On behalf of the Federal Government, I convey the appreciation of the Ministry of Works and Housing to the Government of Rivers State and Governor Nyesom Wike, for Hosting this 2020 edition of National Council on Works.
The commitment to host this was made last year when the Cross River State hosted the 2019 edition and when nobody foresaw the outbreak of a devastating viral pandemic called COVID-19.
The impact of the disease on livelihoods and the global economy has led countries across the world into different stages of negative economic growth and recession.
The need to address the economic challenges has prompted countries and Governments to design and implement various measures and policies to keep their economies going and to reflate them.
The Muhammadu Buhari Administration developed and has started implementing an Economic Sustainability Plan, that incorporates and challenges Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ramp up activities, inspite of COVID-19; in order to provide work, increase opportunities and sustain productivity.
The Ministry of Works and Housing, as a critical infrastructure provider of the Federal Government, is one of the focal MDAs assigned with responsibilities for sustaining and expanding the economy during and beyond the COVID period.
This in part explains the theme of this year’s Council which is, “Road Infrastructure Development, Job Creation and National Economic Growth”.
While the public looks forward mainly to the quality of the Highway pavement, the Government sees a larger economic impact of infrastructure and the way it helps to legitimately distribute wealth to the people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Road construction employs a large number of the urban poor, skilled and unskilled labour and vendors who depend on daily or weekly wages.
The lockdown period was a difficult period for them and it was not surprising that as soon as lockdown eased, the Agriculture Sector and Road Construction were the first to resume work.
Eleven (11) of the biggest contractors of the Federal Government were allowed to return to work in May 2020 in 26 states.
This was closely followed by the resumption of maintenance works in 92 different locations across 24 states by FERMA.
The Government then decided to increase the scope for local content, labour and materials by:
a) Advocating for the increased use of cement, stone and concrete which are all locally available
b) Advocating for the local production of Bitumen since we have large deposits of the raw material.
I am delighted to inform you that many of these policies are at different stages of implementation with consequences on the economy.
With safety guidelines for Social Distancing, face mask and sanitation issued to construction companies, construction work has resumed almost full time across the country even though the virus is still with us.
Although the Third Quarter GDP result is still negative at -3.62%, it shows growth in the following sectors:
a) Quarrying and other minerals production 41.81%
b) Cement manufacturing 11.96%
c) Construction 2.64%
With the sustenance of construction activities, a strong contribution will be seen on the road to economic recovery.
Regarding the need to use more cement, more stone and concrete, the Ministry had to produce a design manual for Rigid Pavement in consultation with all the stakeholders in the industry.
I am happy to Report that the Sub-Committee led by the Honourable Minister of State, Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu, and the Director of Bridges and Design, Engr. Emmanuel Adeoye, have produced the first Rigid Pavement Manual for Nigerian Roads.
There could be no better place to unveil it than at the National Council for Works, where all State Governments and other stakeholders are present.
This should also form the basis for implementing the Government policy for more labour-intensive Road Construction to stimulate employment drive, and more use of locally available materials of stone, cement and concrete for improved economic productivity.
It is impossible to discuss roads and economic development without discussing:
a) capital appreciation of 30-40% that infrastructure provision adds to the value of land;
b) the supply chain of food, lubricants, construction materials like laterite, cement, Reinforcement (steel), Water, Energy (Diesel) that is positively affected by infrastructure;
c) the sub-specialities of subcontractors such as Lane Marking, Highway Signage and Electrical fittings,all of which benefit from the Construction of a Road.
I am aware that all the States are executing one infrastructure project or the other and this is how it must be. I was in Rivers State recently to commission a Bridge project undertaken by the State Government.
Our collective National Spending on infrastructure will contribute in no small way to our recovery from recession, but also propel inclusive and beneficial growth.
Examples abound of the positive impact of the investment in infrastructure through a value chain of inclusive wealth distribution that is immediately activated when one of our construction sites utilises 5,000 trucks of laterites at N30,000 per truck.
Such a value chain would include the owner of the quarries, the operators in the quarries, the truck owners and truck drivers, among several others.
When one of our contractors also recently paid N500 million to his diesel suppliers, another inclusive wealth distribution value chain got activated or sustained.
In closing this speech permit me to highlight the challenges we still encounter in some states and communities with respect to claims for compensation, which hinder our contractors’ ability to work.
Challenges in the area of compensation require further collaboration and for States to play a lead role.
The need for an interactive forum between State Commissioners and Federal Ministry of Works, which will occur more frequently than the annual Council, as recently suggested by the Honourable Commissioner for Works from Kwara State will also hopefully be considered at this Meeting.
I thank you all for your attention.
BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA, SAN
HON. MINISTER OF WORKS AND HOUSING
Thursday, 10th December 2020