FG I inherited N14trn debt on road projects – Umahi

The Minister of Works, David Umahi has disclosed that President Bola Tinubu-led administration inherited N14 trillion worth of road projects across the country.

Umahi who spoke on Monday with newsmen at the Presidential Villa in Abuja said the number of road projects inherited from the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari was 2,604 spanning 18,000 kilometers.

The Minister also said that N14 trillion and N4 trillion have been paid to contractors by the current administration.

He said, “Between when we came on board and now, about N4 trillion has been paid. And so that is a balance of N10 trillion remaining.”

“Now, in this N10 trillion, we have identified sources that could fund up to N4 trillion. So, we have a funding gap of about N6 trillion.

“We have a number of programs for road development under the previous administration. We inherited all the projects; we have not dropped any of them. But curious to know that some of these projects have lasted for 20 years, some 10 years.

“In fact, in most cases, they were never appropriated throughout every tenure.

“So I went to seek Mr. President’s nod so that I will be able to terminate some of the projects that have stayed up to 10 years without any defined source of funding.”

The minister said Tinubu should encourage the national assembly to prioritize road projects.

“Just look at over 2,600 projects, 18,000 kilometers of roads, and N14 trillion. That is huge and the worrisome part of this is that even the ones that are being funded properly, the roads hardly last up to five years,” Umahi said.

“I shared with Mr President that the way appropriation is being done is not healthy for developing our road infrastructure. For example, for a road that may cost N10 billion, an appropriation of N150 million is made.

“It is just for the contractor to take and put in his pockets because where the average cost of projects that we inherited is about N700 million per kilometers and you are giving out N150 million for the whole year, then you are just enhancing the pockets of the contractor.”

He said the short lifespan of roads necessitated his recent proposal to the president to redesign and construct yet-to-be-completed federal roads using reinforced concrete.

“So, I briefed Mr. President on what we are doing by introducing reinforced concrete technology for our road pavements,” he said.

The minister also pledged to “fight” entities poised to frustrate this plan, saying, “I know that there are a lot of fights from contractors, but I’m David, I’m known for fight and I will fight this because I’ve reported myself to Mr. President.”

Umahi said he had received the president’s backing and would proceed with the plan to use reinforced concrete despite fights from contractors.

He said, “Incidentally, Mr. President is also an infrastructure guru. And he fully supports that we should use reinforced concrete for our road pavements.

“So, there is no other place you can report me other than to report me to God. So, Mr. President is supporting me that way. We’ll redesign our roads in reinforced concrete pavement.

“I’m aware that the contractors have been quarreling and arguing. So, I want to declare that I’m open to any kind of blackmail, but my eyes are on the ball. And my eyes are on how we can get Nigerians to have value for the money. That is the assignment President Bola Tinubu gave to me. And I’m going to do that with the fear of God.”

The minister, while using a solidarity visit paid to the president last Thursday by a delegation from Rivers State as an example, said he had written the NNPC to release monies for the East-West Road.

“I know that’s what the Rivers people mentioned when they came to see Mr. President. So that road is going to be on concrete.”

Umahi said he would now focus on the South West, particularly Lagos State, where works are ongoing on the Third Mainland Bridge, Carter Bridge, Liverpool Bridge, the Eko Bridge and Marine Bridge, having toured the South East and parts of the North West and North Central.

“I want to see things for myself and appraise the ongoing projects. I want to see who is doing a good job and who is doing a bad job. So, I briefed Mr. President about that,” he added.

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