The federal government has taken steps to address the challenges that led to last month’s stoppage of the dualisation work at the Benue section of the Makurdi-Keffi expressway being constructed by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).
The government during a conciliation meeting on Wednesday in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, said construction was stopped because communities along the road threatened the workers following non-payment of compensation for their farmlands, homes and shrines that were reportedly affected as a result of the construction work.
The minister of works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the government had set up a committee that would ensure that by next week, all those entitled to compensation would be paid, even as he appealed to the people to cooperate with CHEC to continue work on the site as it would boost the socio-economic life of the people.
The minister, who was represented by a delegation led by Ishaq Mohammed, noted that the dualisation of the Makurdi-Keffi road at Section 4 in the Benue axis would have to resume, adding that they had met with stakeholders in the state to address the issue.
“The minister has already set up a compensation payment committee and they have worked out modalities. The committee will commence payment next week,” he said.
He added that enumeration had been done and money had been released, promising that the payment would go directly to the beneficiaries and not through a third party as being speculated.
Also speaking at the meeting, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom appealed to the people to allow work to continue, stressing that when the project is completed, it would help the communities.
“There is standard procedure for compensation which is also part of the contract, including the construction of bridge and there is timeline for the construction. The minister has promised me that by next week, the payment of the compensation will start.
“I want them to resume work because there is a timeline to this project,” he said, adding, “I won’t preside over the state and allow my people to be shortchanged.”
He warned miscreants who might seize the opportunity to threaten the workers with kidnap to desist from such act as they would be squarely dealt with.
Li Qiang Qiang, project manager of CHEC, said the outcome of the meeting raised much hope about its completion.
He said; “The project started on April 1, 2019. Two years have passed. I hope the project can be completed as soon as possible with the support of all parties. I believe that after the project is completed and handed over for use, it can effectively reduce the incidence of traffic accidents and play a positive role in promoting economic development.”
He praised residents for their patience on the demolition along the road for the construction to take place.
The dualisation of the Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road project was awarded in May 2015, and it commenced in April 2019. It is billed for completion in 2022, currently at 47 per cent completion.
About 85 per cent of the project’s funding was sourced from the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of China, while the federal government of Nigeria is responsible for 15 per cent balance as counterpart funding.