The Federal Government has taken some steps to address the challenges that led to the 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 Thursday in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, said construction was stopped last month because the communities around the road threatened the workers following lack of compensation for their farmlands, homes and shrines that were reportedly affected as a result of the construction work.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the government has set up a committee that will ensure that by next week, all those entitled to compensation will be paid, even as he appealed to the people to cooperate with CHEC to continue work on the site as it will 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 Markudi -Keffi Road, at the section 4 in the Benue axis, will have to resume, adding that he 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 has been done and money has been released, promising that the payment will 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 will be beneficial to 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. I won’t side with the state and allow my people to be shortchanged,” the governor added.
He, however, warned miscreants who might seize the opportunity to threaten the workers with kidnap, to desist from such acts as they will be squarely dealt with.
Project Manager of CHEC, Li Qiang Qiang, said the outcome of the meeting raised much hope about the project completion.
He said, “the project started on April 1, 2019. Two years have passed. I hope that 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 to use, it can effectively reduce the incidence of traffic accidents and play a positive role in promoting economic development.”
He also praised the communities along the road for the patience on the demolition along the road for the contruction to take place, saying “the project demolition has been carried out for a long time, and residents along the road have given a greater understanding , support and established a good friendship.”
The dualisation of 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 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.