Contract For 2nd Niger Bridge A Hoax--Minister

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By Chuks Okocha, Abuja
Minister of Works and Housing, Dr. Hassan Lawal, yesterday stunned members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when he declared that there was no binding contract signed for the construction of the Second River Niger Bridge.

The minister, who described the said contract for the Second Niger Bridge as a hoax, also said over 70 per cent of the 34,000 kilometre-long federal roads across the country were in deplorable condition.

Lawal, who was speaking at an interactive session with PDP leaders in Abuja, said the Federal Government had concessioned the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for N89 billion over a period of 25 years.

The minister, who was responding to a question on the state of the Second Niger Bridge, said: “The Second Niger Bridge was said to have been awarded as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to a particular company by the last administration.

“There is no contract and I still stand by it because as a lawyer, I'm well educated to know what a contract is and what is not a contract. Two states were consulted; Delta and Anambra, by the previous administration and a company was engaged and a ceremony was conducted by way of flag-off of that project.

“And I don't believe that ceremony constitute a contract. Even in a normal simple marriage contract either being supervised by the Bishop or Imam, there has to be documentation signed by the two parties. In other words, there are many elements that constitute a contract. I have gone through the books, I have not seen one agreement signed by the developer, signed by the Delta State governor, signed by the Anambra State governor or signed by any of my predecessors as ministers.

“But we have put that behind us. We are reviewing the entire project because we believe that the people of Delta and Anambra and indeed Nigeria deserve that bridge. And above all, the first bridge was built by the Tafawa Balewa government in the 1960s and it is old, archaic, tired and risky.

“So, very soon, we will come out with details of the review. And we believe that all the stakeholders will come to understand the implication of using the old bridge and also appreciate the need for a new bridge and also endorse economic viability of that bridge.”

Speaking on the state of federal roads, the Minister said: “About 70 per cent of the 34,000 kilometres of federal roads are generally in deplorable condition. This has resulted from past neglect of road maintenance due to inadequate funding, inappropriate institutional framework for road maintenance and collapse of other modes of transportation, like railways, inland water ways, etc.”

According to Lawal, “the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been concessioned at a cost of N89 billion for a period of 25 years. The following roads are being processed for concessioning: Shagamu-Benin dual carriageway, Lagos-Badagry-Seme Border dual carriageway, Abuja-Kaduna dual carriageway and the Kaduna-Kano dual carriageway.”

The minister also told the PDP officials that the Federal Government would soon complete 55 road projects at a cost of N209.08 billion, while the execution of another 34 road projects costing N136.38 billion was in progress.

He also explained that government had secured a $148.416 million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the construction of the Abakiliki-Mbok and Ikom-Mfum roads, as well as the Nigeria-Cameroon Joint Border Post.

Other road projects under rehabilitation, according to him, include the 1022 kilometre Enugu- Abakiliki-Mfun road, the Mokwa-Bida-Lambatta-Suleja road and the Samamiya-Bauchi- Gombe-Biu road, as well as the Benin-Ifon-Owo-Ilesa road.

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