WORKS MINISTRY: Huge Debts, Slashed Budget, Burden Of A Road Builder (1)

A portion of the Ikom-Obudu Road begging for attention.

A portion of the Ikom-Obudu Road begging for attention.

• Allocated N19B capital votes, yet to receive any releases seven months into the year
• 43 captured ongoing, new projects suffer funding implementation
• Budget Office under severe migraine to raise even recurrent votes for MDAs
• Yet to release 2014 Q3 Budget implementation report

THESE are certainly not the best of times for Nigerian road users and commuters. This is so because the key agency driving the delivery of this service — the Federal Ministry of Works — appears to have gone on recess following the non-availability of funds to enable it carry out its provisional duty throughout the country.

In the current fiscal year, the ministry’s budgetary allocation was drastically reduced from N133.726 billion to N44.985 billion. If you think this is disdainful, then wait for the shocker. The capital vote, which is meant to fund these key infrastructures, was slashed from N106.321 billion (last year) to a mere N19.812 billion in this year’s budget. This is amid the heavy baggage of indebtedness to local contractors, who had already undertaken service delivery to the ministry worth about N600 billion.

The amount, which was allocated to the ministry, is yet to be disbursed due to the nation’s current sorry financial state that has affected every government agency since the third quarter of last year, when Federal Government began to struggle to cash back releases made by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Against this principle, the Federal Ministry of Works got only 29 new projects approved for it in 2015, added to the 43 ongoing ones, summing up to 72. While the 43 ongoing projects have been stalled due to lack of finance, the 29 projects approved for the 2015 year have remained on paper, because of lack of resources to flag them off throughout the federation.

It appears the liquidity problem is getting worse and may soon lead to a situation where the key implementing agencies may not be able to go out on monitoring of projects, because the overhead votes from where these are drawn, is equally drying up and coming in trickles, if information garnered at the Expenditure Department of the Budget Office of the Federation are anything to go by.

Already, the Budget Office, which is the key monitoring agency for budget implementation nationwide, has not been able to embark on any monitoring in recent times due to funds. In fact, this may have impeded the 2014 budget Implementation activities, including report of the third quarter of last year.

A top official in the Expenditure Department of the Budget Office of the Federal Government, the unit in charge of budgetary releases to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), who is in the know of votes releases, told The Guardian that it has been a Herculean task even procuring funds for recurrent expenditure, which are now in arrears.

When prodded, the official said: “Things appear to be getting out of hands. You are asking of capital votes releases, are you aware that we are now in arrears of overheads to MDAs to enable them carry out the running of government business? And you are talking of capital votes, that is unthinkable now.”

The implication of the current liquidity reality, coupled with non appointment of ministers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and other key officers to assist President Buhari think outside of the box and provide quick solution to the challenges, spells ominous signs to those expecting Godot earlier than expected.

While presenting the 2015 Federal Government Budget, the immediate past Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Bright Okogu, did not put up any pretense regarding the enormity of the country’s financial situation.

The duo said the 2015 fiscal budget, appropriately tagged, ‘Transition Budget’, was going to be more cautionary, first because of the failing crude oil prices and secondly because of the transition activities of government from one administration to another.

Okonjo-Iweala, indeed, described the period preceding 2015, as very challenging. Her words: “There have been challenges to the realisation of the 2014 Budget revenue projections. For a number of reasons, chief among which is, oil pipeline vandalisation and the resulting ‘shut-ins’, we faced a quantity shock in the sense that the quantity of oil produced averaged about 2.2 million bpd in the first and third quarters of 2014, according to NBS data, falling short of the 2.38 million bpd projected in the budget. The effects of this quantity shock is further compounded by the more recent price shock, with prices crashing from a peak of about $114 pb earlier in June, to around $58 pb now, which is below the budget benchmark price of $77.5 pb for this year. As a result, revenues will fall short of the budget targets of N3.73 trillion. As at the end of October, total revenues were about N2.72 trillion, so, we won’t know the extent of the shortfall until government closes its books at the end of the year.”

 

KOGI: Confluence Of Bad Roads, Insecurity
The greatest problem on the Abuja/Lokoja highway lies in the 1,800-metre-long Murtala Muhammed Bridge, which was constructed in 1978. The expansion joints have posed serious problems, with vibrations that are creating fear among motorists and commuters. Hence government needs to make arrangement for a new bridge before the old one caves in.

The Lokoja/Okene deadly one lane road at Obajana junction

The Lokoja/Okene deadly one lane road at Obajana junction

Completed Abuja/Lokoja road towards Lokoja axis

Completed Abuja/Lokoja road towards Lokoja axis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOKOJA, also known as the Confluence Town, where rivers Niger and Benue meet, is the capital of Kogi State. It is also a confluence of roads, being a gateway to over 11 states that traverse the state capital. Its proximity to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, gives it edge over other state capitals in terms of heavy flow of traffic.

The over 200 kilometre road that leads to the Federal Capital Territory from Lokoja had been a death trap for Nigerians for years, and attempts by successive governments to complete the project, had been a pipe dream, until the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, made good his promise to deliver the completed, ever-busy and dangerous Abuja-Lokoja highway to Nigerians.

The completion of the road has made workers in Kogi State, who are resident in FCT, to shuttle between the two, daily, as the journey can now be made in less than 90 minutes. However, the attention of the Federal Ministry of Works and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is still needed in some roads, which have totally collapsed such as, the Itobe- Ajaokuta-Okene. It is among the Federal roads in the country facing serious deterioration, which commuters have been calling government to fix, because its condition has made it a haven for armed robbers.

Motorists and other users of the Okene/Ajaokuta/Itobe Road, in Kogi State, have different tales of woes to tell from their experiences in the hands of these men of the underworld.

The importance of the road cannot be over emphasised, as it serves as a link between the north and the eastern parts of the country, passing through Ajaokuta, where the country’s biggest steel complex is located.

During the early days of the road, a journey from Okene to the East took less time, because of the smoothness of the road, making travels easy and pleasurable. However, in recent times, the once-smooth road has become a deathtrap.

Cutting through three council areas — Okene, Ajaokuta and Ofu — the road often evokes fear, as men of the underworld freely prowl, because of the bad nature of the road, which was constructed in the mid-1980, but currently ranks among the worst Federal roads in Kogi State. The road has, in recent times, claimed several lives, including prominent indigenes of the state and others.

The Kabba-Isanlu-Egbe-Ilorin Road is another bad spot in the state, though, the contract awarded by the Jonathan administration for its reconstruction, is changing its story.

The Kabba-Okene Road, which links Kogi and Kwara states; traversing through Kabba-Bunu, Yagba West and Ijumu Council, is another federal road begging for attention. Same is the Abuja-Lokoja/Okene road, which has sent many innocent souls to their early graves.

Gory news and sights of fatal accidents on these roads are daily affair, which have forced several people to avoid them. Those who ply the road are those without alternative routes to their destinations.

Some of the critical accidents that have been recorded on the road within the last three months include, the one involving a veteran journalist Kola Toluyi, former Vanguard Energy correspondent. A former Member of House of Representatives for Ajaokuta Federal Constituency, Hon. Sadiq Mohammed, was also involved in an accident on the road, which reportedly claimed the lives of five persons. Mohammed survived the crash.

On September 3, last year, the immediate past Commissioner for Education in Kogi State, Mrs. Grace Elebiyo, died in a motor accident on the Kabba-Okene Road, another federal road begging for government’s attention. She was on the entourage of the Governor Idris Wada’s “thank you” tour to Kabba.

Only recently, a fatal accident claimed more than 20 lives, while 22 cows perished in the accident along Abuja-Lokoja-Okene. The accident caused a serious traffic gridlock along the highway, as motorists had to pass through bush path to negotiate their way out of the gridlock.

The work on the Okene road is ongoing, but at a pace that cannot help the situation, considering the high traffic and its one lane nature with a lot of potholes.

The greatest problem on the Abuja/Lokoja highway lies in the 1,800-metre-long Murtala Muhammed Bridge, which was constructed in 1978. The expansion joints have posed serious problems, with vibrations that are creating fear among motorists and commuters. Hence government needs to make arrangement for a new bridge before the old one caves in.

The expansion joint problem on the bridge, which has defied maintenance attention, as the gaps keep expanding, and the vibration also reaching alarming level soon after repair work is carried out.

The Managing Director of FERMA, Engineer Gabriel C. Amuchi, who was on an inspection of the bridge early this year, told reporters that the defective expansion joints on the bridge at Koton Karfe, Kogi State has been a case for serious concern.

He said the damaged expansion joints was caused by excessive vibrations due to high vehicular loading, adding that the bridge requires replacement as a longer lasting measure

Amuchi pointed out that the vibration noticed when vehicles ply the bridge at its joints arises from the expansion gap caused by the possible weakness of the bearing beneath the bridge.

“The bridge is old, with an archaic design, as you can see that the expansion gaps are quite wide, for the vibration, we believe that when we have our bridge experts working with other engineers, we will be able to do a thorough investigation,” Amuch said.

He also said his agency would ensure speed limits are enforced on the bridge and other Federal roads across the country, noting that the Federal Ministry of Work has put all machinery in place to sanction over loaded trucks. He said over loading is a contributing factor on early dilapidation of roads.

He warned Nigerians to desist from dumping refuse beside the shoulders of the roads, as well as displaying of trade wares.

 

RIVERS: Eleme-Onne Still Deplorable
Wike Rallies Corporate Groups To The Rescue

Eleme-Onne Road

Eleme-Onne Road

Eleme-Onne Road

Eleme-Onne Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enabulele

Enabulele

THE East-West Road, no doubt, is a very significant road project in the Niger Delta states. The Section III of the project, covering Port Harcourt to Eket, is about 124-kilometre asphaltic binder and 149-kilometere earthworks, is at least, 80 per cent completed. Handled by Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), the major challenging areas on the road is section III, 0 to 15 kilometres, popularly known as Eleme-Onne Road, and as well, the Rumuokoro junction, which deserves a flyover, but has been

The Eleme-Onne road is crucial to the nation’s economy, as it leads to the oil and gas free zone, which hosts about 300 companies, including the Eleme Petrochemical, as well as the biggest refinery in the country.

Despite its importance, the deplorable state of the road has lingered on for years, invariably, compelling oil workers under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), including the Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union, to protest on several occasions, and consequently, embark on an industrial action over it.

They describe the road, as a death trap, regretting that it has claimed several lives of its members. The oil workers are not alone, commuters and business owners are also going through tough times in the area due to the deplorable state of the road. Nothing serious was done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to fix the road, which also leads to Okrika, his wife’s hometown.

Barely, two weeks to the presidential election, the then Minister of Works came and flagged off the upgrade of the road, saying the former president recognises the importance of the road, hence, the move to fix it. Sadly, since then, nothing has been done on the road.

Rumuokoro junction is another part of the road that poses a serious challenge to residents, because of the gridlock associated with the place. The junction is very strategic, as it leads to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omigwa; University of Port Harcourt and its teaching hospital and also to the Eleme /Onne Road.

Due to the road expansion between Uniport and Eleme junction, motorists now move freely from both axis, but get trapped at the Rumuokoro junction, following the failure by government to construct an overhead bridge.

Also, those who claim to control traffic at the junction worsen the situation, as instead of providing solution, they extort money from motorists and allow them to park and pick passengers, indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, having considered the importance of the Onne/Eleme road, approached companies doing business in the area to partner with the state to fix the deplorable portion of the road for the good of all.

The companies, including the Integrated Logistics Limited, Indorama Petrochemicals and four others, are collaborating with the state government to raise N3 billion to fix six kilometres portion of Eleme to Onne end of the East West Road.

During the flag off ceremony in Eleme Council of the state, Wike said that his administration came up with the idea to save the state, as the road leads to major companies sustaining the economy of the nation. He assured that the road would be completed within two months.

While thanking the interest groups that have contributed to lessen the burden on road users, the governor urged the contractors, RCC, to do quality job. Wike said, “because of this road, many companies threatened to pull out of the state. In the next two months, when the road is completed, companies will start coming back.

“Imagine the man hour wasted on the road between Port Harcourt and here because of the bad state of the road. A trip that should not take more than 20 minutes now takes hours.

“Wealth of the nation comes from here. We can’t wait for the Federal Government to come. So, let us do this, take the bull by the horn. We have partnered the investors,” he said.

According to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed at Indorama Petrochemicals Limited before the flag off ceremony, Integrated Logistics Limited will raise N1 billion, Indorama Petrochemicals Limited N500 million, West African Container Terminal Limited N500 million, Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited N300 million, Nigerian Ports Authority, N200 million, Oil/Gas free zone N200 million, while the Rivers State government will contribute N300 million to the project.

All parties in the joint project are to pay their money to RCC, the road construction company handling the project. Rivers State Government and some of the companies said they had already made payment.

Governor Wike also explained that the life span of the repair work was a minimum of two years.

Chairman of Eleme council, Mr. Philip Okparaji said the economy of the council had almost collapsed because of the deplorable state of the road. The Trade Union Congress in the state and some of the oil workers have commended the move, describing it as a welcome development.


CROSS RIVER: Groaning In Bad Roads, Canopy Bridges

Erosion threatening Calabar-Itu highway in Akwa-Ibom State

Erosion threatening Calabar-Itu highway in Akwa-Ibom State

A portion along Ugep-Obubra Road

A portion along Ugep-Obubra Road

CROSS River State has four major highways that link it with the rest of the country and Cameroun. Unfortunately, none of these four roads are in good condition. It is very safe to say that all the roads expired 40 years after construction, as they have been neglected and abandoned. Beside measures by governments of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states and FERMA to remedy the situation, motorists are still left at the mercy God.

These roads are, Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene highway, Calabar-Ikom-Makurdi highway, Calabar-Ikang highway that terminates at the Ikang River in Bakassi and the Calabar-Oban-Ekang road that leads to Cameroun.

Aside from these roads, there is the much-hyped East-West road, whose contractual agreement has been expanded to include Oron in Akwa Ibom State to Calabar in Cross River. However, as at the time of filing this report, work had not started, let alone, mobilisation of contractors to site on this axis of the road that was supposed to be an alternative highway in and out of Calabar, connecting the South South and South Eastern parts of the country.

On several occasions, the Federal Government had shifted the completion date of the road, as former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, while commissioning a N6.5 billion ring road in Calabar, on January 30, promised to complete the road when voted back into office, noting that the Uyo-Calabar axis of the road will come naturally. He said, “the East-West road was on course, and certainly, the project will come to completion this year if returned to office.”

The Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene highway, which was to be a dual carriageway, but reduced to just one lane, was constructed in the 70s. Since then, it has not had any major reconstruction, apart from occasional maintenance that allows motorists to get bye.

The Calabar-Ikom-Makurdi axis is a nightmare. This road links Calabar with the North Central and North Eastern parts of the country. The deplorable condition of this road, and the low canopy Ikom Bridge, makes it impossible for trucks with containers to pass through from the northern part of the country to do business in Calabar Port.

The General Manager of ECM Terminal, Mr. Kingsley Iheanacho, said the Calabar Port is not only saddled with problem of shallow draft, but bad roads and low bridge canopy at Ikom.

Iheanacho said, “with what is happening now, it is a good reason for government to jump-start these projects (dredging, fix bad roads, Ikom bridge canopy and others). We are not losing faith in Calabar Port, but taking the bull by the horn. The challenge is now thrown back to the government, because so many importers and exporters will want to utilise these opportunities. So, we are appealing to the government to do something fast with the nature of Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba road and the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Katsina Ala highways, which are really in a deplorable condition.”

The immediate past Governor of the state, Senator Liyel Imoke, cried out on several occasion about the poor Federal roads in Cross River, yet nothing happened. Worried by this neglect, Imoke called for some percentage of funds from the federation account to be paid to states directly to use and do federal roads in their states. The only portion of Federal roads that is good and new in Cross River is the ADB Trans-Atlantic highway from Mfum in Ikom to Bansara, Enugu State.

Equally disturbed by the poor state of Federal roads in the state, the youths from various communities in Akpabuyo Council of the state recently blocked the Ikot-Edem-Odo/Ekondo axis of the Calabar-Ikang-Bakassi highway.

One of their leaders, Mr. Edet Asuquo, said that their action was aimed at protesting the bad condition of the road, which has caused untold hardship to the people of the area. He described the Ikot-Edem-Odo/Ekondo axis, as ‘a death trap’, adding that several vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks, have often fallen on the road.

He said, “we have made several appeals to both the state and Federal Government and even the United Cement Company (UNICEM), whose trucks ply the roads, but the situation has remained the same and we have decided to take our destiny into our own hands, if this is the only way the governments will listen to us.”

Chairman of Akpabuyo Council, Dr. Patrick Okon, said he had written to the relevant authorities on the condition of the road and “FERMA came and did some patches in different portions of the road, but that was not enough. The condition of the road is too bad, especially, that particular portion (Ikot-Edem-Odo/Ekondo). But I think that the main problem now is the rain, I’m sure that as soon as they stop, FERMA will return to continue the repairs. On our part, we have done our best, but money is not forthcoming as expected.”

As an alternative and to put an end to the bad Federal roads syndrome in the state as it affects the Calabar-Ikom-Makurdi axis, the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade, has proposed to construct a 240km dual super highway.

The road, according to Ayade, will take up from Calabar through Ikom, Ogoja, Obudu and terminate at Obudu. He said, “what we have done is to take a straight line from Calabar direct to Obudu, and not through the federal highway, which is very circuitous. The construction cost will be very huge; we now decided to do it as a state road, so that it could be tolled.

“Traffic analysis seems to support the viability of that project. All experts who analyzed the project are satisfied that the project is realisable. The road networks will also act as feeder road to the north.”



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