The Muhammadu Buhari administration has awarded 800 contracts since it came on board six years ago, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed.
This is even as he has declared that there is no housing crisis in Nigeria but that what the country was battling is urbanization, movement of people from rural areas to urban centres, which creates a demand and supply problem.
Fashola spoke as a guest of the weekly ministerial briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team at the presidential villa, Abuja on Thursday.
On the number of contracts, he said: “The number of contracts awarded is 800 not 800 projects. Sometimes within a road, you might have multiple contracts.
For instance Kano to Maiduguri there are five different contracts that are unique.
If you look at the Lagos Ibadan, there are two contracts there, for Enugu Port Harcourt there are five contracts there.
So each one has designated supervising project officer, so in that sense, it is right to say we have 800 plus contracts.”
The minister said the work done consists of highways bridges, covering a distance of over 13, 000 kilometres.
The minister while refuting claims that Nigeria has a 17 million housing deficit, he pointed out that a country with many empty houses cannot be classified as such.
Fashola further stated that even though people squat in the cities, it does not amount to the housing deficit in the country.
He stated: “It’s illogical to say we have a housing deficit when you have empty houses. No such deficit exist anywhere in the world.
“We are not in a housing crisis. Housing shortages that exist are in urban centres not in rural areas. The problem is as a result of urbanization where people move from rural to urban centres.”
Fashola said he had consulted with some International organizations including the African Development Bank (AfDP) and confirmed that the Nigerian housing deficit reports are not correct.
He, therefore, advised Nigerians that the purported 17 million housing deficit in the country should be disregarded.
However, the minister affirmed that the actual housing deficit in Nigeria cannot be ascertained until another census is conducted in the country.
On infrastructural development, he said the administration of Buhari has taken bold steps to execute projects that seemed impossible for previous govermments, siting the second Niger Bridge, Lagos Oworonshoki road, third mainland bridge repairs, Kano-Abuja road among others.
He also disclosed that the ministry most times suffer budget deficit as the money due the ministry to meet its contractual obligations is not fully released.
Fashola concluded that despite the current administration’s achievement in infrastructures, budget deficits remains a challenge.
The Minister explained that in 2015 for instance, he inherited a budget of N18 billion but as at today it has risen to over N200 billion.
He said: “The budget for roads in Nigeria in 2015 that we inherited was N18 billion for all Nigerian roads. 2015 was also the year that I left office as Governor of Lagos so the budget for Lagos State roads for that year was about N70 billion and it was not enough so I don’t see how 18 would have been enough for the whole of Nigeria.
“But the first roads budget for the Buhari administration was N260 billion the next, N240 billion, next N356 billion then we have come down to N233, N237 and so on and so forth. We are doing a lot more with less resources.”
Fashola also highlighted what the ministry has done in the past six years, even as he disclosed that six new federal secretariats arising from the creation of new states where assets were separated were currently being constructed.
“The ones in Anambra and Zamfara are likely to finish this year. The one in Nasarawa and Bayelsa will run into probably next year while Ekiti is in the race to finish next year,” he said.
Fashola added that already already there are various housing projects spread across 34 States.
He added that the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is currently rehabilitating about 13, 000 kilometers of road in various parts of the country.
“FERMA, our maintenance agency is already acting on over 5,000 kilometers of road and 8,000 kilometers of highway maintenance which is part of job creation as well,” he said.
The Works and Housing Minister also stated that the administration has been able to confront roads that he tagged as stubborn, which are now being used by Nigerians.
“We have been able to execute some of Nigeria’s most difficult projects that have defied solution from previous administrations and one of them is the Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan expressway, which has been there for long since 1999 and it was under this administration that construction started and I say that emphatically.
Before that it was maintenance but we are nearing completion now.
“Bodo Bonny was awarded three times unsuccessfully but this is the first time that actual construction is now going on; one bridge has been finished, second one is in progress and several kilometers of road network are already being constructed.
“And of course the 2nd Niger Bridge has been in the news for a long time especially during election campaign period nut now all of the structures, piles, everything is complete now it’s just to finish the deck and the link road to Owerri.
Abuja-Kano-Kaduna highway was last acted upon in 1991; it was awarded I think in 1985 by the Babangida administration and since 1991 no action there but we are working on that now.
Then who can forget the Apapa-Oworonshoki expressway where many containers had fallen down killing people and damaging properties in the process.
Since 1975 when it was completed, nothing of substance has been done but now we have a final solution because it is now being fully reconstructed with concrete and 29 out of 35 kilometers have been completed,” Fashola explained.
On tolling policy, Fashola revealed that the federal government will soon unveil its. The new policy which is being rolled out under the highway development initiative, will come into force after the approval by the Federal Executive Council FEC.
“That initiative has progressed, we have received it, we have received it, qualified people, we are now going to ask them to send their proposals. I am not going to go ahead of myself, because, we are finalizing a tolling policy that will come to the Federal Executive Council and it will be considered by the government.”
He disclosed that government has organized a stakeholders meeting ahead of the implementation.