Better days are ahead for residents, guests and travellers with the ongoing infrastructure projectsin the north – central geopolitical zone. CHIKA OKEKE writes .
The provision of steady power supply, housing and roads across the six geopolitical zones of the country is one of cardinal campaign promises of the APC – led administration.
Though most of the power and road projects under construction and rehabilitation were awarded by the previous administration but the housing projects under the National Housing Programme (NHP) is the initiative of the current administration.
In order to boost activities in the region, the federal ministry of power, works and housing re-awarded contracts for the completion of federal government projects that were abandoned in the region.
The aim of the NHP is to provide affordable homes for low income earners who constitute over 80 per cent of the workforce thereby reducing the over 17 million housing deficit dotting the landscape of Nigeria.
To achieve this objective, state governments and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were asked to provide suitable lands on January, 2016 in their state capitals and municipal council areas.
The houses which are at various stages comprises 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom semi detached bungalows.
In order to eliminate issues bordering on abandoned projects and shoddy job, the minister of state II for power, works & housing, Mr Suleiman Zarma, accompanied by staff and media team embarked on massive inspection of federal government projects in Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Newspaper revealed that seventeen years after the award of contracts for the construction of roads and bridges in Nasarawa State that the projects have suffered setbacks due to prolonged works at the sites.
This is further linked to non-payment of contractors, poor budgetary provision and wrong design benchmark.
To this end, the federal government injected over N89 billion on the projects such as the rehabilitation of Lafia-Obi-Awe-Tunga road, Nasarawa-Loko road with Alushi loop, Loko-Oweto bridge across River Benue and Wamba- Wanse road.
The first stop-over was at the Keffi substation in Nassarawa State. The 22.5MVA capacitor bank and 1&60 MVA,132&33KVA power transformer at the substation would serve Akwanga, Keffi axis and other neighbouring communities.
At the ongoing rehabilitation of Nasarawa-Loko road with Alushi loop, it was discovered that the project with contract no 5846 was awarded to Messrs Torno Internationale Limited in 2001 during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime at the cost of N5.4billion.
The contract was abandoned in 2003 having reached up to Km 21+ 200 earthworks and was re-awarded to Messrs Gitto Costruzuoni General (Nigeria) Limited on January 2006 for completion.
The 82 kilometres road which was reviewed at the cost of N15.19 billion is expected to be completed by 2018 though it is presently at 15.41 per cent completion.
The project manager, Engr Ephraim Tewolede, stated that traffic congestion slowed down the pace of work at the project site.
The minister of state II for power, works & housing, Mr Suleiman Zarma, noted that the 2018 delivery date for the rehabilitation of Nasarawa-Loko road with Alushi loop was sacrosanct except if the contractor applied for extension of the project.
At the site of Loko-Oweto bridge across River Benue, with contract number 6108, it was awarded to Messrs Reynolds Construction Company (Nig) Limited at the cost of N36.1 billion on November 2, 2011, during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
The contract was however reviewed to N51.6billion in June 2015, with the extended completion date of November 29, 2018.
The work which included the construction of 7.5km dual carriage road is at 82. 63 per cent completed even as the contractor has completed all pier segments, pier segments extensions, closures, expansion beams and expansion joint on bridge number 1 (East) and bridge number 2 (East and West) thereby opening the bridges to ease construction traffic.
The federal controller of works, Nassawara State, Engr. Wasiu Taiwo, noted that the supervision consultant, SIRAJ Nigeria Limited suspended their supervision consultancy services on the project with effect from March 13, 2017, due to non-extension of their supervision services which elapsed since December, 2015.
Zarma commended RCC for embracing local content in their project saying that about 700 Nigerian staff are currently employed by the company.
While noting that President Muhammadu Buhari paid the contractors to resume work at the site, he stated that with the project that Nigerians have benefitted from transfer of knowledge.
He disclosed that the bridge was partly funded by SUKUK fund, the Islamic bank loan introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The project manager of RCC, Eyas Nassar, pointed out that they were working to beat the expected completion date of November 29.
Also, the safety officer of RCC, Mr Abdulsamad Dantoso Mohammed, commended the RCC and federal government for giving him the opportunity to work at the site adding that he had gained new expertise.
It was also learnt that work commenced for the rehabilitation of Lafia- Obi-Awe-Tunga road with contract number 6065, awarded on September 20, 2010, at the cost of N7.9billion.
The 84. 5km road awarded to Messrs Triacta Nigeria Limited is substantially completed and due for commissioning soon.
The construction of Wamba- Wanse road was awarded to Messrs Uniglobe Construction Engineering Limited with contract number 6258.
The project which commenced on January 24, 2015, is expected to be completed on June 29, 2019, at the cost of N14.21billion.
A visit to Benue State National Housing Project (NHP) revealed that work commenced in the first quarter of 2017, even as there are 76 units/ flats at the site.
About 19 building contractors are expected to deliver 2 blocks of 1 bedroom semi-detached bungalows, 24 blocks of 2 bedroom semi-detached bungalows and 12 blocks of 3 bedroom semi-detached bungalows.
The team leader of NHP Benue State , Arc. Ibechile Egwudale, pointed out that the herdsmen/farmers clashes which erupted in some local government area in the state including Makurdi local government and Utur area negatively affected the progress of the work.
He maintained that the foundation type of the project was changed from the designed strip foundation to raft beam foundation due to the result of soil test which revealed clayish and swampy nature of the soil.
Egwudale stated that villagers had closed the building site severally due to non-payment of compensation for the acquired land which he pegged at N13million per plot of land even as he hinted that the villagers had compelled some contractors to pay as high as N950 million before gaining access to the site.
The youth leader, Comrade Dennis Akonba, denied claims of extortion at the site saying that the villagers reached an agreement with the contractors to provide security at the site which was why they paid the N950 million.
According to him, “We have been meeting with relevant authorities to resolve the issues of compensation but it failed but if not for the respect we have for federal government, we will not allow contractors to enter the site and this may be the last time.”
The rehabilitation of 9th mile- Otukpo-Markurdi road with contract number 5983 was originally awarded to Bulletine Construction Nigeria Limited before substituting with Rockbridge Construction Limited.
The 40km road traverses Port Harcourt in south-south to Gamboru in the north-east and was awarded at the cost of N4.2billion, just as the project commenced on May 28, 2009.
Also, the construction of Oshegbudu-Oweto with contract number 6265 was awarded to CGC Nigeria Limited on February 17, 2015, at the cost of N7.9 billion, with expected completion date of December 31, 2018.
The inspection also extended to the ongoing dualisation of Otukpo township road which was awarded to Rockbridge Construction Nigeria Limited at the cost of N9.9billion on January 24, 2015.
The 47km road is expected to be completed on July 22, 2019 , though the contractor suspended work on July 31, due to heavy rain and non-payment for certified works.
The outstanding were paid on January 2018 while the contractor was yet to fully resume work.
The minister who was on a courtesy visit to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State requested for more lands to continue with the second phase of NHP as well as for the family home fund projects.
He enjoined the state government to assist in recovering the right of way at the Otukpo road since the residents encroached on the land.
Governor Ortom appreciated the federal government for citing the project while assuring of more lands for the second phase of the national housing programme.
He vowed to resolve the issues of compensation to allow unhindered access into the site.