The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, on Saturday inspected the Loko-Iweto Bridge being constructed over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue States, with a firm promise that this year’s budget would be aggressively implemented by the present administration.
Fielding questions from newsmen after the inspection from the Loko end in Nasarawa State, Fashola said in spite of the fact that it was now faced with a crash in price of oil and therefore low earnings, the Federal Government under President Muhammad Buhari was determined to ensure that the projects captured in this year’s budget would be completed.
The Minister, who noted that the contractors left site because of non-payment of their fees, expressed joy that they have not only returned but have recalled back their workers earlier laid off as a result of the inability of the previous administration to pay for certified works adding that the contractors handling the Loko-Iweto Bridge had recalled 300 of their staff within a week of their return to site.
He told the journalists, “We have mobilized our contractors back to work so that they can finish the work they have begun. They left site because they were not paid, I think from 2014. We have asked them to come back to site and as you have heard, coming back alone in one week, they have reemployed 300 of their staff whom they laid off before”.
According to the Minister, who said the company was expected to have a full capacity of close to 900 staff back to work soon, “That is the kind of growth and inclusion we expect as we also improve the infrastructure of the country and get construction work going again”.
“You will see those who lost their jobs come back to work. You will see increased merchandizing, quarrying, supply of building materials, laterite, sand and cement and hopefully the reflation and growth of the economy return. But quite aside this when this project is completed it will open up these communities, connect Nasarawa and Benue States”, Fashola said.
Assuring that the project would be completed on schedule in 2018, the Minister also noted that farmers would benefit from the movement and transportation of their produce to get to the market much more quickly and in much more healthy condition and reduce wastage and loss that transportation difficulties causes at the moment.
Emphasizing the commitment of the Federal Government to aggressive implementation of the budget, Fashola told the newsmen, “You will see that for the first time in almost a decade a President insisted that 30 per cent of the budget should be spent on infrastructure renewal and infrastructure development to reduce the deficit of public infrastructure”.
“So that means there will be more construction work, there will be more construction activity and more infrastructure development even though the country is earning less. This is the time we are doing more with less”, he said adding that at the time the country was earning $100 per barrel of crude oil under the previous administration, it didn’t commit 30 per cent to infrastructure.
He added, “Infrastructure commitment was usually 10 to 15 percent and even at that they were underperformed, they were not fully implemented. We have committed this year 30 per cent of the N6 trillion budget to Capital for infrastructure development and we are determined, in spite of the delay to aggressively implement the budget”.
Noting that the impact was already being felt, Fashola again declared, “Those who lost their jobs are back on site. That is what budgets do. They bring inclusion into the economy, it brings growth, it gives people a sense of ownership, it restores their dignity, they can come to work now from where they are living and go back home and feed their families and this is what you will see as we go on”.
The Minister, who said the budget was designed to focus on completion of projects cited the Loko- Iweto Bridge as an example adding, “Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is one of them, Maiduguri-Kano is one of them, Ilorin-Jebba is one of them, Second Niger Bridge is one of them. In all of those projects, contractors are moving back to site and work is beginning and gradually over the next three years we will complete many of them”.
The Minister, who was accompanied on the tour by the Coordinating Director of Federal Highways, Engr. Bala Danshehu, some Directors of the Ministry and the Special Adviser, Roads to the Minister, Dr Femi Hamzat among others, was received by members of the highly elated Loko Community led by their Emir, Alhaji Ahmed Sabo, and was conducted round the project by the Project Engineer’s Representative, Engr. Wasiu Taiwo along with two Chief Engineers of the firm handling the project, Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) , Engr. Nabeel Esawi and Engr. Igor Zavodtchik.