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FG to review Second Niger Bridge contract after detecting errors

By The Rainbow
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The Federal Government has said it is reviewing conditions and issues around the second Niger bridge in order to correct some observed anomaly in the contract for the project.

The government specifically pointed out community issues and contract sum as part of its apprehensions on the contract.

The Director-General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Aminu Diko, who spoke with State House correspondents after making presentations to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday, said that The Ministry of Works had been asked to review the cost of the project.

He said, “The second Niger bridge is one of the projects that we discussed with the President. We have been discussing the transaction with the Ministry of Works. But before it can be finalised, the commissioner has to give a certificate of compliance, but we haven't given that because we have seen a lot of issues that we are uncomfortable with.

“We are talking with the Ministry of Works for them to correct it. The communities around that area are clamouring that their lands have been taken and that they have not been compensated adequately.

“As a matter of fact, we got a letter from Onitsha Traditional Council complaining that they have not been adequately represented in this transaction.

These kind of issues we are not saying that something has not been done properly but we need to be convinced that these few problems are sorted out properly.

“We will also talk about the actual cost of the bridge. Eventually, we have asked the Ministry of Works to review it and justify how much the project should cost.”

The Director General was evasive on the specific question of the status of the project. But he assured that the government is seriously working to deliver on the project which is of critical importance to Nigerians from the eastern part of the country.

According to him, “I have no idea about the status of the project. What I need to tell Nigerians is that PPPs take a long time to mature. There is a difference between the project which you have money in your pocket or in your account and you just bring it out and tell somebody to go and do it.

“But when it is PPP transaction, you first engage a number of people. You have banker, lawyers, engineers. They all collaborate to form consultancy for that transaction.

“For the second Niger bridge there will be a lot of studies that need to be done on the integrity of the bridge itself which will take time. It is not something we can see being completed in the next six months.

“I will like us to be patient about it, we know that it is a critical road. We also know how Nigerians suffer during festive holidays and we hear people sleep on that old bridge. The time has come for us to bring succour to Nigerians.”

He said that mission of the Commission to the Villa was to tell the President about the imperative of PPPs in nation building.

“Unfortunately, we realised that we were coming to preach to the converted because only on Sunday the President was at the NBA conference where he made a profound statement regarding infrastructure deficit in Nigeria. The government cannot do it alone.

“So the private sector both in and outside the country must be accepted as a partner in progress, provided that the nation will not be shortchanged in anyway. Private sector will be allowed to invest in the country and recuperate their investments and ICRC will be there to guide ministries department and agencies on how to structure these transactions and when it is properly signed and executed we will also take custody of those agreement to ensure that there is total compliance.”

He also said some of the limitations of the Commission were also discussed with the President.

He added: “One of which is the most significant is the law that we operate. It is very ineffective. So, we have proposed an amendment to the law and he has agreed to support the passing of the bill when it comes back to him from the Attorney-General's office.

“We also discussed some of the legacy concession that we inherited, the port terminals the one at Lagos International Trade Fair, the one over Tafawa Balewa square and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

“We also discussed all the projects that were started under the ICRC Act – one of which is the second Niger Bridge, the National Theatre complex, Lagos. These are important projects to the country and in addition to that this country is proposing to build three deep sea port for Nigeria with combined estimated cost of about $6 billion.

“So, you can imagine the kind of opportunities it can create as far as job creation is concerned and as far as vibrancy of the economy is concerned.

“So, we are reviewing these proposals, with the Ministry of Transport and in due course we will come out with a position on that.” He stated

He said Buhari gave the Commission two directives.
His words: “He gave us two directives, especially on agricultural silos. We did tell the President that this nation has already built about 33 agricultural silos that is spread all over the country but government has sunk in money there and the management of those silos will be granted to the private sector.

“What the President has directed is that we should involve the state governors to see how best they can encourage their farmers to utilise these silos when they come into effect.

“He also addressed another issue which is very important. ICRC regulates how public private partnership transactions come in to being, but before they come in to being they have to be developed.

“ICRC does not develop projects and also does not give funding for the development of the project. So, the President directed that MDAs should ensure that they have adequate funding for development of project in their budgets and if they don't, they should look for alternative ways of getting such funding.

“We acknowledge that some of the developments institutions have already begun to grant Nigeria such attention. Recently, the African Development Bank offered to finance the engagement of a transaction adviser for the Nigeria Trans-Sahara gas pipeline that Nigeria is building, which is part of the African Heads of Government commitment to develop Africa in general.

“World bank has also given some facilities to Nigeria some of which could be used for project development and capacity building for relevant MDAs. So, the complexities of the transactions can be tackled head on.”

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