Fund 338km East-West Rd from Sovereign Wealth Fund, Wike to FG

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* Wants states to resume work on federal roads and get refunded

* Senator wants infrastructure bank as alternative system

Codratus Godson

Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has asked the FG to move funding of the N726Bn East West Road to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to guarantee the 2022 target for the 338km road that links all of the Niger Delta states and gateway to Lagos.

The East West Road (EWR) is a strategic road created after the civil war to make South-South states and town move to the south-west and North without recourse to the south-east which engaged in 30 months war with the rest of Nigeria.

Then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, succumbed to pressure to militants and youths of the oil region in 2006 and announced the kick-off of the road with N211Bn, but the project never started because the pronouncement was not backed up by any budget until Obasanjo left office the following year. President Jonathan came in and revised the project in scope and amount to N726Bn.

He kept shifting the completion target till December 2013 and later April 2015, until he too left office in May 2015 with experts assessing the road at 70 per cent completion whereas road users declared it as abandoned. Wike was fully in the Jonathan administration as minister during those years.

Now, as governor, Wike has pointed out that the East – West Road is too important to the economic prosperity of the South-South region and the nation, regretting that it has been under construction for over 15 years, yet a completion date is still not in sight.

He observed that presently the FG appears overwhelmed with the construction and provision of too many road projects across the country. He then suggested that it would have been better for the Federal Government to complete most of the on-going roads before embarking on new ones.

Gov Wike, advised the FG to reconsider its directive stopping State Governments from funding the construction or rehabilitation of failed federal road which if not promptly fixed will upset economic growth in the affected States and challenge the wellbeing of citizens.

He made this assertion in his opening address at the 26th meeting of the National Council on Works in Port Harcourt on Thursday.

Gov Wike said the theme of the meeting: “Infrastructure Development, Job Creation and National Economic Growth” fits to the generally held view that road infrastructure plays a critical role in enabling economic development, poverty reduction and inclusive progress.

“It makes progressive sense as a development strategy therefore for State Governments to reconstruct such federal roads with reputable contractors on behalf of the Federal Government and get refunded after due verification of the price and quality of work done.

“The Federal and State Governments need to consult and collaborate regularly to accelerate the delivery of road infrastructure to advance and realize the hopes and aspirations of our people for development and decent living.”

Governor Wike explained that the State government is presently constructing six flyovers on federal government road to ease the perennial traffic congestions on the problematic intersections of Port Harcourt – Aba expressway.

“Let me therefore appeal to the Federal Government to continue to collaborate with the State Governments on road development by allowing States to fix federal roads with the assurance of a refund.”

The governor stated that his administration has consistently dedicated over 65 per cent of the State budget annually for the construction of new roads or the reconstruction and or maintenance and rehabilitation of existing roads across the State, including federal roads.

“The result is the unprecedented delivery of close to 900 kilometres of roads, bridges and flyovers spread across the length and breadth of the State, including some of the far-flung communities that have now been linked by roads for the first time.”

Minster of Work and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the Covid-19 pandemic brought to the fore the importance of human mobility to the health of any economy with the urban poor appearing to be the worse hit as a result of the lockdown.

According to him, part of measures adopted by the Federal Government to kick-start economic recovery processes was to focus on agriculture including the resumption of construction work in 26 states with its attendant multiple effects on local economy.

Fashola explained that against the former practice of flexible pavement connection module that was cost intensive, but his ministry is ready to unveil the rigid design manual which is cost effective and will guide construction activities in the country.

Chairman of senate committee of works, Adamu Aliero, who advocated the setting up of infrastructural bank as an alternative source of funding of federal road projects said it has become practically difficult for the Federal Government to fund the 711 roads captured in the federal budget.

Rivers State Commissioner for works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi, said it has become more imperative for present generation to plan for the future and end the perennial road infrastructural deficit expletives today.

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