FG considering World Bank loans for roads - Onolememen

By The Citizen

Faced with paucity of funds, the federal government is considering taking loans from multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, ADB, to fast track its road development programme.

The Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen, told journalists in  Abuja, yesterday, that concessionary loans from such organizations  were better than taking commercial loans from Nigeria's money and capital markets where interests remained high.

His words: 'The World Bank gave us $330 million for the rehabilitation of some roads and this went a long way in improving the quality of our roads.  We are also looking at how the African Development can come in.

'We are currently looking at some roads that can be financed by the multilateral organizations.  Their facilities are better, especially the concessionary loans which have no interest but just charges of only about 0.5 per cent.  That is better than borrowing from the Nigerian banks where the interests are high.  Besides, Nigerian banks can hardly give long-term loans.'

According to the minister, the roads to be built with such multilateral organisations' loans would be only those considered to be commercially viable and that users of such roads would be made to pay tolls in order to recoup the funds used for their constructions.

Arc. Onolememen said that there had been an overall improvement in the conditions of Nigerian roads in the last two years of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration.  He, however,  lamented that the activities of the Boko Haram sect negatively impacted on the Kano -Maiduguri Road project as all expatriate staff of the contractors had to withdraw from the area.

According to him the contractors lost 20 staff on that road and at point only indigenous staff were left to continue the project.

His words, 'the spate of insurgency in the North-East has had negative effects on the road projects, especially Kano-Maiduguri which has five sections.  In each of the five sections the contractors suffered human and material losses.

One of the contractors have lost 20 staff on that road; this has terribly slowed down the Kano-Maiduguri Road project.  There is no doubt that the insurgency has had adverse effects on the road project.  The expatriates no longer go there to work.  we had to engaged indigenous professionals.  We are not firing at full cylinder in that particular section of the country.'

The minister who gave a load down of his ministry's achievements in the last two years said that very impressive progress had been made in several on-going dualisation and rehabilitation projects across the country.

'The journey from Benin to Lagos which took upwards of nine hours in 2011, now takes three to four hours. Travel time between Abuja and lokoja has improved from four hours to about two hours.  Sections of Apapa-Oshodi Road are now wearing new looks. Travel time from Kano to Maiduguri has been reduced by half in the completed sections.

'The new bridge over River Benue at Loko-Oweto is becoming a reality as the structural members are fast springing up from the under-water.  Progress is being made steadily and surely on the Suleja-Minna dualisation project', he said.

Arc. Onolomemen gave a list of 32 roads which he said have been completed in the two years of the Jonathan administration. They included new and rehabilitated roads.

Also Onolememen has tasked surveyors at the 27th FIG Working week of the International Surveying Congress in Abuja on addressing some of the problems besetting surveying and mapping in the country and the world at large.

He said that the conference theme, 'Environment for Sustainability' was timely and appropriate, considering the level at which the role of surveyors is being recognised and appreciated worldwide, moreso when the world is facing the challenges of climate change, global warming and desertification.

He noted that surveyors in Nigeria have made very significant contributions in helping to resolve internal boundary disputes and also the UN in the implementation of International Court of Justice judgement on disputed boundary disputes such as the disputed mineral-rich Bakassi Peninsular between Nigeria and Cameroun which resulted in the peaceful and amicable resolution.

The minister challenged surveyors to use the knw2oeldge gained from the conference to ensure the success and achievement of their various countries in confronting the peculiar environmental challenges faced by their countries. He congratulated the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors, Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation, Surveyors Council of Nigeria, other professional bodies, co-sponsor, Federal Ministry of Works for the successful hosting of the conference.