Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, explained the reasons that President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to award contracts as well as borrow despite having just a few days left until the end of his tenure.
According to Fashola, the tenure of the Buhari-led administration will officially wind down at midnight on May 28, hence most of the projects embarked on must be funded, particularly that governance must be up and running till the president’s last day in office.
The former Lagos State Governor disclosed this while flagging off the dualisation of the Akure-Ado highway, which has for years been in a deplorable state.
While stressing that infrastructural development can only be actualised through borrowing or taxation, Fashola stated that the project, which will cost N90 billion, will be taken care of by NNPCL through the tax credit policy of the federal government.
With the project awarded to Samchase Nigeria Ltd. and Kopeck Construction Company slated for completion within the next 24 months, the Minister disclosed that lies had been peddled against him over the delay of the project, which was earlier awarded to Dantata and Saowe Construction Firm.
He said: “People are asking why we are still awarding contracts when we have just a few days to go. Should we stop this road now and wait for the next government? It is a juvenile conversation. They forgot, among other things, that the term of this administration ends at midnight on May 28.
“This road really represents the paradox about governance, about roads, and about public debts. This is the real story. The work looks easy from the outside, but one decision leads to other consequences. But we have now given you contractors who have worked with you.
“All kinds of stories have been told about me, but none of them bother me. They just dedicate me to my job and tell me to do it as best I can. All lies have been published that Fashola does not like Ekiti and Ondo States. That is absolute nonsense.
“There were suggestions that we should asphalt and rehabilitate the road, and I said no, that we will dualize the road and we are going to reconstruct. Before we could do that, we had to first do the design, which took some time. But many were ignorant about this. It is not as easy as it looks.
Fashola added that the procurement act must be looked into by the 10th National Assembly, as he stated that the law will slow down the development that Nigerians desire.
“There is a law passed by the National Assembly called the Procurement Act; if you don’t follow it, they will call you a thief. That procurement law and the processes that it prescribes are not consistent with the hurry that Nigeria is in for development. And I hope the 10th National Assembly will look at that procurement law and make adjustments. Its intention is good, but the processes slow down the country.
“They forget that you, the people, through your representatives, have passed a budget for us to implement. It is a law. The people then ask, “Why is the government borrowing?” The easiest thing to do in government is to say that our revenue is N10 and our work is N10, but that means that nobody should ask for a road.
“If you want development and you have chosen infrastructure—a road, school, bridge, pipeline, refinery—who is going to pay for it?” It is going to come at a cost.
“So that is why the first thing you will see when government, whether at the state, local, or federal level, responds to the needs of the people is an expenditure that exceeds the revenue; that is when you have what is called a deficit. Someone has to pay for that deficit.
“In this next dispensation, I want us to have a real conversation, not imaginary issues. Elevated and mature conversation, not juvenile conversation. If you don’t want borrowing and you don’t want tax, So where do you want the government to get money from, because that is how it is done everywhere in the world?
“The road will cost $90 billion. You want the road, and you will say that Buhari is borrowing too much money. This road is not funded by debt but through tax credits. We will be leaving the sustainable development goal because, whether we are in office or not, this road will be completed.
In his remarks, the Minister of State for Transport, Ademola Adegoroye, saluted the Minister of Works for his efforts towards ensuring that the construction of the dualized road commenced.
“Akure-Ado Road is one that is important to our people because Ekiti and Ondo State people are one. Many people work in Akure and live in Ado, and many also work in Ikere and Ado but live in Akure. The road will create good commerce. This project will not stop until it is commissioned because it will be handled by the same government.”
The Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who was represented by Commissioner for Infrastructure, Raimi Aminu, urged the residents to give maximum support to the contractors, his Ekiti State counterpart, Biodun Oyebanji, represented by the Head of Service, Dele Agbede, described the moment as historic for the people of Ekiti and Ondo State.