“We cannot complete the road as earlier promised due to funding gap.”
The Supervising Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Darius Ishaku, has said that the East-West Road could not be completed by December 2014 as earlier promised.
He said on Friday in Abuja during the defence of the ministry’s 2014 budget estimates before the Senate Committee on Niger Delta.
The immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, had given assurances that the road would be completed and inaugurated by the end of 2014.
Mr. Ishaku told the committee that funds allocated to the ministry in the 2014 budget proposal by the Budget Office would not be enough to complete the project.
He said that despite several funding interventions from SURE-P and loan from the African Development Bank, AfDB, the road could not be completed by the end of 2014 as earlier proposed.
He said that the climatic condition in the Niger Delta posed serious obstacle to quick completion of the road, adding that the long rainy season in the area hampered construction work.
“We cannot complete the road as earlier promised due to funding gap. We had earlier hoped that there would be some funding.
“In 2013, we had hoped we would bridge the gap by getting more funds. We got some funds from SURE-P far more than the budgetary allocation but it was still not as anticipated.
“We still have some shortfall. Because of that shortfall we will not be able to commission the project by December 2014 as earlier anticipated unless there is sufficient funding.
“The funding has to come immediately and soonest since we are talking about the Niger Delta region where the wet season lasts longer than the dry season.
“If you are giving me funds during the peak of the rainy season, it will not be utilised until another dry season.
“The quicker we get the funding, the possibility of delivering would be higher by Dec. 2014, otherwise it would be an unrealistic date.
“If you give us money now during the dry season we would work far more and achieve far more, but if you give us money at the peak of the rainy season, the work would have slowed down,” he said.
The Minister told the committee that that the ministry required N111 billion to complete the road, which passed through five Niger-Delta States of Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa-Ibom.
He said a total of N49.1 billion was proposed for 2014 by the Budget Office out of which the ministry intends to spend N46.8 billion on capital projects.
He said that out of the N49.1 billion proposed as capital expenditure for the ministry, N8.73 billion would set aside for the continuation of the East-West road project.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, James Manager, decried the failure of the ministry to commission a single project within the five years of its existence.
Mr. Manager observed that there had been continuous dwindling of funds to the ministry which was allocated N144 billion in 2008.
“We must appreciate the fact that the East-West road is the flagship of the Niger Delta Ministry because it is very important to the region and Nigeria in general.
“We have to do all we can to rescue the ministry because the ministry is terribly under-funded.
“Therefore, whatever we are doing as far as this ministry is concerned we must be serious minded, so that we do not get back to where we are coming from, “he said.
In his remark, the deputy leader of the senate, Abdul Ningi, said all hands must be on deck to ensure the timely completion of the project.
“The key to any presentation of good governance rests squarely on the East-West road. Therefore, priority should be placed on the road.
“If we cannot get this project before the end of the tenure of this administration, then all of us would be indicted,” Mr. Ningi said.
The committee directed the minister to furnish it with financial details on the amount so far spent and outstanding payments on the road project.