Second Niger Bridge to gulp N117 billion – FG

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Abuja -  The Minister of Works, Mr Mike Onolememen, said on Tuesday in Abuja that N117 billion will be spent to construct the second Niger Bridge.

Onolememen made this known while defending the ministry’s budget before the Sen. Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi) led Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).

The minister said that N30 billion of the amount would be sourced from the SURE-P while the balance would come from the private sector partners.

“What government set up to do from the beginning was that the N30 billion counterpart fund for the second Niger Bridge was going to be paid through the SURE-P.

“It was postulated that every year, the sum of N10 billion would be provided in the SURE-P for the second Niger Bridge and because it did not take off in 2012, we downgraded the allocation until the project takes off.”

According to him, there is massive mobilisation going on now at the location and the ground breaking ceremony will be done before the middle of March.

“Before mid-March, the ground breaking for the major work will be done, and from then on full construction will commence.

“I am sure that the project will be able to access all its funds at a time, N7 billion had earlier been used for the preparatory work on the bridge.

“Throughout last year what we were doing was the early work; phase one for the second Niger bridge.

“We went to the site, we did a lot of preparatory studies, morhpological studies and geotanical studies which led to the final design of the bridge and preparation of the bill for engineering measurement and evaluation.”

He said that approval had been given for the early work on phase two which would cost about N15 billion.

“The money for this year, N10 billion that has been appropriated will appropriately be devoted to that.

“It is part of the major work of the bridge, in other words, that N15 billion is part of the total sum for the completion of that bridge.

The minister, however, said that the completion of the project would depend on the availability of funds.

The Director General of the Budget Office, Dr Bright Okogu, said what the ministry needed to do to access the N30 billion SURE-P funds was to go through the SURE-P Secretariat Committee.

“All they have to do is to go through the SURE-P secretariat committee, indicate evidence of work done, ask the chairman and his team to send people to go and witness and certify.

“Then, they will make a claim based on that particular observation. This is all they need to do to access the money,” Okogwu said.

At another budget defence session, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Sen. Gilbert Nnaji (PDP-Enugu) expressed worry that Nigeria was still lagging behind in terms of broadband and internet penetration.

He also wondered why budgetary allocation to the ministry had been on the decline since its inception.

“It is observed that the total proposal for the communications technology sector for 2014 is N14.6 billion as against N15.6 billion in 2013.

“We have noticed a gradual decline in the total amount allocated to the sector since its inception. From N19.6 billion in 2012 to N15.6 billion in 2013.

“We further observe that the total Capital Expenditure proposal of N4 billion for 2014 is about 23 per cent reduced from N5.2 billion approved in 2013,” Nnaji said.

Nnaji urged the ministry to enlighten the committee on how it would utilise this fund to properly execute its programmes and policies.

He gave the assurance that the committee would assist the ministry in whatever way it could.(NAN)

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