N100bn bond for expressway - The Nation
•Is it politics or business?
As if in response to widespread skepticism over its plan for the abandoned Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Federal Government has thrown a new dice into the conundrum. According to the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, the government is ready to issue a N100 billion bond towards the completion of the road. The minister made the claim before a delegation of campaigners for President Goodluck Jonathan and his vice, Namadi Sambo, known as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Reloaded Committee, which is led by former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu. Shockingly, the minister also claimed that since the contract for the expressway was re-awarded, work has been going on, on that road.
Considering the several failed promises made by the Federal Government on the rehabilitation of that road, we do not know whether this new claim is a mere political gimmick. Interestingly, the minister chose a meeting with politicians to announce such an important decision. A few months ago, President Jonathan came to do a groundbreaking ceremony on the construction of that road, but notably, the current budget awaiting the approval of the federal legislature captured only N25 billion out of the about N170 billion required to fix it. Again, the Federal Government had not long ago, also claimed that it was going into a Public-Private Partnership as a source of funding to build the road.
So, which of the claims shall Nigerians rely on towards the reconstruction of perhaps the most important federal highway in Nigeria? Should we rely on the political assertions of the minister made before President Jonathan's praise singers or that of the President which came with much fanfare, with no action? Or, is it even possible that when the President flagged off the reconstruction project, there was no funding plan in place? Nigerians demand an answer to this flip-flop of the Federal Government, more so as the integrity of the office of the President has been dragged into the conundrum.
As we have previously argued, if indeed the Federal Government has no plans to reconstruct that road, why all the fanfare and excruciating deprivations that road users suffer on the day President Jonathan came to perform what is turning out a duplicitous enterprise? Now, it seems the minister has taken over where the President stopped in a classical case of double speak. By the minister's claim last week, the Federal Government is now to fund the entire project, partly through direct funding and the major chunk of fund, by borrowing. Yet, in the 2014 budget estimate, the entire provision for the ministry of works is not up to the cost of the project; or shouldn't the cost have been captured in the budget, if truly there is a genuine plan of action?
The case of abandonment that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has suffered is applicable to most of the other federal highways across the country. While the present regime can claim that the crisis predates it, it is shameful that it has not done much since it came on board. Again, since the emergence of democratic governance in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party has been in power, and over the 14 years it has budgeted hundreds of billions of naira to the Federal Ministry of Works, with very little to show for it. The failure of the party to deliver on infrastructure cuts across, in spite of the trillions of naira budgeted annually for these. Considering the importance of this road, we again urge the Federal Government to expedite action on its reconstruction.