In a bid to recoup their expenditure on federal roads in their various states, more state governments have come up with claims, demanding immediate reimbursement in order to enhance further development of the states.
It was gathered that going by the claims so far since 2015, over 30 states of the country have cried out for refund of such monies which by a recent estimate may be over N600 billion in aggregate, and still counting.
If the claims made by over 30 states of the country so far since 2015 are anything to go by, the federal government may now indebted to the states to the tune of over N600 billion in aggregate, and still counting.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also learnt that many of the states had to intervene in the pitiable situation of federal roads between 2010 and 2015 when most of the federal roads were abandoned by contractors mainly due to lack of funds. As a result, most of the state governments invested in these federal projects with a view to receive reimbursement later.
During his recent tour of federal government’s road, power, and housing projects in the South East states recently, the minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashlola, was always welcomed and sent off the state governors with the demand for refund of monies spent in rehabilitating or constructing federal roads and bridges.
The claims of the three states of Ebonyi, Enugu, and Anambra states total N104 billion.
The Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, told the minister that the state was being owed N32 billion for rehabilitating federal roads in the state, in addition to the N2 billion paid earlier. Out of this, Umahi particularly mentioned the state government’s construction of three flyovers in the state which link the state to Cross River, Adamawa and Cameroon, at a cost of N910million each, totalling N2.7 billion.
“The roads, he said, include Obubura federal highway, Abakaliki-Afikpo section of Enugu-Abakaliki highway; most of these projects were both executed in the past administration.
“We will be very happy if we can get some of this funds, it will help us,” he told the minister.
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State governor advised the federal government to use concrete in construction, otherwise called rigid pavement, of roads in the state and the entire South East in order to ensure enduring road infrastructure because of the terrain which, according to him, is more prone to erosion and washouts.
He cited poor finishing and soil composition as reasons why some of the projects executed by the previous administrations failed.
On his part, the Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who expressed concern over the state of roads in the South East in general, and Enugu State in particular, made claims totalling over N22 billion as certified debt owed the state by the federal government over road infrastructure executed by the state.
The Anambra State government told the minister that, so far, the state had expended about N50 billion, which it wanted a refund from the federal government as soon as possible.
Also, while at the Bauchi State Government House during his recent
inspection tour of projects of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in North East geopolitical zone, the minister of state (I), Mustapha Shehuri was briefed by the governor of the state, Mohammed Abubakar, on the federal roads and bridge projects worth billions of naira that he had carried out for which he was yet to be reimbursed.
The governor appealed to the federal government to quickly repay the money so it can be used for other projects in the state.
Similarly, the Akwa Ibom State government had recently insisted that the federal government was owing it a total of N140 billion with regard to road projects.
It lamented that the continued delay in refunding the money by the federal government was hampering the planned execution of more projects in the state.
An anonymous official of the state government said the federal government came to the conclusion to pay in tranches, starting with N70 billion, but that the money is still being awaited.
By March 2016 when the joint House of Reps committee on Works and Finance conducted a public hearing to ascertain claims by state governments regarding their expenditures on federal road projects in their respective states, it was revealed that the federal government owed 16 states a total of N580.5 billion.
At the time, Ogun State topped the chart of indebted states with N222.977 billion while Akwa Ibom followed with N75.9 billion. The Cross River State government claimed that N25 billion was the debt owed it. It, however, affirmed that the federal government had made a refund of at about N250 million between 2006 and 2016, a top government official who pleaded anonymity revealed.
“We have received a paltry N250 million in spite of the fact that what we even requested was a very minimal amount; some states were coming up with N34billion, N54 billion. Oyo State presented a claim of N N202 billion. Considering this, ours is a very modest request, yet we can’t get it, he said.
While responding to the claims by the state governments, Fashola expressed federal government’s readiness to reimburse whatever states had spent on federal roads.
He, however, said the ministry would have to verify the claims by the governors before refunds were considered.
“I want to use the opportunity to also say that as far as roads are concerned, by law, the federal government supervises and controls the federal highways across the country and it is the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing that has control over this.
“Anybody who wants to intervene on a federal road, he must first ask for permission; if you don’t, you have broken the law and you cannot break the law in order to do good. We understand that your indigenes need the road but you can’t do evil in order to do good. We must see the standard and specifications of what you want to do and approve before you go on.”
“The president has been very clear, and I will use this opportunity say that no state government should intervene on federal roads until we have finished paying the debts for intervention of federal roads, except that state government does not want to be reimbursed,” the minister said while inspecting projects in Ebonyi.
In 2017, Fashola had stated in Enugu that the federal government would raise bonds to be able to refund billions of naira that states spent rehabilitating federal roads in their domain.
Meanwhile, when President Muhammadu Buhari visited Zamfara State in March this year, he hinted that states which had spent money to revamp federal roads would be reimbursed.
This followed the demand for a refund of N56 billion allegedly spent on federal roads in the state. The president said he had directed the minister to compile all outstanding debts owed states on account of road intervention.
The Nigerian Labour Congress, which frowned at the ugly development, had in 2016 called on the federal government to verify all such debts for payment, as it believed that the inability of the states to get their money back after intervention was responsible for the non-payment of workers’ salaries by many of the states.
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