The federal government yesterday accused host communities of frustrating its efforts to provide infrastructure across the country through unnecessary demands for compensation.
Through the minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), the government declared that the host communities’ requests for compensation had led to the non-completion of several projects in various parts of Nigeria.
Citing the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the government hinted that the compensation being demanded by the host communities had risen to N10 billion.
The government, therefore, pleaded with the affected communities to support its efforts at constructing roads for Nigerians by asking for affordable and reasonable compensation.
Fashola told State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, that the poor state of Nigerian roads despite a plethora of approvals by the council was due to funding gap as he noted that most times, funds are not made available to contractors for such jobs.
He said that even though road contracts worth N300 billion were awarded by the ministry last year, the releases by the government fell short of the total amount.
The minister hinted that his office was yet to receive any funds since his reappointment as minister as paper works were still ongoing.
According to Fashola, some of the ongoing projects in the ministry were being executed by the contractors on goodwill even as criticisms trailed borrowing by the government to fund infrastructure during its first term.
He said that “getting FEC approvals is one half of the story, but we don’t get all of the cash. Even the local communities are not helping issues. As we speak, some people are asking us to pay N10 billion as compensation for the 2nd Niger Bridge. There is a gap between infrastructure needs and income. People are also complaining that government is borrowing too much.
“We have heard that funds have been released, but we are yet to get anything. I have not received any money since I came to office, this time around,” the minister said.
Fashola also identified obsolete rates, under-budgeting and under-funding as the major causes of abandoned projects in Nigeria.
He dismissed claims that the government has so far abandoned about 20,000 projects approved by the National Assembly.
The minister said: “I think first of all, it is important we all speak the same language. There is a clear distinction between uncompleted and abandoned projects. First, my ministry does not have 20,000 projects. The right question should be what are we doing about completing projects?
“One of the things we have done is finding out why projects are not completed. In some cases, the rates have become obsolete so the price range has changed, cement price has changed, the exchange rate has changed, inflation has gone into the quantity it was awarded before it 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,” he said.
Approves N8.2bn For Roads
The minister explained that FEC yesterday approved the sum of N8.2 billion for roads projects, adding that two of the approvals were to revise the estimates of cost to enable the contractors continue work.
He said that the council approved N519 million revision of contract sum of Oba Nnewi Okigwe Road to cater for the change in cost of materials since the project was awarded in 2009. The contract sum was revised from N3.7 billion to N4.3 billion.
FEC also revised the cost of N2.052 billion for 67 kilometres Alasi-Ugep Road in Cross River State. The council approved a revision from N9.16 billion to 11.22 billion.
Fashola added that the council approved the change of the contractor for the Chachangi Bridge linking Takum and Wukari in Taraba State and rewarded it at the cost of N2.132 billion.
Similarly, FEC approved the Katsina Ala Bridge project for N3.576 billion, which covers its total repair, change of the expansion joints, bearings and the rehabilitation of the 3.2 kilometres access road at Ugbema junction in Benue State.
During his briefing, the Youths and Sports Development minister, Sunday Dare, said that Nigeria’s recent outing in Morocco would serve as a benchmark for the 2020 Olympics preparations.
Team Nigeria finished second at Rabat, Morocco behind Egypt in the just-concluded African Games where it won 121 medals – 46 gold, 33 silver and 47 bronze.
Egypt emerged top with 99 gold medals, 96 silver and 69 bronze to bring their total medals to 264. South Africa came third with 87 medals.
He said that the athletes would leave for the Doha meet on Saturday, adding that the outcome would determine Nigeria’s performance in the 2020 June Olympics.
Govs Blame Elite For Worsening Poverty
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode John Fayemi, has placed the blame for the widespread poverty in Nigeria on the political elite.
He, therefore, called on the politicians to either cultivate imbibe and internalise democracy as a culture or continue to incur the wrath of the people.
Highlighting areas that need urgent radical improvement in the nation’s body politic, Governor Fayemi said that “until our democratisation process becomes an everyday culture, it would continue to be met with a dissonant disposition among the people generally.”
He lamented that the political elite democratised poverty instead of democratising hope.
In a statement issued by the head of media affairs of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo, the governor who was the guest speaker at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, Plateau State on Tuesday, said that although there was cause to assess Nigeria’s democracy with some trepidation and anxiety, because the journey had exerted sweat and blood from all Nigerians, a lot more needed to be done to move the country forward “because it is still an unfinished job.”
The occasion was the 2019 Lecture of Executive Course 41 where the governor spoke on “Twenty Years of Democracy: Looking backward, moving forward.”
On what he intends to leave behind as his legacy after his term as chairman of the NGF, he bared his mind on two most passionate subjects of his.
Fayemi mentioned the rebranding of governors’ image before Nigerians on the one hand and decried the low enrolment in schools nationwide, which he promised to work hard to address.
He underscored the important role that education plays in the future of a society and security, but explained that, it’s not just the elite that should carry the can for insecurity in the country, but all Nigerians, because “culpability comes from both sides.”
The participants had put Kayode’s foot to fire with their engaging questions, delving into how governors see themselves, why successive governments jettison or totally discard their predecessors’ programmes and why policies are not institutionalised.
When it was time for him to respond, the NGF chairman said that “Institutionalisation is an elephant in the room because before now our governments do not have long-term development plans.”
Fayemi goes ahead to challenge the nation’s political elite to entrench rules along the sides of long-term development planning.
He regretted that this is not likely to happen because the interests of the elite are consistently being mistaken for national interest.
“The system itself is rigged against institutionalisation,” Fayemi said and attributed the misnomer to the fact that many now see politics as their professions. “If you’re in politics and you have an alternative address, politics becomes easier.”
Governor Fayemi, who spoke frankly on the state of things at the subnational level, explained that the prevailing situation in states where personal interests are being mistaken for national interests cannot continue to endure.
Stressing that “we need an elite consensus that defines national interest,” he maintained that “some interests are masquerading as national interests, leaving the national question unsettled.”
The NGF chairman also shed more light on the NFIU order which seeks to compel disbursements of local government funds directly to the councils from the Federation Account. He said the matter is still in court as the governors are asking the court to clearly define the powers of the NFIU.
Onhis efforts to restore the people’s confidence in their governors, Fayemi explained that the people’s fears on the councils’ funds were unfounded. He said the quality of people in the leadership of the country, especially governors had improved significantly, stressing that “governors are not out to pilfer public funds.”
At a Forum at the University of Lagos a fortnight ago where he delivered another lecture, Fayemi had admonished that “if you, referring to the university community, men of intellect and integrity do not join politics, you shall be ruled by your inferiors.”
The former teacher and activist, at the commencement of his speech described NIPSS as “a home away from home” because some decades ago he had been there to work on his dissertation at the institute’s library. He also stated that while he had delivered a paper on security at the institute earlier this year, a team of participants had also been in Ekiti State recently and they were warmly received by his government.
The institute’s director-general, Prof. Abu Galadima, thanked Fayemi for honoring their invitation.
He said that NIPPS was working at expanding the content of the institute’s courses and the number of participants to 78 from the current 66.
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