The Federal Government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in 2006 approved the award of contracts for the dualization of Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road to four contractors.
The contractors are Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company Ltd for section 1 (Zuba junction to Sheda Village), RCC Nigeria Ltd for section 2 (Sheda junction to Abaji Road), Bulletine Construction Ltd for Section 3 (Abaji to Kotonkarfe) and Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Ltd for Section 4 (Kotonkarfe to Lokoja) at the total costs of N42.55 billion.
The project which was awarded under the presidential initiative projects was aimed at fast tracking the reconstruction, expansion, improvement and development of road infrastructure in the country and the projects were intended to be completed within two and half years.
In 2011, five (5) years after the award of the contracts, the projects were almost rested as ‘abandoned’ with very slow progress made. Apart from inadequate budgetary provision, only N26.3 billion was released to the contractors in five years out of the total N42.55 billion. Other factors that hit the project negatively included astronomical rise of the costs of construction materials like cement, reinforcement, bitumen, diesel and cost of labour.
The project was intended to be completed in two and half years but five years going as at 2010, the project was still docile as a result of poor funding. For the Abuja-Abaji road project like the Kano-Maiduguri road project to move forward, the contractors requested for review of rates and address the issue of funding which the Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan keenly took interest in.
The inadequate scope of works for the new carriageway and omission of the rehabilitation of the existing carriageway in the contract was scandalous for the nation. This was because, government at that time awarded the contract without giving time to the parties involved to do proper planning and design. This led to inadequate quantities, improper detailed specification design and insufficient site and geotechnical sub-soil investigations. Furthermore provisions were not made for the reconstruction and complete strengthening, of the existing carriageway which at the time of the award appeared to be in good condition. It was discovered that extensive unsuitable under laying soils ranging from swampy Fadama, high water table, fine water chalk, clay and black cotton soils in some sections of the proposed new carriageway were not given adequate precautionary measures at the time the contract was awarded. This resulted in the failure and collapse of some sections of the new road, thereby creating the need for detailed sub soil investigation, removal of unsuitable materials, additional extensive surface, sub-surface drainage and use of specialised materials. These new understandings under the President Jonathan’s administration also necessitated the upward review of the rates so that a good job could be delivered to Nigerians.
The Ministry in November 2010 therefore established an all-inclusive Technical Committee comprising Ministry Officials and representatives of the contractors to undertake a holistic evaluation and appraisal of the projects with a view to proffering solutions to the issues and challenges hindering their completion.
The committee recommended the complete rehabilitation involving removal of existing asphalt layers and replacing with the Binder course and wearing course along with additional Stone Base wherever necessary towards correction of the road.
Following this report of the committee, the Federal Ministry of Works subsequently forwarded copies of the full Reports of the Committee to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and requested augmentation of the contract sums of the four (4) sections.
The BPP reviewed the Ministry’s submission and issued certificate of ‘No Objection’ for the augmentation of the contracts. The Federal Executive Council in September 2011 considered and approved the augmentation of the contract sums to N116 billion. The overall interest of Nigerians was taken into consideration for the review of the project to make available to Nigerians, a brand new dual carriageway instead of constructing one side and leaving the existing road in deplorable condition. For us, the review was healthy, desirous and in good faith for the people of Nigeria and therefore was proactive and justifiable.
Yaro Usman Yelwa , a Public Commentator writes from Minna