The year, 2020, witnessed unprecedented crises occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. How did the ministry of works and housing navigate through these difficult times?
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has immensely affected the plans and programmes of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. There was reduction of government activities as a result of the total lockdown, and this has affected execution of projects. But the ministry is still on course, we have adjusted. We are now working tirelessly to complete and deliver most of our projects.
What would you say are the specific projects the government has delivered even in the face of COVID-19 pandemic?
First of all, let me make it clear how we go about doing projects. When you talk about completion of projects, you may likely mean completion of a road project which we might differ in thinking. Let me give you example, if a road starts from point A to point B with a distance of say 500 kilometres, you may find three or more different contracts on that road which we refer to as project sections, being handled by different contractors or a single contractor. Because they are different projects, even if we have completed one or two projects on that stretch out of the different projects we usually wait until we complete the remaining parts before we commission the road. Otherwise, we have many projects that have been completed. A typical example is the Kano-Maiduguri road project where we have five contracts handled by five different contractors. Two out of the five contracts are completed and the remaining three have reached advance stage, but we are delaying the inauguration of the completed section until the remaining three sections are completed so that we deliver a pleasurable travel experience and world class facility to our people travelling along that corridor. However, we have not restricted traffic movement on the completed sections
Out of the total 200,000 kilometres length of road in the country, only 35,000 kilometres belong to the Federal Government. We are currently working on 13,000 kilometres with over 700 contracts of roads and bridges on them.
Execution of road projects by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing appears too slow, why?
Unless rain recedes and the place starts getting dry, you hardly do much as far as road construction is concerned. At the time the world was opening up following COVID-19 lockdown, the rain was heavy. It was around June/July.
The lockdown affected a lot of businesses worldwide. In Nigeria, contractors were laying-off most of their staff and closing sites because they were running at a loss. Even without COVID-19, raining season is not a good period for road constructions. In most cases, we do only remedial works during that period. That is trying to protect what we have built earlier. So, these are some of the things that affected us in 2020. The time that we were supposed to work, the dry period, there was lockdown and when the lockdown was eased, there was another lockdown by rainfall which lasted up to November.