• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Infrastructure and Rivers economic summit: Fubara’s N501.2bn for 3 mega road projects in first one year may impress investors

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… Infrastructure and Rivers Kalabari Superhighway N225.1bn

…PH Ring Road N195.3bn

…Elele-Omoku Road N80.8bn

In the run-in to the first 365 days of Governor Sim Fubara of Rivers State, South-South Nigeria, it has been disclosed that over half a trillion naira has been committed to only three mega road projects out of many that have been started. This is said to be something most economic observers say is a strong indicator of a determined leadership.

Any economic entity (state or country) that thus beckons on investors and the business world for an economic summit just as Rivers State is doing would be open for scrutiny.

Read also: Why Fubara cannot be impeached

Apart from galvanising the civil service of the state and restoring cohesion and harmony in the public sphere with backlog of promotions, clearing pensions, and readiness to employ 10,000 fresh workers, would be seen as serious. In addition, the administration has disbursed N4bn to businesses in the nano sector as well as the small and medium enterprise subsector from N400,000 to N10m each. This is done through the Rivers State Micro Finance Agency (RIMA) in partnership with and technical support of Nigeria’s Bank of Industry (BoI).

Rivers State is known in recent years for giant strides in infrastructure especially in the 12 flyovers in the state capital, but most of the over nine million populace live in the other rural areas made up of 21 local councils and the two councils that make up Port Harcourt, the state capital. The biggest challenge the state seems to faces in infrastructure seems to be how to connect the entire state by road network so that boating and other water transport vessels can only be an option. Another seems to be how to make the waterways safe for movement, integration, and food networking.

Investors heading to any economic summit thus look out for evidence of two indicators: the gross domestic product (GDP) which is often a point for equity investors; but project and production investors regard such indicators as dry data and look for evidence of competent policy initiatives and commitment from the host state in terms of how much they are able to commit in their own state through projects, the level of transparency and accountability of the administration, and policies that promote justice and equity for outsiders coming in with funds. These would ride on assurances of safety and security of lives and property as well as the level of Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) as rated by global institutions. Experts say most indicators provide overview and detailed industrial and business support breakdowns which can be very useful to investors. These are often obtained in the handbooks provided by the summit organisers for host governments.

N501.2bn for 3 roads

Any administration that can commit N501.2bn to only three roads in one year must be full of determination, according to Ibim Semenitari, onetime commissioner for information in the state and a member of the summit committee.

Gov Fubara gave a hint in July 2023 when he signed off on the Port Harcourt Ring Road that he would adopt a relentless policy on road infrastructure especially to link the rural zone to the state capital.

Now, almost one year after, the governor has crossed half a trillion naira to only three of the many road projects he is executing. He had said the Ring Road was going to be the single biggest project but just toward the end of his one year, he has signed off on an even bigger single project, the much-expected Trans Kalabari Highway of over N225.1Bn.

What seems to cause more excitement may be that the job went to Lubrik Construction Company, a firm that has deep knowledge of the state’s structure and environment since 2007 and which has mastered how to fund such projects through what it calls public finance initiative (PFI).

Rivers State Executive Council gave the approval during its meeting, presided over by Gov Fubara and attended by the deputy, Ngozi Odu, a professor and other members of Council at Government House on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

Briefing newsmen after the Council meeting, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, said the project will be funded with savings from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and allocations from FAAC.

Johnson hinted that 30% mobilisation fee has been paid for with a completion period of 32 months. He said the contractor was expected to move men and materials to site immediately.

The government said this is the main Trans-Kalabari Road. “The one that had happened in the past was building of bridges. But here, we are doing a Trans-Kalabari Road that is going to run from NSS Pathfinder immediately after Mgbuodohia community, and extend to about 2km to the Aker Base Road in Rumuolumeni community in Obio/Akpor Local Council Area.

“The road will pass through the swamps behind the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education in Rumuolumeni, moving southwards towards the first bridge crossing. The road continues through a series of bridges. That road will run, connecting many communities, up to Tombia Town. It will be completed in 32 months, and we are paying from our IGR and Federal allocations. We are not going to borrow for that project.

“That is about the third phase of us generating fund internally for our road projects without going to anywhere to borrow money.”

Johnson confirmed that the contractual sum of N225.1billion is bigger than what is being spent on the Port Harcourt Ring Road project. “This is because the Trans-Kalabari Road is traversing very difficult terrain of swamp and across rivers and creeks upon which series of bridges, decking, and piling works will be executed.

The second single biggest road project so far is the Port Harcourt Ring Road at N195bn. It was the first road project in July 2023 that seemed to attract attention after Fubara’s assumption of office, which was awarded to Julius Berger. It was at that stage that Gov Fubara hinted that his administration was in a hurry to develop new cities. He added that the construction of the Port Harcourt Ring Road project would facilitate the achievement of that objective with enduring quality infrastructure provided for the people.

The governor revealed that he had paid 75% of the value adding that the best time to start a project of that magnitude was in the first year. The project is to run for 36 years, baring any incidents.

The governor charged traditional rulers and youths to own the project that would traverse their various communities and to do nothing to disrupt its progress to avoid being suspended or prosecuted.

He said, “It’s important that everybody should give the necessary support, because we need this project, for development to come. Initially, people will suffer some inconveniences, but at the end it will be beneficial to all”.

Gov Fubara also assured that while the Port Harcourt Ring Road project is ongoing, his administration would not relent in giving attention to other critical sectors including the health sector by providing facilities, the requisite infrastructure and also supporting them to deliver the best service to Rivers people.

The third single largest road project is the Elele-Omoku Road at N80.8Bn which was awarded on March 26, 2024. The 33.5km road will run from Elele to Omoku traversing three local government areas of the State; including Ikwerre, Emohua, and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works, an engineer, Atemea Briggs, said the project would be funded from the savings made from the IGR of the State Government.

Evidence shows that Rivers State could gross up to N300Bn from IGR in one year, after discovering that the state IGR now hits N27Bn instead of maximum of N13Bn per month in the past.

According to specifics from the permanent secretary, the road runs from Elele to Umudioga, Egbeda, Ubumini, and then to Omoku. “The total length of the project is 33.5 kilometers. There is an existing road there which is just 7.3 meters width, but the Government wants to dualise this road.

“The proposed road width now is 7.8 meters to be asphalted fully with a road shoulder of 2.5 meters width. I will like to mention that along this road, we have several kilometers of low land, wherein to build a road shall require replacement, filling of the ground by more than three meters high.

“This, the contractor can only achieve through hydraulic sand-filling and using laterite. And you know how costly these are. The road is also having a bridge of 99 meters long to be built side-by-side the existing one between Egbeda and Omoku. This is why the cost of the project is N80.886bn awarded to Craneburg Construction Company. The delivery period is 24 months.”

According to Emma Okah (PhD), former commissioner of information, and the chairman of the publicity sub-committee of the summit, any genuine investor would be impressed by a young administration that has committed N501.2Bn to only three road projects out of many others, not mentioning many other projects especially the soft N4bn loans to SMEs and empowerment plans on the way.

He said these projects awarded along strict prudential guidelines, transparency, accountability, and naira-for-value principles would definitely attract genuine investors and businesses who have the capacity to interpret the signals that are everywhere.