The Federal Government has commenced moves to end the protracted delays in the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway by the concessionaire, Bi-Courtney Highway Services, with the appointment of an international firm as the transaction adviser and setting up of two committees to actualise the project.
The Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, who said this in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday also, foreclosed the possibility of the Lagos, Ogun and Oyo state governments having a stake in the project.
He said, “It is true that in 2009, the Federal Ministry of Works signed a concession agreement with Bi-Courtney as the successful concessionaire for that particular expressway and the construction period was to last for four years under the terms of the agreement.
“For all intents and purposes, that agreement stands and is still operative, but we know that the concession has not gone the way it was contemplated. As we speak, the Federal Government is not resting on its oars; it is working to ensure that that road is delivered under whatever arrangement.”
Onolememen said the Federal Government’s determination to ensure the completion of the road made him to constitute a project delivery team three weeks ago, and inaugurate a project steering committee for the road.
He said, “This time, unlike in 2009 during the build-up to the agreement, we did not have transaction adviser; we do have a transaction adviser for that particular road now, a firm that has performed that role for successful concessions around the world in East Africa, Asian continent, Europe and America. We are availing ourselves of the best professional available expertise that we can ever have in that type of transaction to help ensure that the Federal Government proceeds with that concession because that particular road ought to be the flagship of all concessions in this country.
“The government is still determined to ensure that it works. I can assure you that even before the expiration of the four years stipulated in the original concession agreement, a way forward would have been found and the end result will be the expansion and beautification of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in such a way that it will serve the needs of Nigerian road users.”
On the alleged demand for a Federal Government guarantee by the South African investors assembled by BCHS before they could proceed with the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the minister denied knowledge of such a request.
“It is news to me that the South African investors are asking for Federal Government guarantee, I am not aware of such a request. If such request is made at all, it should first come to my table but that is not in the offing now,” he said.
Onolememen also dashed the dreams of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states for a stake in the project through the concession of 20 per cent equity to them before they would allow the project to proceed, saying, “On this concession, the state governments are not a party. We are talking of a federal road with federal right of way gazetted in law, it is not about politics; it is about governance.
“The responsibility for the road rests with the Federal Government and I happen to be the federal officer that is discharging that responsibility on behalf of the Federal Government.”
The minister said the ministry, under his watch; had been able to provide better roads than he met it, but that a lot still had to be done to bring Nigerian roads to the standard expected of them.
On the problematic Sagamu-Benin Expressway, Onolememen said extensive work had been done on the failed section of the road, especially at Ofosu, Ore and Ajebandele, and that the portions that used to make motorists pass the night on the road had been recovered.
He said, “When I came in, it was almost impossible to drive through the Benin-Ore road, and that was a challenge I set out to confront frontally. I have visited the place twice and directed that certain works be carried out and within a short time, we were able to deal with the challenges, and that was why in December, people were able to travel on the road.
“We are building the first 45 kilometres from Benin to Ofosu on both sides with brand new reconstruction work, and we have moved ahead to do emergency recovery of the Ore section that was really bad. We have dealt with that and we were able to facilitate movement of goods and people between Benin and Lagos in three-and-half hours.”
Onolememen added, “Recently, as a result of the downpour in the area, there was a section, which we call the Ore 2, which experienced wash out. The day it happened, I got an alert that there was a wash out after Ore and that traffic was being diverted to the old road and immediately instructed the contractor, RCC, to move into the area, and in less than five days, the work was done and the road has been opened.
“Beyond that spot, I also gave directive to FERMA to intervene in some other areas. But beyond these palliatives, under the SURE-P programme, we have just received a letter of no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement to do what we did from Km 0 in Benin to Ofosu; we are now going to award the contract from Ofosu through Ore to Ajebandele on both sides and that will permanently take care of the problem there.
“I want to assure Nigerians that that road is being procured; once the Federal Executive Council approves that phase of the work, the same treatment we gave to the Benin to Ofosu section will be given to this section, and by then, the issue of diversion of traffic from the road will be solved.”
The minister said President Goodluck Jonathan was committed to delivering the road from Benin to Sagamu, but because of the enormous amount of money that would be involved, the road would be delivered in phases.
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