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.
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
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.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Works and Housing
FASHOLA INSPECTS ONGOING EMERGENCY REPAIRS OF EKO BRIDGE (PHASE I) IN LAGOS STATE
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
FASHOLA, ALIYU AT THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2020 BUDGET PERFORMANCE AND DEFENSE OF THE 2021 BUDGET PROPOSALS HOSTED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON WORKS IN ABUJA
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