N726b East-West road project designed to fail, says FG

Minister of Niger Delta of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani

• Approves $500m rails contracts, N16 billion for NDDC building • To prosecute 40 contractors
The Federal Government yesterday said that the East-West road project that was awarded in 2006 by the then administration was designed to fail.

The project, a 657 kilometer dual carriageway stretching from Calabar in Cross River State to Warri in Delta State and valued at N726 billion, was approved by the Federal Government at the height of agitations by youths in the Niger Delta area.

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Osani Osani, who spoke to State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the presidential villa, Abuja yesterday said that the current administration was only poised to correct the wrong of the past and the ensure completion of the project.

The immediate past administration led by former President Goodluck Jonathan had increased the distance covered by the project by an additional 23.9km to link Calabar with Oron.

Specifically, the road was conceived to link all major oil towns, beginning from Oron, Uyo to Calabar and the Atlantic Ocean, up to Itu and Eket in Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt and Ahoada (Rivers), Kaiama (Bayelsa), and Warri (Delta), up to Benin.

The project cost, which was initially at N211 billion, was revised to N726 billiom

The minister said council also approved a total of N16 billion for the construction of a new headquarters for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. It will save the NDDC from paying huge rent on its head office in Port Harcourt, which currently stands at N2 billion per annum.

He revealed that between 30 to 40 names of contractors would be sent to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for prosecution for their roles in the road and other key projects awarded in the region by previous administrations.

On why government’s attention is on a new headquarters over the East-West Road, Usani said that the N16 billion would not be enough to complete the road, which has already gulped N300 billion.

According to him, the present administration has made significant progress in the past two years to correct the fundamental errors in the design of the East-West Road, for which over N30 billion would be needed to complete.

“Some times when questions or concerns comefrom the public, you provoke our thoughts to get back to our sense of history.

“The East West road is a project that has been messed up from inception, naturally designed to fail by all the agreements and designed concepts that we have seen. And here we are making sure that we put things in order so that we can see the terminal point of that project.”

On whether there were plans by the government to prosecute those responsible for the faulty design of the contracts, he said “Right now, I have gotten some of these contracts and I’m sending them to the EFCC, not just for the East West road.

“I have got a minimum of 30 to 40 contractors that I am sending to EFCC. On the East West road, I have taken a private consultant to review the whole cost, so some contractors will obviously refund money for which the present cost will be discounted.

“So when you see contractors ganging up and publishing things against me, you should know the foundation. But as far as I am here, I will do something that I feel is right.”

FEC yesterday also approved contract worth $500million for the purchase of rolling stock, coaches and wagons for the Lagos-Ibadan and Warri Etakpe rail line.

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