Nigerians may be in for good times if the agenda unveiled by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), is anything to go by.
Fashola, who officially unveiled his short term plans at his maiden press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, said it includes addressing housing deficits, provide good roads and urgently increase power generation in the country with extra 2, 000 megawatts.
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway, which has been under construction and the second Niger Bridge, the Minister noted, are of great importance to the current administration, thus would get priority attention.
According to him, 2002 was the last time the sum of N200 billion was budgeted for road constructions in the country.
The Minister further disclosed that work would soon commence on all roads that link the 36 States of the federation, adding that major roads which had been suspended due to paucity of funds and are vital to boost social economic activities in the country, would be quickly revisited.
It was Fashola’s first press briefing since he resumed at the Ministry last month.
The former Lagos governor turned Minister also spoke on plans to partner with the private sector and fully privatize the power sector in order for the country to witness genuine development like the telecommunications sector.
Part of his plans is also to immediately restore the jobs of construction workers who were laid off by local and international construction companies in the country.
His words: “The records that have been made available from previous budgets show that the last time Nigeria budgeted over N200 Billion in a year’s budget for roads was in 2002. It seems that as our income from oil prices increased over the last decade, our spending on roads decreased.
“As far as status reports go, the federal government budgeted N18.132Billion in 2015 and the Ministry of Works got N13Billion for all roads and highways in 2015, although it has contracts for 206 roads, covering over 6,000km with contract price of over N2 Trillion”.
However, Fashola stated that government’s ability to achieve connectivity of Inter-state roads would to a large extent depend on capital spending in the 2016 budget.
He said it became imperative to pay contractors and get them back to work as soon as possible.
“Our short term strategy will be to start with roads that have made some progress and can be quickly completed to facilitate connectivity. We will prioritize within this strategy by choosing first the roads that connect states together and from that grouping start with those that bear the heaviest traffic.
“As at May 2015, many contractors have stopped work because of payment, and many fathers and wives employed by them have been laid off as a result.
“Some of the numbers from only four companies that were sampled, suggest that at least 5,150 workers have been laid off as at March 11, 2015; and if we realize that there are at least 200 contracts pending, on the basis of 1(one) company per contract”, he said.
Analysing the unfortunate situation further, Fashola explained that, “If each contractor has only 100 employees at each of the 200 contract sites, it means at least that 20,000 people who lost their jobs can return to work if the right budget is put in place and funded for contractors to get paid.
“The possibility to return those who have just lost their jobs back to work is the kind of change that we expect to see by this short term strategy”.
“In order to make the roads safer, we intend to re-claim the full width and set back of all Federal roads, representing 16% and about 36,000km of Nigeria’s road network by immediately now asking all those who are infringing on our highways, whether by parking, trading, or erection of any inappropriate structure to immediately remove, relocate or dismantle such things voluntarily. This will be the biggest contribution that citizens can offer our country as proof that we all want things to change for the better”, Fashola added.