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800 road contracts awarded under Buhari’s administration, Fashola reveals, says no housing crisis in Nigeria 

*FG to unveil new policy on toll gates soon

From JAMES NWABUEZE, Abuja

Over 800 contracts to construct new roads, reconstruct or rehabilitate old ones, have been awarded by the federal government since the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration six years ago, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed.

Speaking as a guest at the weekly ministerial briefing organized by Presidential Communication Team at the presidential villa, Abuja, earlier today, Fashola also denied that Nigeria is suffering from any housing crisis, insisting what people see as housing crisis is the demand and supply problem created by urbanization, that is, the so-called rural-urban drift.

“The number of contracts awarded is 800 not 800 projects. Sometimes within a road you might have multiple contracts. For instance Kano to Maiduguri there are five different contracts that are unique. If you look at the Lagos Ibadan, there are two contracts there, for Enugu Port Harcourt there are five contracts there. So each one has designated supervising project officer, so in that sense it is right to say we have 800 plus contracts,” the Works Minister said.

The minister said the work done consists of highways and or with bridges, covering a distance of over 13, 000 kilometers.

Debunking claims that Nigeria has 17 million housing deficit, Fashola pointed out that a country with many empty houses cannot be classified as suffering from housing deficit, pointing out that though people squat in the cities, it does not amount to housing deficit in the country.

According to the Works Minister, it is illogical to say “we have housing deficit when you have empty houses.”

No such deficit exists anywhere in the world. We are not in a housing crisis. Housing shortages that exist are in urban centers not in rural areas. The problem is as a result of urbanization where people move from rural to urban centers,” he stressed.

Fashola said he had consulted with some International organizations including the African Development Bank (AfDP) and confirmed that the Nigerian housing deficit reports were not correct, advising Nigerians to disregard the claim that the nation was suffering from a whopping 17 million housing units “because it is not true.”

Fashola explained that the actual housing deficit in Nigeria could not be ascertained until another census had been conducted in the country.

On infrastructural development, he extolled the administration of Buhari for taking bold steps to execute projects that seemed impossible for previous governments, citing the second Niger Bridge, Lagos Oworinshoki road, third mainland bridge repairs, Kano-Abuja road among others.

He, however, complained that his ministry was often faced with budget deficit as the money meant for the ministry to meet its contractual obligations was usually not fully released, stressing that  despite the current administration’s achievement in infrastructure, budget deficits remained a challenge.

The Minister explained that in 2015 for instance, he inherited a budget of N18 billion but as at today it has risen to over N200 billion.

He said: “The budget for roads in Nigeria in 2015 that we inherited was N18 billion for all Nigerian roads. 2015 was also the year that I left office as Governor of Lagos so the budget for Lagos State roads for that year was about N70 billion and it was not enough so I don’t see how 18 would have been enough for the whole of Nigeria.

“But the first roads budget for the Buhari administration was N260 billion the next, N240 billion, next N356 billion then we have come down to N233, N237 and so on and so forth. We are doing a lot more with less resources.”

Fashola also highlighted what the ministry has done in the past six years, even as he disclosed that six new federal secretariats arising from the creation of new states where assets were separated were currently being constructed.

“The ones in Anambra and Zamfara are the likely to finish this year. The one in Nasarawa and Bayelsa will run into probably next year while Ekiti is in the race to finish next year,” he said.

Fashola added that already, there are various housing projects spread across 34 States, adding that the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is currently rehabilitating about 13, 000 kilometers of road in various parts of the country.

“FERMA, our maintenance agency is already acting on over 5000 kilometers of road and 8000 kilometers of highway maintenance which is part of job creation as well,” he said.

The Works and Housing Minister also stated that the administration has been able to confront roads that he tagged as stubborn, which are now being used by Nigerians.

“We have been able to execute some of Nigeria’s most difficult projects that have defied solution from previous administrations and one of them is the Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan expressway, which has been there for long since 1999 and it was under this administration that construction started and I say that emphatically. Before that it was maintenance but we are nearing completion now.

“Bodo Bonny was awarded three times unsuccessfully but this is the forst time that actual construction is now going on; one bridge has been finished, second one is in progress and several kilometers of road network are already being constructed.

“And of course the 2nd Niger Bridge has been in the news for a long time especially during election campaign period nut now all of the structures, piles, everything is complete now it’s just to finish the deck and the link road to Owerri. Abuja-Kano-Kaduna highway was last acted upon in 1991; it was awarded I think in 1985 by the Babangida administration and since 1991 no action there but we are working on that now.

“Then who can forget the Apapa-Oworonshoki expressway where many containers had fallen down killing people and damaging properties in the process. Since 1975 when it was completed, nothing of substance has been done but now we have a final solution because it is now being fully reconstructed with concrete and 29 out of 35 kilometers have been completed,” the Works Minister enthused.

On possible return of tollgates on federal highways, Fashola assured that the federal government would soon unveil the new policy which would be rolled out under the highway development initiative and would come into force after the approval by the Federal Executive Council FEC.

“That initiative has progressed, we have received it, we have received it, qualified people, we are now going to ask them to send their proposals. I am not going to go ahead of myself, because, we are finalizing a tolling policy that will come to the Federal Executive Council and it will be considered by the government,” he said, disclosing that the government had organized a stakeholders meeting ahead of the implementation.

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