BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
DESPITE the assurances by the former Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe that the East West Road would be completed and commissioned by the end of this year, the Supervising Minister of the ministry, Mr. Dairus Ishaku has said that the completion of the road by the end of 2014 would be a mirage.
The minister who disclosed this yesterday at the budget defence of the ministry’s 2014 budget proposal said that even if the entire budget for the ministry for the fiscal year which was N49.2 billion was channeled to the East West Road including the intervention fund from the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, it would not be enough to complete the project.
The former minister had told the Senate Committee on SURE-P few weeks before his resignation that the ministry required the sum of N113 billion to complete the East West road just as he gave assurance that the road would be completed by December this year.
Elder Orubebe further stated that one of the problems responsible for the completion of the road that was awarded in 2006 apart from the security challenge was because the project was awarded without detailed designs and drawings.
Besides, he noted that N236 billion had been spent on the N349.8 billion project and that injecting additional N113 billion would ensure the completion and commission of the project.
But the Supervising Minister, Niger Delta Affairs said because of grossly inadequate and dwindling budgetary allocation to the ministry, it would not be possible to realize the 2014 deadline as the completion time for the East-West road.
He said for the East-West road to be completed and commissioned, a total of N111 billion was required, adding that his ministry was constrained particularly about funding which would make it impossible to deliver the project by the end of 2014 as promised.
“We cannot deliver East-West road by December this year due to funding gap. In 2013 we got some funding from SURE-P, and ADB since what we had was not sufficient. Because of shortfall, we will not be able to commission this project by December unless there is additional funding.”
The minister noted that in the 2014 budget, N46.8 billion was made available for capital project and out of which, N8.73 billion would be for the continuation of the East-West road, an amount that he lamented was a far cry from the N111 billion additional fund needed to complete the road project which he said had been 78 per cent completed.
Ishaku also stated that if there should be additional intervention from any place and it did not reach the ministry before the rains set in, it would not be possible to complete the project as work would slow down at the peak of rainy season.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator James Manager lampooned the ministry that since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, there was no single project commissioned, even as he frowned at the dwindling budgetary allocation for the ministry.
Senator Manager had lamented that at the creation of the ministry in 2008, N144 billion was allocated to the ministry but regretted that as each year passed, the allocation continued to go down.
He said, “East-West road is key, very important no matter other road projects you intend to embark on, for economic reason that region is important,” stressing that the East-West road was the number two project inherited by the ministry of Niger Delta on establishment.
Senator Manager explained that the situation in the ministry and the delay in the completion of the East-West road was provocative going by the economic importance of the road to the country.