Motorists plying the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway will soon heave a sigh of relief as the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen at the weekend declared that the project could be delivered 12 months earlier than the initial 48 months schedule.
Speaking during an interactive forum with editors in his office in Abuja, the minister assured that with the pace of work and the mode of funding of the project, the contractors handling the project, Julius Berger Nigeria Limited and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), could deliver the road in 36 months, one year earlier than the schedule period for its completion.
Onolememen said the construction project, which would cost a total of N167 billion upon completion, is been executed using a financial plan that commits the Federal Government to providing N50 billion within two years, while the balance of N117 billion is being sourced from the organized private sector.
“What we did was that the Federal Government will contribute about N50 billion into the common purse, and from the 2014 budget alone, we are contributing N25 billion and the final N25billion, which will now form the total of the Federal Government commitment to the project will be part of the 2015 budget. But beyond that, the outstanding money which totals almost about N120 billion is being raised through a private finance initiative and that was how the project was approved, and that is how we are actually realising it”.
According to the minister, the private sector finance initiative, which is driving the project, involves the Infrastructure Bank as fund arranger, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, as well as a number of banks and financial institutions. As a result of this funding arrangement, the road will be tolled to enable investors recoup their investments and also maintain the road.
“When you borrow money from the private sector to do an infrastructure project, the project itself should pay back for that infrastructure. It is one of the things we need to do to guarantee the sustenance of our private highways across the country.
“The Lagos Ibadan Expressway is a major economic arterial route. For government, doing that road is not just a social service; it is also an economic service. And because it is an economic route, it can benefit from private sector investments and such investments can be recouped even from the critical infrastructure itself”, he said.
Onolememen expressed satisfaction with the pace of work on the project, adding that the contractors are moving faster than expected, just as he expressed optimism that the two sections of the very important road would be completed before the 48-month period.
On the unending rancor between states and the Federal Government over the repairs and refunds of Federal roads within states, the minister revealed that the Federal Government would soon hands-off Federal roads that are within five kilometers radius of cities to states. The policy is coming on the heels of the construction of by-passes to remove the burden of responsibility for internal roads in the state capitals from the Federal Government’s shoulders.
“When we had the Council of Works meeting in Lagos in 2012, one of our resolutions at that meeting was that we are to create a-5Km radius around states capital or cities where Federal roads traverse. Federal roads basically ought to connect one state to another.
“We are now experimenting with the creation of by passes, so that we are not brought into the issue of urban alignment because it is not the Federal Government’s responsibility to provide urban alignments and accesses to residences, offices and businesses.
“The Federal Government doesn’t collect taxes from those people. It is the state government that collects those taxes, and they should be able to fix those roads.