Minister of Works Dave Umahi has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to banning asphalt for road construction.
He disclosed this to State House correspondents on Tuesday after meeting with President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa.
Umahi also emphasized the need for contractors to provide a 15-year guarantee for their projects.
He alleged a ‘gang up’ against this policy by ‘quick-fix contractors’ and ordered a shift towards concrete pavement.
Umahi acknowledged President Tinubu’s support and the approval of crucial requests, which he believes will revitalize Nigeria’s road infrastructure.
He also stated that his ministry would report erring civil servants to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) if they continued to sabotage the ministry’s efforts.
He further mentioned that the ministry had set up taskforces in all the locations where these approvals were made by Mr. President to ensure that, within three months, they would conclude all that is needed based on his approval.
The minister also issued a warning to foreign contractors, emphasizing that it would not be business as usual and urging them to respect the laws of the country.
He pointed out that the country inherited a massive 18,897-kilometer road network project valued at N14 trillion, with a funding gap of N6 trillion as of May 29, 2023.
Umahi expressed concerns over the viability of asphalt in regions with high rainfall and underground water, leading to road failures.
He urged contractors to guarantee the durability of asphalt projects for at least 15 years and obtain written assurances from reputable insurance companies.
He said “but let me clarify a number of issues especially for the benefit of Nigerians and our stakeholders. There have been a kind of campaign by some quick fix contractors and some elements you know, within who do not wish us well, who want us to continue with the old order.
“But we can’t continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. The truth is that our roads are not good. The truth is that the past government, earmarked a number of roads, which Mr. President inherited, close to is about 18,897 kilometer of road totalling N14Trillion.
“By the mechanism of funding, by the ingenuity of our President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We are sure of funding of about N5.1 trillion then leaving N6trillion gaps. And this N6trillion funding gap is as May 29, 2023.
“And so if we go by the level of argumentation and price increases, which is one of the basis of our fight, if there is anything like fight, is that we don’t have this N6tn to complete this project based on what we heard it.
“And if we allow the escalation both in terms of scope and in terms of variation of price, then we are very sure that we will not be able to complete even 20% of the present roads going on.
“And I want to thank Mr. President very highly. He is a man that is committed to change things in this country. Any other president would have come and say oh, let me start my own projects. But no, he has not started any new projects.
“He is committed to the completion of this 18,897 kilometer of roads. And I want to thank him, it shows that governance is continuity and it shows that it’s all about the welfare of the people.
“So where we are now is a fight that if you want to do Asphalt work, nobody has told contractors not to do as hard work, but that conditions.
“Nigerians are witnesses to the failure of Asphalt, especially in the north central part of this country and the entire southern part of this country. And the reason is not far fetched. We have a lot of rainfall in this locations.
“We have very high in underground water. And so Asphalt definitely is a big problem. But if you insist you want to do asphalt that’s not a problem, but the conditions are that you will guarantee Nigerians that when you finish this asphalt road, job, which you are very sure it will not fail within at least 15 years.
“The design shelf life is 20 years but assure us in writing from a reputable insurance company and from their own company that this road will not fail within 15 years.
“We are witnesses to see all the road constructed from Warri to Bayelsa to Port Harcourt, the east-west road. They have completely failed, they are constructed on asphalt. Sometimes they construct this roads below the floodplain.
Furthermore, the minister cited the fluctuating cost of bitumen, which has risen from N576,000 to N1 million per tonne within six weeks, as a key factor.
He emphasized the need for contracts to limit variations to 5% and for contractors to refrain from using adulterated bitumen.
Umahi proposed concrete pavement as a more durable alternative, citing successful projects in Lagos and APAPA-Oshodi Expressway.
He highlighted the economic benefits, including job creation and the potential for 10 cement factories to boost local production.