monies for the East-West Road.
“I know that’s what the Rivers people mentioned when they came to see Mr. President. So that road is going to be on concrete.”
Umahi said he would now focus on the South West, particularly Lagos State, where works are ongoing on the Third Mainland Bridge, Carter Bridge, Liverpool Bridge, the Eko Bridge and Marine Bridge, having toured the South East and parts of the North West and North Central.