Four major roads, the construction of which seemed endless, will be completed before the end of this administration, Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen has said. The projects are the Benin-Ore-Sagamu Road, Kano-Maiduguri Road, Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt Road and Abuja-Lokoja Road.
Also to benefit from the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P) fund, which will be used to finance the projects, are the second Niger Bridge and Oweto Bridge.
Onolememen disclosed this yesterday, while playing host to Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), who led a delegation of representatives from Kogi State to demand for the repair of some roads in the state.
The minister assured them that work on the Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin Highway would begin by the end of March.
He said the four roads were selected for funding through the SURE-P and "we are determined to drive these projects to completion" before the end of the tenure of this administration.
"Beyond these roads, you have the second Niger Bridge and Oweto Bridge that will benefit from SURE-P funding. These are the six projects that will benefit from SURE-P," he said.
Speaking about the Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin Road, the minister disclosed that government was discussing with Dangote Cement Company to assist in the funding, noting, however, that budgetary provisions had been made for it this year.
He said although Dangote was willing to contribute to the project, the Federal Government had to make the first move.
Dismissing claims by the people of the state that the Federal Government was discriminating against them on account of the poor state of their roads, Onolememen explained that President Goodluck Jonathan's government was aware of the need to fix all roads as a way of boosting economic development.
He said the flood of last year which cut off the Lokoja-Abuja Road brought out the necessity of fixing the Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin road, adding that Jonathan also bought into it.
"Government doesn't marginalise any part of the country," the minister told Adeyemi. "As Kogi is well placed geographically, it cannot be overlooked."
Earlier, Adeyemi, who visited the minister with two members of the House of Representatives, said his people asked him what they had done wrong for the Federal Government to have forgotten them.
He said he was subsequently banished by his constituents from going home for the last Christmas unless he got the government to repair the deplorable roads in his constituency.
When he couldn't achieve that, he said he had to plead with them to let him visit home on the understanding that he would do his best to ensure action was taken this year.
In a related development, the Benin-Auchi-Lokoja-Abuja Highway is expected to be flagged-off by Onolemhenmen by next week.
The construction of the highway starting from Algiers in Algeria, through Niger Republic down to Lagos, Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea was conceived by African leaders in the 70s as part of the economic and social integration of African countries South of the Sahara.
Fielding questions from journalists yesterday in Benin City, the Federal Controller of Works, Edo State, Mr. Dennis Orji, disclosed that work on the project had already commenced at the Auchi road flyover in State.
He further said the road project which is being handled by Messrs. Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), has a duration of 36 months to complete.
According to him, "the flagg-off of the Benin-Lokoja-Abuja Highway may be in two or three weeks times. The contractor on the Benin end of the Benin-Lokoja road, Section 4, Phase One is RCC Nigeria Ltd. As I am speaking to you now, the contractor has started work just after the Auchi road flyover. They were supposed to start somewhere in the town, but we have to settle the compensation issues first before we started construction there."
"The road is a very important road; it is a part of the Trans-Sahara Highway which starts in Algiers, Algeria in the Mediterranean Sea Port through Niger Republic to Lagos, Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea. So, it is a major highway for regional economic and social integration of many African states. It is an express way with control of access, dualized and it will just be like the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway and Benin- Shagamu Expressway."
On cost implications, Orji said, "the cost is not what we can say now".
"But the Hon. Minister of Works, Mike Onolemhenmen, has an agenda for the ministry and the nation, that is, rapid development of the road sector and I can assure you that with funds, the completion of the road will not last up to 36 months. Within two years it will be finished; if he is ready, we are ready."