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2021 Budget:  FG To Focus On Completion Of Priority Road, Bridge  Projects, Says Fashola

* As Minister begins defense of budget for his Ministry before Senate Committee on Works
* Calls for review of regulations guiding release of Funds for ongoing projects in order to pay for works done
* Commends the Minister of Finance for committed efforts to raise funds for project execution
* Receives commendations from Committee members for execution of projects in various parts of the country

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Wednesday began the defense of the budget proposals for his Ministry in the 2021 Budget with the assertion that focus would be on  the completion of priority road projects, especially those on the routes A1-A9.

The routes, which are those leading to ports and major agricultural hubs across the six geopolitical zones, Fashola said, include 18 road and bridge projects which have already attained some appreciable physical achievements for completion within a 12-15 months period (December 2021).

Making his presentation, which encompassed the defense of the Ministry’s 2020 Budget Performance and 2021 Budget Proposals, before the Senate Committee on Works, the Minister, who said focus would also be on roads that have attained 70 per cent completion to enable such projects achieve substantial completion levels, added that the Ministry has also taken the maintenance of bridges as a priority “to avoid further deterioration of these critical structures”.

He told the Committee Members, “What you will see of these roads, which crisscross our country from East to West and from North to South, is that they connect most of the important sectors of our economy. They connect our fuel depots so that we can move our fuel, they connect our manufacturing agro-industries so that we can get agricultural goods from farm to market for processing, they connect our ports so that we can do export and import business”.

Saying that 18 of such roads had been identified by his Ministry, Fashola, who said the projects cut across the six geopolitical zones of the country declared, “If you accept our proposals, we should finish them between 12 and 15 months and take them of our list”, adding that on a graduating basis they were at different stages of completion.

Listing some of the Bridges to include the Third Mainland Bridge with an Average Daily Traffic of 122,978, the Bodo Bonny Bridge, the Koton Karfe Bridge and the Makurdi Bridge among others, the Minister, who said they were part of about 50 Bridges being rehabilitated simultaneously among others, added that some of the bridges require replacement of expansion joints and hand rails while others require major underwater repairs of exposed piles, pile caps and piers.

He said the Ministry also intends to complete the construction of Chanchangi Bridge along Takum-Wukari Road and Ikom Bridge along Calabar-Ikom Road within available fund allocated to it adding that provisions had been made to ensure that the rehabilitation of the listed bridges was not hindered during the budget year.

Fashola, who solicited the support of the law makers “to achieve these national objectives” , pointed out that in the course of each year there was need to address washouts and erosion envisaged  with the subsiding discharge of floodwaters nationwide.

“We are mindful of the limitation of resources but the frequency of these natural disasters caused by climate change and aging infrastructure must compel us to think of making provisions for emergencies”, the Minister said adding that Best Practice was between 5-10 percent of the Capital Budget.

He said the Ministry has also selected two roads and a bridge in each of the six geopolitical zones as target projects for enhanced funding in the 2021 Budget to achieve appreciable progress on the projects adding that also targeted for adequate funding is the Federal Government of Nigeria Counterpart Fund for the projects financed by the China Exim Bank.

On the interventions which the Ministry made between 2018 and 2019 on roads in tertiary institutions, the Minister, who noted that 18 out of a total of 43 such projects nationwide have been completed, however, added that the amendment in the 2020 Budget which cut the budget by about 17.35 percent, made it impossible to pay Contractors who have completed their projects as well as to complete the remaining projects, putting the amount owed the contractors at N3.4 billion while the amount needed to complete the rest stands at N3.54 billion.

Calling for a review of regulations guiding the release of funds allocated for the execution of projects, Fashola who blamed the delay in funds release for the slow pace being experienced in the completion of the various projects, said most of the contractors were being owed significant amounts for completed projects adding that most of those still working on sites were doing so on trust.

“The major challenge to the Ministry’s efforts towards the timely completion of projects is inadequate budgetary provision and releases for projects to sustain annual cash-flow requirement levels”, the Minister said adding that although the additional funding from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), the SUKUK Bond and the Tax Credit Scheme had been helpful in bringing some form of relief, “the Ministry’s exposure continues to expand as the roads age and deteriorate and require attention”.

He said although the total sum of N276.244 billion provided for Highway projects in the 2021 Budget was an improvement over the N154.2 billion allocated to the sector in the 2020 Budget, it was still inadequate to address the funding challenges of highway projects where, according to him, the year 2021 project cash flow requirement was estimated at about N1.2 Trillion.

Expatiating on the expansion of the exposure of the Ministry, Fashola, who again called for a halt to the introduction of new projects while old ones were yet to be completed, pointed out that various demands for new projects were still being made adding that currently and in spite of the dearth of resources, the Ministry was contending with 711 uncompleted projects, up from 601 last year.

The Minister, who commended the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed for her committed efforts to source funds for the execution of capital projects, said in order to enable the Ministry make a significant impact in the improvement of the Federal road network “so as to boost economic activities and create more jobs”, it was imperative to improve the funding of highway projects by enhancing the release of funds for projects under the Amended 2020 Budget to defray the outstanding payments.

He said there was also a need to enhance the budget ceiling for Highway projects in the 2021 Budget proposal to cover the execution of works during the year and leverage on other alternative funding sources like the SUKUK Bond and the PIDF.

During the question and answer session, some Committee members, including the Chairman, Senator Adamu Aliero, commended the Minister and his team for the good works and the impacts they have made in project execution across the country.

On the question of equity in the allocation of funds to projects which some of the members raised, Fashola clarified that some of the projects which seemingly had low allocations compared to others were being funded by other sources of funding like the SUKUK while the one with seeming high allocation was funded through China Exim Bank with Nigeria contributing a small percentage as Counterpart Fund.

Earlier in his Welcome remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Adamu Aliero, said the Senate Committee was focusing on the Infrastructure based on the emphasis laid on that sector by President Muhammadu Buhari during his 2021 Budget Presentation adding that although allocation to the Ministry of works remained one of the highest, it was still not enough to address the challenges of infrastructure development in the country especially the road network.

Some Committee members present included, Senator Gabriel Suswan, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Kashim Shettima and Senator Kabiru Gaya, among other distinguished Senators while the Minister was accompanied by the Minister of State, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Ernest Umakhihe and Directors from the Ministry.

FG To Focus on Completion Of Priority Road Projects In 2021 - Fashola The Minister of Works and Housing Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN has said that the focus of the 2021 Budget Proposal of the Ministry remains the completion of priority road projects in the country. The Minister who stated this during the Presentation and Defence of the Ministry’s 2021 Budget before the Senate Committee on Works said that given the wide disparity between the Ministry’s liabilities in unpaid certificates and the volume of road projects, it has become imperative for the Ministry to prioritize its 2021 Capital proposal in order to make appreciable impact in road infrastructure development. He said that Ministry was currently undertaking a total of 711 Highway Projects spread over the Six Geo-Political Zones of the country. The 711 on-going road projects were categorized according to funding mechanisms which included; Highway Projects financed with Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), Highway Projects financed with Sovereign Sukuk Fund, Highway Projects financed under Tax Credit and Highway Projects funded from Multilateral. Speaking on Highway Projects financed with the Sovereign Sukuk Fund, he explained that the Ministry was financing a total of 44 roads and bridges across the country using the 2020 Sovereign Sukuk issuance. He added that the roads were mainly dual carriageways on the major arterial routes A1 to A9 on the Federal road networks. On the 2021 Budget proposal, he said that the focus of the Ministry remained the completion of some priority road projects especially those on routes A1 to A9 saying that these roads and bridges lead to ports and major agricultural hubs across the six Geo-Political Zones of the country. In furtherance to this, he said Mr. President has repeatedly emphasized the need to focus budget on completion of projects. “Therefore, the Ministry has given priority first to about 18 road and bridge projects that have attained some appreciable level of completion. We are focusing on roads that have attained 70 percent completion levels,” he said. Fashola appealed to members of the National Assembly and other well-meaning Nigerians to build a national consensus as adults to stop the agitation for new road projects but to agree on completion of ongoing road projects that cut across the six Geo-political zones of the country due to budgetary constraints. On the impact the proposed 2021 budget would have on the economy and its citizenry, he said: “In order to enable the Ministry make a significant impact in the improvement of the Federal road networks to boost economic activities and create jobs, it is imperative to improve the funding of Highway Projects by releasing funds for the projects under the Amended 2020 Budget to defray the outstanding payments,” he said. He also appealed that budget ceiling for Highway Projects in the 2021 Budget proposal be made to cover the execution of works during the year as well as leveraging on other alternative funding sources like the  Sukuk Bond and the PIDF. Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero stated that although budgetary allocation to the Ministry remained one of the highest, but was not enough looking at the humongous work to be done on the nation’s roads and the current debt profile of the Ministry. The Chairman assured the Minister that the Committee would continue to work with the Ministry to ensure that it succeeds.  “The Committee is poised to work in line with the principles of the 2021 Budget. We will strengthen the outcome of our oversight duties,” he said.
After Emergency Repairs By FG, Fashola Approves Reopening Of Eko, Marine Bridges On Monday * Minister thanks Lagosians for their patience, understanding, cooperation   * First Phase completed while work commences immediately on the Second Phase After concluding urgently needed repair works on Eko and Marine Bridges in Lagos, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has directed that both bridges be reopened to traffic on Monday, October 19, 2020. The approval for the reopening of the completed First Phase of the repairs on the Bridges by midnight on Sunday 18th of October, which was given by the Minister on Friday was sequel to the report by the Contractor handling the projects, Messrs. Buildwell Plant & Equipment Industries Limited that the repair works on the First Phase had been completed 100 percent. In his directives for the reopening of the Bridges, Fashola thanked Lagosians for their patience, understanding and cooperation while sections of the Bridges were closed also directed that members of the public should be informed of any restrictions to traffic while work is ongoing on the Second Phase of the project. The Minister added that while the completed section of the Eko Bridge (Lagos Island Bound) should be reopened to traffic, work should commence immediately on the Alaka Bound side of the project. Explaining further on the next phase of repair works on the Bridges, the Director Highways (Bridges & Designs) in the Ministry, Engr. Emmanuel Adeoye, said work was taking off without the need for either partial or complete closure of the Bridges, adding, however , that the public would be informed adequately should such a step become necessary. The 1,350 metre Eko Bridge, built in phases between 1965 and 1975, links the Lagos Island to the Mainland. It was closed to traffic in March this year in order to replace faulty joints and bearings. But, as a result of COVID-19 lockdown, actual repair works commenced in the first week of June. Work commenced in May on the first of the three phases in which repair works on the Marine Bridge was divided. The repairs on the Bridge, which is part of a network of complex bridges with several loops taking traffic in and out of the Apapa area of Lagos, included jacketing and skin repairs of the piers, lifting the bridge section deck in order to change the electrometric bearing, milling and placing a new wearing course of asphalt among others. The repair works on the Eko and Marine Bridges is part of the ongoing Federal Government’s Bridge Maintenance Programme which involves the repairs and rehabilitation of over 37 bridges nationwide with a substantial number already completed while others are at different stages of completion.
Housing Development: A Tool for Poverty Alleviation- Osinbajo The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has identified housing development as a veritable tool to eradicate poverty among Nigerians. This was revealed by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who was represented by the Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, FNSE while declaring open this year’s National House Fair 4.0 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. Acknowledging the aptness of this year’s theme, “Gateway to better life: Affordable housing solutions,” to Nigeria’s housing journey, the Vice President disclosed, “President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to uplift 100 million Nigerians from poverty in the next 10 years and housing has been identified as a major tool for its realization due to its multiplier effect.” Prof. Osinbanjo noted that in line with the Federal Government Sustainability Plan, the Central Bank of Nigeria has approved the sum of N200 billion for 300,000 households to enable Family Homes Funds Limited (FHFL) finance the construction of social housing units for low-income earners. In addition, he disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing had unveiled a programme titled “Affordable Housing Development and Management Initiative" (AHDMI).  According to the Vice President the programme was designed for the purpose of reducing the housing deficit through collaboration with public and private   entities by creating a robust housing management of public buildings, hostel accommodation, redeployment of unoccupied houses for either rental or rent –to- own initiative, urban renewal/regeneration and community upgrading. Prof. Osinbanjo further revealed the pilot project of the Affordable Housing Development and Management Initiative (AHDMI) would commence in October, 2020 in Gwagwalada with the construction of 2500 mixed housing units under the Public- Private Partnership (involving Family Housing Funds Limited, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and private developers. Reminding the States and Local Governments that they are the custodians of Land in the country due to the Land Use Act, he appealed to state governments to reduce the bottlenecks associated with the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C-of – O) and quicken same because government has identified it as a tool for stimulating the economy. In his words, “As a Government, we have identified “Land Titling” as a rapid tool for economic development as it creates basis for land taxation, access to credit, increased market value and investment stimulation amongst others. I therefore wish to appeal to the State Governments to ease-up and quicken the process of the issuance of Certificate –of –Occupancy (C-of O) and other title documents as this is a sure way of stimulating economic activities and improve the lives of the citizenry and lift them out of poverty." The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, in his remarks called on the Federal Government to make policies that would enhance the provision of affordable housing for Nigerians, noting that national development could only be possible when basic needs are given to humanity. Oba Ogunwusi enjoined traditional rulers in the country to work very closely with   government and the private sector in the development and provision of affordable housing for the citizenry, adding that by their status they are natural custodians of land and therefore relevant in the development of their communities through the provision of affordable housing for their citizens. The event was organised by Bstan Group. It is a group of companies headed by Engr. Becky Olubukola. Bstan group has various departments of housing development which includes: construction, mortgage and cooperatives as w ell as homes and properties. The House Fair has become a yearly event since 2017.
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Safety Is A Key Factor for All Workplaces – Aliyu

The Honourable Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu has reiterated that in order to promote the wellness of both employees and contractors in the ministry, safety is a key factor in all construction sites.

The Minister made this assertion at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on Specialized Health and Safety, Training for Engineers/Officers of the Federal Ministry of Works in collaboration with the Occupational Safety & Health Association (OSH Association UK Nigeria – Region with the theme “Safety First in the Construction Site) on Thursday 22nd October 2020 in the Ministry.

Abubakar Aliyu, who was ably represented by the Director Human Recourses Management, Umar Utono stated that the objective of the workshop was to equip the engineers and field officers in the ministry with the knowledge and skills that will help them discharge their duties in the worksites and ensure safety of workers during construction activities in the country. Continuing he said that at the end of the workshop, the Engineers and officers would be equipped with the necessary knowledge and managerial skills to supervise construction sites without risk of accidents.

The Minister noted that one major factor responsible for accidents and deaths at workplaces was poor safety attitudes of workers, contractors and supervisors in charge of projects.  He said improving safety at worksites had now become government priority to ensure change of attitudes of workers and contractors working at sites.

According to him, globally over 63,000 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related illnesses while 317 million accidents occur on the job annually.  He stated that the global statistics by the International Labour Organization (ILO) were worrisome and government is committed to reducing accidents and fatality rates in construction sites.

The Minister disclosed that the Ministry would like to partner with professional institutions like Occupational Safety and Health Association UK – Nigeria Region being one of the leading organizations in the field of Occupational Safety & Health that strive to achieve the mandate of the Ministry towards zero fatalities at worksites.  He requested OSHA to work closely with the relevant Departments of the Ministry on capacity building and training of staff on Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE)

Aliyu pledged government total commitment towards implementing safety best practices in every activities of the Ministry.

Earlier in his opening remark, the Director of Engineering Services, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Engr. Julius Olunrinola said the Ministry have stepped up inspections and enforcement actions hence the need to deploy safety Engineers/Officers to all construction sites to enforce HSSE Policy.

Also speaking at the event is the President of OSH Association UK – Nigeria Region, Dr. Dahatu Mohammed who affirmed that safety was fundamental, basic and everyone’s business.  He added that this safety workshop was very important to the Ministry as 90% of work done by the Ministry is basically construction.  The creation of awareness to workers is meaningful to be able to achieve zero accident in construction sites.

Safety tips were highlighted by the Deputy Director, Central Workshop & Equipment Unit, Engr. Augustine Okwudiafor, as follows:

In time of emergency –

a)    Do not panic
b)    Stop all you are doing
c)     Leave calmly at the pace of the person in front of you
d)    Do not use the lift
e)    Assemble at the designated muster point

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Text Delivered By H.E, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN At The Commissioning Of Woodhill Estate Under Akacare Cooperatives, And Flag-Off Of Cooperative Housing Development, Kuje, FCT, Abuja

Welcome one and all to the commissioning of Woodhill Estate of AKACARE Cooperative Housing Scheme and the flag-off of our cooperative housing initiative, one of the series that will happen in each of the six (6) geo-political zones of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory.

One of the NEXT LEVEL commitments of the Federal Government of Nigeria as declared by President Buhari at the ministerial retreat held in September 2019, is to deepen access of Nigerians to affordable housing and consumer credit.

This is a mandate item of the housing sector of the Ministry of Works and Housing; as the policymaking arm of government, and we have assigned the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) a parastatal of the Ministry of Works and Housing, the implementation responsibility for executing our policy of PARTNERSHIPS with cooperatives.

For those who may wonder, why cooperatives? The answer is simple.

By definition, co-operatives are "an autonomous association of persons united VOLUNTARILY to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned enterprise.”

The key word in that definition is the "voluntary" nature of cooperatives, and this is critical in the formulation of our policy of partnerships with cooperatives as a means of overcoming the problems of "Acceptability" and affordability that stand in the way of access to housing.

This is important because our experiences, our investigations and our observations reveal starkly that there are hundreds of thousands of empty and unoccupied houses in major cities across Nigeria.

They are empty and unoccupied because they are either over-built, in being too big, or under-built in being too small and therefore not acceptable to those who need them, because in many instances no consultation took place between the builders and the consumers they built for.

This is why we are undertaking a pilot scheme based on our studies to build in 34 states who provided land, what the people we consulted said they will find acceptable.

Because of the lack of consultation and acceptability problem, the problem of affordability creeps in.

Our policy development team finds the voluntary nature of cooperatives very useful because members will be expected to design and build according to their needs and their income, as they find affordable.

Co-operatives have traditionally proved to be successful in areas like transportation, agriculture, trade and commerce, market associations and amongst large groups in the informal sector.

It is these large members of the informal sector that we seek to reach, scale up constructions of houses and the multiplier effects on the economy for cottage industries who make building materials like paint, doors, roofing materials, nails, and electrical fittings to mention a few.

The scale of construction by voluntary associations is expected to ramp up employment and income for artisans who will build houses. This will be our contribution to President Buhari’s commitment to raise a hundred million out of poverty in a decade.

As in other sectors, when cooperatives have been successful, we can point to modest successes of partnerships by FMBN with some cooperatives in the formal sector that currently has 52 housing projects under construction to deliver 4,624 units in 2020.

It is this number, that the policy we flag-off today seeks to multiply in many fold by unleashing the power of cooperatives and empower their voluntary will to act together in pursuit of the common desire to access housing and credit.

In order to be eligible, cooperatives must be registered, they must acquire their own land, get title to it, seek and obtain a building permit from the governments of the respective states where their land is located.

This last requirement is instructive because it seeks to eliminate incidents of unapproved buildings and slums which governments later seek to demolish.

All the state government agencies in charge of land have been duly briefed at the National Council launch meeting held in Abuja on November 7th 2019.

The Mandate and the role of the FMBN is to then provide construction funding to the cooperatives to build the houses, and to provide mortgage finance to the individual members to buy the house and pay back in instalments at a rate not exceeding 10% per annum.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the sum and substance of the policy and partnerships that bring us to Kuje, in the FCT today because AKACARE cooperative has embraced this NEXT LEVEL initiative to deepen access to housing and consumer credit.

It is therefore my honour and pleasure to flag off this cooperative partnership in the hope that it will quickly spread to other states in this Geo political zone.

As every cooperative chooses what it desires and can afford, the FMBN, representing the Federal Government of Nigeria will be your partner, providing financial support to enable you to act voluntarily to choose and build what you accept and your income can afford.

On behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria, I commission this Housing Estate and flag off this co-operative development away from poverty and towards common prosperity.

Thank You.

Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Works and Housing

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Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola,SAN (right) flanked by the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Engr.Olukayode  Popoola(left) as he makes a point while speaking with Journalists shortly after  an inspection of the  Ongoing Emergency Repairs of Eko Bridge (Phase I) in Lagos State on Thursday, 8th October 2020

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Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola,SAN (left) and Permanent Secretary, Mr Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe (right) during a Session of the Year 2021 Budget Defence hosted by the Senate Committee on Works at the New Senate Building, National Assembly Complex, Abuja on Wednesday , 21st  October 2020

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