By Henry Umoru & Funmi Olasupo
ABUJA- AHEAD of the formal handing over to the President- Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, retd, May 29, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday begs the incoming Administration not to abandon the on going projects especially the Light Rail project in the nation’s capital city, Abuja.
President Jonathan admitted yesterday that the Federal Government was owing Julius Berger and other Construction firms presently working on the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua way (Airport Road), Kubwa Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX) and the Abuja light Rail respectively, promising that he would pay the outstanding bills before he leaves office.
Speaking yesterday when he inspected three major ongoing projects in Abuja to ascertain the level of completion, President Jonathan stressed that settling the bills became imperative against the backdrop that the projects have changed the face of the nation’s capital, Abuja, just as he asked the President-elect, General Mohammadu Buhari, retd, to complete all ongoing projects initiated by his administration.
The President who took a ride in the ongoing Abuja Mass Transit Light Rail project to personally assess the extent of its implementation, however hailed the level of work done, disclosed that he personally inspected progress on the project as that would guide him properly on what exactly to tell Buhari when they meet soon to discuss.
The projects the President inspected yesterday were the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua way (Airport Road), Kubwa Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX) and the Abuja light Rail respectively.
Jonathan who stressed the importance of rail development in effective mass transit in the country as he observed that any other way would be inefficient and more expensive, also inspected the new rehabilitated and expanded 10-lane Airport Road named Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Expressway which is nearing completion.
The road project was part of the Outer Southern Expressway and Outer Northern Expressway that had been awarded by the administration of Yar’Adua at the cost of N257 billion in separate lots to Julius Berger, Messrs Dantata and Sawoe and CGC Nigeria Limited.
The President, while assessing the Airport Road, disclosed that the contract was awarded in May 2009 and that there was 30 kilometer of telecommunication on the road which has now changed the face of Abuja.
Meanwhile, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Senator Bala Mohammed who noted that the roads have reduced traffic from city center, pointed out that there was still an outstanding bill of between N5 to N15 billion the federal government was owing the Contractors.
Speaking further, President Jonathan who hailed the Contractors and the FCTA Minister, revealed that the road was now at 98 percent completion, just as he urged the new government to ensure the completion because it serves as a gateway to the city of Abuja, saying that the world appreciates the road.
President Jonathan said, “I emphasised the need for train system in terms of developing an effective mass transit in any nation. We will be talking about mass transit and you cannot talk about mass transit using taxis, small cars, even the luxurious buses. It will be too expensive.
“Until our rail system works, that’s why we are emphasising inter city and intra city, normal rail intra city light rail systems. Of course, this government is leaving on the 29th. The incoming government will definitely continue because this is a noble project to Nigerians especially residents of the FCT.
“We are quite appreciative of the level of cooperation. The CCECC has been doing very well. Of course, the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory. They are doing wonderfully well. I’m quite impressed. I have be wanting to come and inspect the project for a very long time but for challenges in terms of my commitments.
“I think, this period, I really need to so that when I am having conversation with the incoming president, I will know exactly what to tell him because I have seen it myself, I have seen the level of completion. Of course, you know the usefulness of this project in terms of easing the movement of the people in the Federal Capital Territory. I have to congratulate Nigerians for this project.
“It is the plan of this government to replicate this in all the state capitals. I hope the new government will replicate it in other state capitals. “We must make sure that the most pending bill myself and the Finance Minister will be discussing now how to sort out your bills before the 29th of May, be rest assured that this project will be completed because this project has really changed the face of Abuja.
“When you visit a country, the airport and the road leading from the airport into the main city will give you the first impression of the country and that’s why we are quite passionate about it. We want to do a similar thing in Lagos, but I believe that the new government will come up and do better, we have done well and we appreciate what we are doing and we will also try and meet up our own obligation.
“These projects really have improved the face of Abuja tremendously and people come to Abuja full of praises, if you look at all these, it is really making Abuja a real modern city, we are quite pleased with the progress of work, and we will do our best to see that the commitments of the government are met.”
Also commissioning the Kubwa express way and the main terminus of the Abuja light rail project in Idu, Federal Capital Territory, President GoodLuck stated that the light rail was key to ensure that commuters pay less fares which explains why the government plans for inter city rail which would link Abuja to other cities to ensure that every city in the country was linked to the rail system.
President Jonathan said, “The use of Taxis, small buses, even the big buses are too expensive, but for real effective mass transit where commuters are made to pay very low rate, of course the rail system is key and that is why the government has this plan for city rails like this and intercity rail system.
“Then within the big cities, Abuja, Lagos and others, we encourage governors of these states, where we need to partner with them, we partner with them, where they can do it alone, they do it to make sure that we have within the city like within these phases , though we are leaving on the 29th of May, I believe that by the time we finish this main lot one and two, this other one to come on stream maybe in two years time or in five years time, but I believe that it will come on stream.
“When people begin to enjoy this and commuters now know the cost implication that the savings is low for them, we will implore the government to handle the other one, I believe it will surely come on board, we are very hopeful that Nigerians especially residents of the FCT will enjoy this when it is ready.
Speaking further, FCTA Minister, Senator Mohammed explained that some of the advantages of the project include, to reduce the travel time on the busy airport express road, to create employment as well as improve the socio- economic well being of Nigeria citizens.
He said, “We must accept and appreciate what the federal government has done in terms of financing this project and the outstanding payment of this project which is about N5 billion and of cause looking at the total amount of the project you will discover the the federal government has done very well.”
Also speaking while inspecting the light rail project at Idu, Director of Transport, FCT Transport Secretariat, Alex Usuma, revealed that the official date of completion of the rail project remains December 2015. He added that the project is already at 61 percent completion.
According to him the administration was working on lot 1A and 3 at the moment because of financial constraints, adding that the start point of the rail service will be the location where the NNPC mega station presently occupies.