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- Published on Tuesday, 22 December 2009 14:12
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Hassan, who appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Works in Abuja on Monday, also admitted that the ministry spent N24.3bn on the overhead component of its capital projects.
Some of the major projects are the Benin-Ore Expressway, Onitsha-Owerri Road, Takum-Wukari Road, Lokoja-Abuja Road and Itu Bridge in Akwa Ibom State.
Others are the Niger Bridge, Onitsha; Owerri-Obowo Road; Ibadan-Ilorin Road sections I and III; Osogbo-Ilesa-Odebude-Inagbiji Road; Sango-Ota-Winners Chapel road; Numan Guyuk road; and Itigbidi Bridge along Abba Omega-Edibaagep road.
Hassan also stated that another N17.4bn was spent on road survey contracts alone.
The ministry’s total budget for 2009 is N240bn, out of which N209.9bn is meant for capital projects.
For next year, the ministry has requested for another N249bn to continue with the same projects.
Confronted with a barrage of questions from members of the committee, who observed that the ministry had not justified the huge expenditure on road projects, Hassan blamed the perceived inefficiency of the ministry on a number of factors.
First, he claimed that most Nigerian roads deteriorated before the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua inherited them.
He said that though contracts were eventually awarded for their repairs in April 2009, they coincided with the rainy season, which did not allow contractors to mobilise to sites.
The minister also cited lengthy petitions before the Bureau for Public Procurement on most of the contracts as another reason for the delay.
“It took time before the petitions were resolved; we lost appreciable time waiting for the recommendations of the BPP on those petitions,” he added.
Hassan said that when the mandatory 15 per cent mobilisation was approved for some contractors, they could not access their money because of “stringent conditions” by banks in the wake of the banking industry crisis this year.
However, he assured the lawmakers that the ministry would take advantage of the extension granted by the National Assembly till March 31, 2010 to allow agencies utilise the 2009 budget.
On why the ministry requested for N249bn for 2010, Hassan explained that part of the funds would be used to “sustain the momentum” of ongoing road projects rolled over from 2009.
He stated that at least 53 roads would be completed in 2010, including 19 of the Presidential Intervention Projects.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Alhaji Usman Nafada, who attended the session, noted that while the excuses of the minister seemed genuine, “the performance of any administration is measured by what it is doing or has been able to achieve in its infrastructure, particularly roads.”
But lawmakers did not agree with the minister entirely on some points as they argued that many contractors appointed by the Federal Government were mere cronies that lacked the capacity to handle professional jobs.
Hassan called for the reactivation of the railway system to take pressure off federal highways.
According to him, while roads last for as long as 20 years in other countries, Nigeria ’s case is different because articulated vehicles and fuel tankers use the roads to haul products to various parts of the country.