By NBF News
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It was a very tensed briefing session after yesterday's Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting when it was disclosed that the initial design for the East-West Road project failed to take into account the difficult terrain of the region, hence it's going to cost government additional N106,968,419,582.66 to augment the cost of the project.

The council in its third sitting in this administration approved contracts worth N114.460billion.

For the East-west road project to meet the required standard, government had to review the entire road structure. Consequently, the ministry had to redesign the shoulders and width to meet the required standard and it is expected to be completed by 2013.

State House Correspondents engaged the trio of the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, Health Minister, Onyeabuchi Chukwu and Minister of State, Niger Delta, Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, following the approval of the augmentation of the East-West Road project, Section I, II-I and II-II, bringing the total contract sum to N245,899,616,680.02.

Journalists questioned the motive behind the augmentation and why those responsible for the initial approval were not punished for misleading the government in approving faulty design, but both Maku and Kuchi tactically avoided the questions. It is important to note that the 2011 budget for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is N55, 207,384,358 while N51, 977; 575,020 is for capital project. For the East-West Road, N15.6 billion has been set outside for the project in 2011 appropriation.

The East-West Road, Section I (Warri-Kaikama) in Delta State was originally awarded at the sum of N64,125,000,000.00 and the council approved the augmented sum of N48,041,400,493.60 bringing the revised sum to N112,166,400,493.60.

East-West Road project, Section II-I (Port Harcourt-Ahoada) in Rivers State was originally awarded at the sum of N29,922,478,839.19 and the council approved the augmented sum of N19,050,824,293.59, bringing the revised sum to N48,973,303,132.78.

East-West Road project, Section II-II (Ahoada-Kaiama) in Rivers/Bayelsa State was originally awarded at the sum of N44,883,718,258.18 and the council approved the augmented sum of N39,876,194,795.46, bringing the revised sum to N84,759,913,053.64. The grand total of the original sum is N138,931,197,097.37, the augmented sum is N106,968,419,582.65 and so the revised sum of the contract is N245,899,616,680.02 to Setraco (Nig) Ltd., with completion period of December 2013.

Justifying the augmentation when taken on, Maku stated that 'there is hardly any road or dam project that you give at the beginning that will not end up in review,' adding that when the project was awarded in 2006, the cost by the original contractor Julius Berger was so much that government refused to touch it.

He explained that the dualization of the project 'is a landmark intervention of the Federal Government on infrastructure in the Niger Delta region.'

The minister noted that 'the augmentation of the project became imperative to adequately complete the East-West Road project, which by its location in the oil industry zone, is an emerging heavily trafficked road in Nigeria, which calls for a stable road pavement that is less prone to frequent failure and disruption of traffic flow.'

Also attempting to justify the huge augmentation of the project, Kuchi said work would have stopped on the project by the end of August 2011 had the FEC not approved the request for the N106, 968,419,582.65 augmentation of the project.

She also blamed militancy, incessant rainfall in the region as well as budgetary constraints for the slow pace of work and denied that the government at any point in time abandoned the work.

Kuchi said the project, which was almost 40 per cent completed would create 2000 additional jobs in line with this administration's transformation agenda.

Also, in furtherance of the Federal Government's plan of providing adequate, reliable and stable national grid that could handle the expected new generation capacity from PHCN and Independent Power Producers, a number of transmission sub-stations were identified by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) Plc. for implementation within the short/medium strategic plan.