• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Umahi gets hands dirty with road revamp

David Umahi’s appointment as minister of works by President Bola Tinubu was widely cheered by Nigerians who expected the trained civil engineer to bring his wealth of knowledge to bear on the job.

Umahi hasn’t disappointed. In his first year as minister of works, Nigerians attest to significant improvement in the quality and state of federal highways across the country.

The former governor of South-eastern state, Ebonyi, hit the ground running by leading extensive reforms targeted at resetting the way contractors handle federal highways.

Upon assumption, the former governor of Ebonyi State sent a note of warning to all contractors handling federal roads, insisting the government would not honour any contractor not using concrete technology.

Read also: Tinubu arrives to flag off construction of N15trn Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road

The idea, according to him, is for the ministry under his supervision to construct long-lasting roads, and with the concrete technology, Nigerian roads will exist without needing maintenance in 50 years.

“The use of asphalt by some contractors is a source of funds depletion for the government and any contractor who is not ready to work with the concrete technology will have no job offer from the ministry,” the minister insisted.

To ensure timely completion of road projects, he warned that the ministry would no longer allow contractors to close the site for one month to observe festivities. He said plans are on to introduce solar lights and others to make highways safe, especially for night travels.

The Ministry of Works under Umahi commenced 2024 with a total overhauling of the Third Mainland Bridge, the longest bridge connecting Lagos Island to the mainland. The completion of repair works on the bridge with very high vehicular traffic especially on weekdays, brought some measures of succour to motorists and commuters who in the last four years have been experiencing rough journeys and longer travel time on the bridge due to its bad state.

During one of his oversight visits at the time of the Third Mainland Bridge repair, the minister said, the 11.8-kilometre dual lane project handled by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd. (CCEC), was initially awarded at the cost of N21 billion.

To bring the bridge up to standard and ensure improved security, the government installed solar lights, and CCTV on the bridge and replaced the old asphalt with the new one.

The outcome received several commendations and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, also lauded the minister for the timely and quality completion of the bridge.

Just recently, the Umahi-led Federal Ministry of Works, started construction work on section three of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, starting from Calabar in Cross Rivers State, and section four from Akwa Ibom.

The controversial coastal road project was conceived in 2014 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, but the project was stalled after Jonathan failed to win a reelection bid in 2015.

During a recent television conversation, the minister said the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway will take eight years of President Tinubu’s two terms and the highway will be built in phases.

The first phase extending 47.7km from Ahmadu Bello Way to the Lekki Deep Seaport within Lagos State, will be completed in 36 months. Construction has started on this phase of the road and is expected to be completed before the end of Tinubu’s second year in office, according to Umahi.

Read also: Rivers eyes $7 trillion blue economy with roads’ construction to the ocean

The second section will extend approximately 55km from the Lekki Deep Seaport—where the first section ends—to the boundary between Ogun and Ondo states.

Umahi said the second phase of the coastal highway project has received approval from the Bureau of Public Enterprises and is anticipated to be approved by the Federal Executive Council.

In September 2023, he also secured the federal government’s commitment to award a N33 billion contract to RCC, to commence work on the Eleme-Onne section of the East-West road in Rivers State.

The Eleme-Onne section of the East-West Road had been in a bad state for years leaving commuters to experience hell while on their journeys.

Industry close watchers attributed the strides recorded by the ministry under Umahi’s watch to the targets set on transforming and making federal highways safe and motorable from the onset.

Early in the year, the minister said the federal government plans to complete about 5,550-kilometre road projects in 2024.

According to him, the government will construct at least 150 km of road each in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This excludes the palliative work and other special projects embarked upon by the government.

Another breakthrough recorded by the ministry in the past year is the plan to complete the Benin-Lokoja road project.

Umahi said when the plan was revealed in March that the federal government had devised methods to expedite the completion of the road project, which was awarded in 2012 but not completed.

He said four contractors will handle the four sections of the road.

“The first section from Lokoja is being handled by CGC; the second section is being handled by Mother Cat; the third section is handled by Dantata and Sawoe while the last section is handled by RCC,” Umahi said.

Umahi said the project was first awarded in 2012 and was reviewed for N879 billion under the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) tax credit scheme.

NNPC’s commitment stands at N122 billion and there was a funding gap of N757 billion.

When Umahi came on board, he reviewed the texture of the pavement, by allowing the existing carriageway to be asphalt while the new carriageway remains concrete.

He said the ministry will mobilise the contractors by signing an addendum that allows them to collect 30 percent of the funds, amounting to N9 billion each, to expedite the project.

Read also: Lagos begins 5-month road repair on Ikoyi axis Monday

Also, Umahi disclosed that the Ministry as of November 2023 had about 2,097 road projects handled nationwide, and they include ongoing and inherited projects with a total contract sum of N13.8 trillion.

The Ministry is also dualising the Zaria-Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto Road and Enugu-Abakaliki Road among others.

Though the Federal Ministry of Works has been active, Nigerians believe that more needs to be done to give people free access to and from the urban centres to the hinterlands.

For instance, roads such as the popular Lagos-Ore-Benin Road that has been in bad shape and puts commuters under intense stress needs to be attended to urgently.

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