- “They haven’t been paid, but that is what change means; that this government is credible and believable, if we say we will pay, we will pay”, Fashola says
Work will resume next Monday on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway as contractors gear up to move back to sites of various projects earlier abandoned by them nationwide as a result of lack of mobilization.
Work on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, a major arterial road linking many major cities across the six geo-political zones of the country, has been abandoned for almost two years as contractors withdrew due to legal tussles and funding issues.
But in his presentation Thursday at the inaugural BuhariMeter TownHall Meeting organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja on President Buhari’s one year in Office, Fashola said the contractors had assured that they would go back to work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project next week Monday .
He told the audience comprising Journalists and members of Civil Society among others, “Our contractors will go back on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway next week Monday they have told me. They haven’t been paid, but that is what change means; that this government is credible and believable, if we say we will pay we will pay”.
“And this is what has happened with our contractors; on the basis of our credibility we have asked them to go back to site. And this is what you will see in places like Ihiala and few other places that we are intervening”, the Minister said.
He added that in addition to meeting all the contractors, Government has also identified the projects that have survived the budget and has approved them for funding and “in the next few days to weeks, disbursements will start for many of the roads to start”.
Fashola said Government has also decided now that it would build roads for a purpose, particularly roads that support Agriculture, adding that most of the rural roads that were designed as earth roads, would be changed now because more yields from agriculture were being expected.
“Now that we expect more yield from our Agricultural locations, we expect that roads that we built will become sustainable because they will have to deal with more tonnage; they must be designed to deal with more tonnage and that tonnage is on its way from what you heard from my colleague in Agriculture; more wheat yield, more rice yield, and more cocoa yield”, he said adding that the Agriculture Minister has submitted to his Ministry six strategic areas that the Ministry must intervene between now and 2017 “if Government’s commitment to Agriculture must sail through”.
On the Jebba-Mokwa-Illorin Road, which he described as “very significant”, Fashola said the significance lay in the fact that farmers move their goods, their vegetables and the likes through the road adding that what his Ministry has done in the last few months was to try to stabilize the road and a few others like it which, according to him, have been confirmed.
“If you haven’t passed through that road, perhaps, you will not understand how significant it is for the prosperity of Nigeria because that is from where farmers mainly move their goods, trucks, vegetables and their cattle. And that is where fuel comes through from tank farms in Lagos to many parts of the North of Nigeria”, the Minister said.
Noting that the road used to take four days for trucks to pass through because about 100 kilometres had collapsed, Fashola explained, “Now on the basis of just our credibility, I stuck my neck out and told the contractor to please go back to the site, go and work; we have now stabilized that road”.
The Minister said although repair work has not finished, the road has been sufficiently stabilized and that section is now motorable while provision has now been made for some part of it in this year’s budget adding, “Now contrast this with a government in power that budgeted for this road and did not even release the money”. He pointed out that the present administration was running a Government of planning adding, “It is not a one year show, it is a long term project”.
On Power, Fashola said his Ministry has set out its road map of incremental power from which it would move to steady power and ultimately to uninterrupted power adding that the whole essence of incremental power was to get power from every available source.
Announcing that his Ministry’s Energy Mix project would be unveiled in a few weeks at the National Council on Power, Fashola said the project has become very significant because of the threat to gas supply and the fact that over 70 per cent of the nation’s power plants depend on gas.
On Housing, the Minister, who maintained that housing policies in Nigeria have been clearly unsustained, attributed this partly to land but quickly added, “We have not built enough not because we don’t have land but let us first recognise that land is a local subnational matter”.
“And then I think that ideally the housing policy initiative should be driven by state governments”, he said adding that what his Ministry was seeking to do was “to catalyse something we can all own up to and that requires some consultations which have largely taken place”.
According to the Minister, the issue in focus was to identify the design of houses that all Nigerians would accept readily. “What kind of houses do we want? Some people don’t even want houses, they want land to build, some want duplexes, some want detached houses, some want semi-detached”, he noted.
He, however, said the focus of government was on the vulnerable majority of the populace who just want flats, one or two bedroom flats, adding, “Those are the most vulnerable ones and those are the people we call our priorities in starting our housing programme”.
Emphasizing the reflection of cultural differences as a major aim of the design that would eventually emerge, Fashola said some of the feedbacks made available from previous housing initiatives revealed that some people didn’t even want to live in there because it is the culture thing adding that this has happened before even in Lagos.
Pointing out that the culture issue would affect the designs being worked on by his Ministry, the Minister, who said the Ministry was consulting about it, cited as example some feedbacks from the recent AGM of Shelter Afrique last week in Abuja where, according to him, it was said that even in some communities, in-laws are not allowed to use the same toilets inside the house.
“So do we shelve the culture or do we build for the culture, he asked adding that this is affecting the designs that the Ministry is evolving “because we don’t want to have many designs”.
Recalling that the Ministry essentially had to move all over Nigeria to get the different designs, the Minister assured that in terms of design the problem has essentially been solved adding, “We are finalising and then we hope to start building”.
He said what the Ministry hoped to do this year was to use the designs to prove concept adding that once the concept has been proven then the designs would be scaled up leading to the standardization of the housing components for mass housing.
“What the design can do for us is that we can then standardize our doors, we can standardize our windows, we can standardize our electrical and mechanical fittings so that we can go to the real long field which is mass housing because if you don’t standardize, you can’t produce enmasse”, he said.
Citing also the Housing programme of the United Kingdom which, according to him, would be 100 years in 2018, the Minister said because the designs were standardized, they have sustained over all those years because it was what the people wanted adding that his Ministry was working on such a design that would stand the test of time.
Fashola said the issue of what constitutes affordable housing was still debatable adding, however, that what has become clear is that there is no low cost housing because, in his words, “There are no low cost iron rods, no low cost cement, no low cost window panes and so on”.
The Town Hall Meeting which also had the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed as participants also featured a robust Question and Answer session.