Nigeria’s Minister of Works, Mr. David Umahi has called out foreign road contractors on badly built roads saying that they are taking Nigerians for granted by building roads that do not last.
Mr. Umahi who stated this at a meeting he had with contractors and the media in Abuja, noted that contractors have to uphold international standards and respect citizens while executing projects.
He noted that the roads being constructed in Nigeria do not last for 7 years.
“Anywhere there is a project going on, the first thing that is done is the convenience of the people. To the foreign contractors, this cannot happen in any of your countries. We are being taken for granted. You believe you are doing us a favour, but you are not doing us a favour. This attitude must stop. We must be respected.
“Travelling to Benin through Lokoja now takes 14 hours; all the stretches of the road are on contract under the pitiful policies of the last administration. But how many of the roads are motorable?
“I travelled through that by myself and shed tears for the pains our people are passing through. I stayed on the road for 14 hours.
“I have directed that if you are a project manager in any of our contracts, whether you are an expatriate or a Nigerian, you must be registered with COREN, and not less than 15 years of experience in road construction. I am warning the Regional Directors not to fail to carry out this instruction,” he warned.
The Minister also called out the civil servants in the Ministry of Works stating that they are not properly supervising the projects hence the bad jobs being done.
He said “The President gives out a contract and pays and asks the Ministry to supervise, and they fail to do that. If the projects are jacked up beyond the funding capacity of the Federal Government, who are we going to blame?
“I am not happy with the supervision of our works by the Ministry of Works staff. If a civil servant is in the way of the progress of the government, they should be shown the way out. It is my policy.”
Giving a review on some of the roads he inspected in the North-central, South-south, South-West and South-east regions of Nigeria, he said the road works and supervision is poor.
“I travelled to the Southwest, and I am totally unhappy with the ongoing projects there and the supervision. I gave them an 80 per cent pass mark, but not without my reservation about how these projects will last.
“I have been to parts of the Northcentral, and I am very dissatisfied with the quality of work and supervision offered by the Ministry of Works. I went to Kaduna, and I disagreed with the design of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road; it is an overkill. I want to do from kilometer 0 to 38 with concrete because it is on water level base; if the contractor encourages me, it will happen.
“There is no project being constructed right now in Nigeria that is going to last for seven years – there is none. The question is…are we just going to be maintaining all and reconstructing our roads after every ten years?” Umahi asked.
He also stressed the need for the National Assembly to assign more money to road works.
“I will engage with the National Assembly. If they want us to continue with the projects, we will continue. But if they are going to bring new projects, then we have to sit down and agree. It means we have to stop the ongoing projects and we face the new ones. I have looked at the 2023 appropriation for the Ministry of Works, and I shedded tears. There’s nothing we can do with it.
“I know they must do something for their constituencies, but we can put these things in FERMA and then allow real projects in the Ministry of Works to go on. They must also give us emergency money.
“We will also be begging the National Assembly to return N530 billion, which the appropriation of 2022 on the ongoing projects, and of course, they had to give it to Mr. President for palliatives, which is very important and very ingenious of Mr. President. But after they have eaten, they (the people) have to move.” he said.
Mr. Umahi added that he will not sign any new road contract that is not planned with concrete.