By Favour Nnabugwu
Anywhere in the world, building roads, con structing culverts and bridges are perfunctory chores, but in Nigeria, the projects are a hard road to travel. In Kaduna, a dry, plain and savannah land, spreading laterite and asphalt is proving as difficult as rocket science.
Right now, the eastern bypass for nine years has been a work in progress as Eksiogullari Construction (Nig) Ltd, the contracting firm and the Federal Government continue to trade blames since the contract was kicked off in 2002 with the terms clearly spelt out, including contract sum, scope of work and date of completion.
Eksiogullari Construction (Nig) according to the contract, should build the road around Kaduna, from Kakau village, to Zaria Road at N16 billion within three years, but nine years on, several promises later with over N10 billion down the road, the road has not gone half way.
Recently, Ambasador Bashir Yuguda, Minister of State for Works was on inspection tour of the Kaduna Esatern bypass road. Kaduna state governemnt was outrightly disappointed by the pace of works . Although it admitted that funding is critical to any project,it added that the company should show some level of commitment to be able to access funds.
Ambassador Yuguda who was on inspection, gave the contractor up to November 30, 2011 to finish work on the 16 kilometer stretch of Kaukau to Kachia Road and hand it over to government unfailingly before the expiration of the deadline.
Though, Ambassador Yuguda was not the first Minister to inspect the project, his predecessors including Senator Sanusi Daggash, former Minister of Works had also visited the site and was also not happy with the pace of work and the capability of the contractor to finish the job in the nearest future .Yuguda, however, stamped his feet by giving the contractor two months to at least complete the first portion of the road which stretches to 16 kilometers.
According to him, “Kaduna Eastern bypass road was awarded on November 24, 2002 with completion dateline of November 23, 2005. There is budget constraint no doubt, but the capability of the contractor is very doubtful.
“We have given the contractor till November 30, 2011 to finish the first portion of Kaukau to Kachia which is 16 kiklometers completely after which we will determine the next line of action”
According to the Minister, “There is a bargain constraint, no doubt but the capacity of the contractor to deliver on this road is very doubtful. For the last ten years, they were only able to achieve substantial portion of up to 16 kilometres”.
He admitted, “The budget issue is there no doubt but for serious-minded contractors, they go out of their way to impress government that they have to be helped in terms of funding. We have critical projects and once we see a contractor really doing the work he is supposed to do, we go out of our way to fund it but this is not acceptable at all.
“So, this first portion from Kakau to the Kachia road which is 16 kilometres, we have given them until November ending to finish the work completely and then, we will determine the next line of action but government cannot accept contractors that are folding their arms every day, saying it is government’s fault”.
He stated, “If a contractor performs, there is always a budget mechanism which has a leverage that we can always make a case for such a contractor .So, it is not just the question of the government not funding but is the question of the technical capability of the contractor.
“We have a case of contractors that are really working above their certificates but these contractors don’t have any certificate pending. So, those are the issues. The quality of the work is okay, the work they have done so far is good but the financial capability is not there and that is what we are telling them. They should sit up and let us see what they can do.
“We are hopeful they will achieve it but if we get there and they are unable to achieve it, then the next option would be to sit down with the contractors”
Given this explanation, Deputy Managing Director of Eksiogulari Constrcution (Nig) Ltd, Alhaji Jaafaru Baba explained to the Minister that the delay and hiccups being experienced by the firm was largerly due to poor funding of the project.
Baba further explained that in spite of the thin funding, the contracting firm was not deterred as its workers were still on site working.
Consequently, the contractor overshot the first three-year completion date and it was extended by five years as the contract was reviewed on December 31, 2007 with completion date of July 31, 2012 but even at that, the possibility of the contractor completing the job on the dateline which is just 10 months away is very slim going by the current level of work as at inspection on Saturday, September 26, 2010.
Though a project of that magnitude is undeserving of piece- meal funding, the project and the N10.45 billion so far spent in relative terms will not go as far as only 16 km starting from Kakau to Mararaban Rido, a village along Kachia road. The contractor had on three occasions defaulted in his promise to complete the first 16 km which spurred Ambassador Yuguda to give him two months ultimatum.
Significantly, the company tried in vain to get funding from Britain, owing to high interest rates and the Nigerian factor.
The Minister however, dismissed the loan effort by the contractor. “There is no way the government can refuse a contractor from getting fund to complete its project. How can we give a sovereign guarantee to a contractor? That’s not possible but if a contractor is performing and he has his bankers that can seriously give him the credit worthiness, then let him go and get credit and fund it. But it is not a question of funding like I told you, it is a question of the contractor showing seriousness before government comes in.”
In his reponse when his receieved Ambassador Yuguda in his office after the inspection, Kaduna State Governor, Sir Patrick Yakowa said the completion of the by-pass is vital to the economic and social wellbeing of Kaduna people.
Yakowa assured that the state would lend the government all necessary support needed to fast-_track the completion of the project.
The Governor said,
“ Kaduna has become congested that the need for so many roads leading to different parts of the country has become very glaring. The completion of this road will greatly assist us in the town and also facilitate the movement of trucks in and out of the city”
Nevertheless, the objective of the Kaduna Eastern bypass road when completed is expected to facilitate the new Kaduna city project and ease traffic and congestion along the main axis of the city but it might just be another failed contract if government does not take a stand on the project.
The N16 billion eastern bypass road in Kaduna State is one of the biggest Federal Government projects in the north which has the capability of reducing the growing traffic jam in the state.
It will now ensure that new development areas open up around the new road. However, the road which is in its ninth year and is just 53.77 percent completed may take additional years for work to be completed.