The Nigerian government says the 2nd Niger Bridge linking the South-east and South-south states is now at 91 per cent completion.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this on Thursday during the weekly ministerial briefing at the State House, Abuja.
He said the bridge, which was billed for completion in February 2022, was delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown and EndSARS protests.
The briefing was to enable him provide further updates on key collaborations between the federal government and the state governments in the implementation of some of the major reforms being executed by the ministry and the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).
He listed the 2nd Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria expressways as the main projects being executed through the PIDF. He said two of the projects would be completed this year while the Abuja to Kano road would be completed next year.
“The Lagos-Ibadan expressway will be delivered this year, subject to how we navigate the pricing issues. Second Niger Bridge also this year, while the main carriageway of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano expressway is scheduled for completion by the second quarter of 2023 before the president leaves office at the end of his tenure.”
He said the Abuja to Kano road has ancillary works that cannot be finished next year.
“There is ancillary work that cannot be finished next year; the service lanes and truck parks, toll plazas but that will continue because the funding is properly structured and the NSI is trying to mobilize some private capital now into the project,” he said.
According to the works minister, thousands of jobs have been created through the execution of the three projects.
“The three projects have been able to collectively create 5,246 direct jobs and 13,998 indirect jobs. This is a major link chain of the economic agenda of this country because right now people are getting something to do. If you analyze the GDP results sectorally, you will see that mining is thriving, you will see that the construction sector is booming, you will see petroleum products also booming, this is part of the reason why.
“And then you see the food vendors also making money because at each construction site, people must eat twice a day. A plate of food was N250 before the cost of living started going up.
“This is a major economic driver. We focus more on the roads but you will see the millions or hundreds of thousands of tons of cement that are churned out form the cement industry, where they are now working at full steam and many people are employed there.
“Each of these projects has a bank guarantee for the money they get and such guarantees are not given for free. The contracts also have a 7.5 percent Value Added Tax, which when collected, 85 per cent of it goes to the States,” he said.
The minister said the three projects were chosen based on President Buhari’s priority.
“When I was first appointed minister, one week after I was sworn-in as minister in 2015, I got an invitation from the Villa that the president wanted to see me. On getting to his office, he said to me; Ilorin-Jebba, do you know what is going on there, I said no, then he asked me to visit there and resolve the problem. For 2nd Niger Bridge, ‘I want a brief summary of what is happening there, it is a priority for me, I want to do it.’
“He also said ‘Lagos-Ibadan, why has it taken so long? You are from Lagos. I want a brief and I want a solution to that road. These are my priorities. Just go and give Nigerians good roads.’ So the projects were the president’s directive. In the process, Abuja-Kano started deteriorating and he added it to our plate. So these are presidential directives and mandates,” the minister narrated.
The minister also spoke about the challenges the government is facing in executing the three projects.
“On the second Niger bridge, one of the challenges we are facing on the Anambra side of the project is the stay at home order on Mondays and every day we don’t work there is time lost.
“On the 2nd Niger Bridge, we are going to shut down the power supply from one of the power plants for maintenance. On Abuja-Kano road, we have to relocate transmission lines; we have to move people who have set up markets along the roads and so on. So these are some of the challenges we are facing and then there are compensation issues and we are working with governors, who control land in their states to help us overcome these local issues,” he said.
At the event, Mr Fashola also warned motorists not to exceed 100km/h on completed roads, to avoid crashes.
He said the warning became necessary when he got messages from some of the road users commending the quality of work done, who said they were doing 150-km/h due to the smoothness of the roads.
He also decried the sale of petrol and other petroleum products on the roads, saying they deteriorate the roads faster.
The PIDF started in 2017 as a response to the insufficiency of national annual appropriation to meet the capital and infrastructure commitments of government.
The Fund is made of returns on investments like dividends from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas programme as well as looted funds recovered by the government, which are ploughed back into infrastructure development.