The Federal Government has ordered the contractors handling the construction of the East-West road sections 1 to 4 to return to site within the next one week for the speedy completion of the project.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio handed down the order at a tripartite meeting with officials of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), managers of the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and contractors handling the construction of the roads.
According to Senator Akpabio, in a press statement signed by Anietie Ekong, the Chief Press Secretary to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and made available to newsmen, the Federal Government through the NSIA had concluded arrangement for the release of about N20 billion to the contractors if they mobilize to site within the next one week.
Senator Akpabio recalled that the contract for the East-West road was first awarded in 2006 and scheduled for completion in 2010 but suffered some setbacks because of funding constraints.
He revealed that by the time the project was transferred to the newly created Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in 2008, the percentage of work done was negligible.
Attempts had also been made in the past to fund the road project through the African Development Bank and the Sure-P Programme but it has remained uncompleted.
He said during the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018, the project funding was transferred to the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund warehoused in the NSIA to ensure adequate funding.
Senator Akpabio said that the tripartite meeting was because of President Buhari’s avowed determination to complete the East-West road. He said he had held several meetings with the NSIA and visited the project sites to assess the progress of work.
“As at today, the Federal Government is concerned that the progress of work on the East-West road is very slow, if not totally non-existent. The people of the Niger Delta region are also very agitated. And I’m sure the contractors are also worried.
According to Senator Akpabio “for me a contract that was awarded in 2006 and which ought to have been completed in 2010 and 14 years later some sections have not been completed, calls for concern being a very important road not only to the people of the Niger Delta but Nigeria as a whole, hence this meeting.
“I have held several meetings with the NSIA and it looked like there were some grey areas which we have worked on so that the East-West road can be completed not just for the people of the Niger Delta but also to make sure the Presidential pronouncement comes to pass because President Buhari has shown so much interest in the completion of the road.
“So we have met and have resolved all issues that tended to negate the speedy completion of the project. So today we came to meet with the contractors to ensure their commitment to complete the East-West road on time.
“We also assessed the issue of funding. The NSIA has made a commitment that if the contractors return to site within one week they will make available about N20 billion to offset outstanding payment certificates. We will soon sign the tripartite agreement,” Senator Akpabio said.
The Minister who described the East-West road as very dear to the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole thanked the NSIA for their cooperation in seeing the project through. He assured the people of the Niger Delta of the renewed efforts in seeing to the completion of the project and hinted that he would personally visit the project sites again to evaluate the job done.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Mr Uche Orji commended Senator Akpabio for his commitment to the completion of the project and said the East-West road was among the projects that is to be funded by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority manager of the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
He said the NSIA would Independently verify the claim of contractors before the release of more funds to them.