By Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
At last the Federal Government has released the sum of N20billion for the completion of the East-West Road project that was awarded in 2006.
The 657 kilometer dual carriage stretching from Calabar in Cross River State to Warri in Delta State was awarded by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in the height of militancy in the Niger Delta but was later abandoned.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, disclosed this at a meetingwith the Managing Director of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Federal Ministry of Finance and the Contractors handling Section I-IV of the East-West Road Project.
The Minister ordered contractors handling the project to return to site “for the speedy completion of the project in line with the Presidential directives that Section IV of the road be completed on time to enable the people of the region experience the dividend of democracy has promised during his electioneering campaign”.
Akpabio urged the contractors to cooperate with the Ministry and return back to site, explaining that “the Ministry will soon come out with a plan of releasing N20billion to the contractors after signing the tripartite agreement in line with Presidential directives, which transferred the project to the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund (PIDF) under the NSIA”.
According to him, “the project which was first awarded in 2006 was scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, but this could not be achieved due to inadequate funding. The physical progress of the East-West Road when the project was transferred to the newly created Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in 2008 was just 8% of work done by Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
“However, additional funding received between 2012 and 2015 from the African Development Bank (AFDB) and Subsidy Reinvestment and Development Programme (SURE-P) enabled the completion of two Sections which are now ready for commissioning. The outstanding Sections and recently awarded upgrade contracts were rescheduled for completion by 2020”.
He added that “the overall project achievement stands at an average of 76% of the total 676km (338×2) carriageway for Section I-IV, a total of 611.05km of earthworks, 584.60km of asphaltic binder course, and 523.75km of wearing course, 1143 no. of culverts and a total of 41nos. bridges (total length of 5,483m) with the second 850m Imo River Bridge, Okoso, Mbiama, Patani-Eket and Kaima Bridges have been substantially completed as at March, 2019.”
In his remarks, the Managing Director, NSIA, Uche Orji, commended the Minister for his renewed energy and commitment to the completion of the East-West Road to accomplish the objective set by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Orji noted that NSIA involvement in the project is to manage the PIDF, set-up by the President in 2018, to manage key projects of this administration which includes the East-West Road, Abuja-Kano Highway, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Third Niger Bridge and the Mabilla Power Project. He explained that for the project to be viable, they would be tolled projects to be covered by tripartite agreement.