President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate release of N19.67 billion to ramp up efforts in completing sections I-IV of the East-West Road project by 2021.
The presidential directive was part of efforts to address infrastructure deficit in the Niger Delta region and boost its economy.
Mr Buhari had, in his Democracy Day address, said the funding of the sections of the road project would be duly released to better the lot of his people and would be followed by a forensic audit.
“I am determined to ensure that development meant for the people of the Niger Delta get to them so I have authorised a Forensic Audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission,” the president said.
The road project, which was first conceived in 2006 by the Obasanjo administration, was meant to be completed in 2010 but overtime, paucity of funds stalled its progress.
At a meeting with contractors handling the road project, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, said Thursday that the project was transferred to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs with the mandate of fast-tracking its completion in April 2009.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Deworitshe Patricia, Mr Akpabio said the targeted mark could not also be realised due to inflexible terms prescribed by financial institutions.
Despite the chequered history of the project which may not require less than N102 billion for its completion, he said the Buhari administration was keen on addressing the road project as a way of tackling the issue of infrastructure deficit in the country.
The Buhari administration, he said, had undertaken more infrastructural development projects than any other government, adding that the East-West road would be one of the legacy projects of this administration.
Not only would the completion of the road project address infrastructure deficit, it would also shore up the economy of the region.
“Considering the disposition of the region to the stability of Nigeria’s economy, the project will not only redress infrastructural deficit in the region, its completion would assist the oil industry in terms of moving goods that will facilitate oil production, movement within the area, restiveness and boast the economic life of the people and the nation at large,” the Minister was quoted as saying.
The presidential directive mandated that the project be completed by 2021.
He commended the contractors for being committed to ensuring that the presidential mandate is achieved by re-mobilising back to site even when funds have not been made available and assured them of the people’s cooperation.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Omotayo Alasoadura, in his remarks, urged the contractors to work hard to fulfill the president’s mandate.
The contractors reaffirmed their readiness to return to site immediately to meet the 2021 completion target.
East West road project
The East-West road project generally is the construction of a second carriageway and the rehabilitation of the existing carriageway.
The total length of each carriageway of the road is 188 Km, with 29 river bridges of variable lengths ranging from 31m to 260m, and 2 box girder bridges with lengths of 700m and 850m, according to construction review, an online construct-inclined platform.
East-West road project is reportedly the largest infrastructure project in Nigeria as it is a very strategic road connecting the country’s 2 busiest and foremost commercial cities, Port Harcourt and Warri.
The road project contract was awarded in 2006 by the Obasanjo administration but was designed to fail. In 2018, Mr Buhari announced his readiness to complete the project.
The 657 km road project is dual carriageway stretching from Calabar in Cross River State to Warri in Delta State and valued at US $2bn, was approved by the Federal Government at the height of agitations by youths in the Niger Delta area.
The project starts from the Delta Steel Company Roundabout in Delta State, transverses through Kaiama in Bayelsa State and goes through Ahoada in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, down to Eket and from Eket to Oron in Akwa Ibom State.
It is to complete the Section I-IV, being part of the two sections that had previously been completed while section–V, which covers 23km from Oron to Calabar, is still under process.