Construction work on many major roads in the six geopolitical zones of the country has stopped despite the Federal Government’s N84.54bn budgetary allocations to them from 2017 to 2019.

Investigations showed that contractors stopped work on many of the projects because of poor funding by the Federal Government.

It was gathered that where contractors had not abandoned road projects, the pace of work was very slow.

A top official of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, stated that work was not ongoing on some of the roads due to funding challenges.

“Some contractors are not on site because they are sorting out funding issues with the ministry. You can remember that there was a call recently for additional funds in order to bridge the funding gap required for the rehabilitation of roads,” he said.

The Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, had, in September, said the state and Lagos State had sought the Federal Government’s approval to take over the Lagos-Abeokuta road project.

He had said with the Federal Government’s approval, the road would be constructed under a private-public sector arrangement.

Abiodun had stated, “There is a debt of N26bn hanging on that road. The servicing of that road is exceeding N1bn every year and that road will never be completed by this government and it is because of the paucity of fund at the federal level.”

It was gathered that from 2017 to 2019, the Federal Government budgeted only N1.2bn for the Lagos-Abeokuta road.

The Deputy Director of Press in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Stephen Kilebi on Sunday said the contract for the Ikot-Ekpene-Aba road had just been awarded to the CGGC construction company.

He said, “The Aba-Ikot Ekpene road contract has just been awarded to the CGGC, and for the Lagos-Abeokuta road, the contractor there is Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.

“But they (Julius Berger) are not on site for now because of some funding challenges that they need to sort out with the ministry.”

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had, during a visit of the Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association to his office on December 10, said the Federal Government owed road contractors N306bn.

He said between 2015 and 2018, “the entire amount we got was not up to N1tn in actual cash in this ministry.”

Fashola had stated, “The budget, yes! But not all budgets are funded. So, if we had N1tn to spend on Nigerian roads, we would be in a much better position. As of October, we were owing contractors N306bn and more bills are coming in and all we got was N73bn.”

Lagos-Abeokuta road, 11 others got N84.5bn allocation in three years

From 2017 to 2019, the Federal Government allocated N84.54bn to 12 major road projects spread across the six geopolitical zones in the country.

But the actual amount released to the ministry for the projects could not be ascertained.

The N84.54bn was arrived at based on an analysis of the budget of the ministry of works for the three-year period.

A breakdown of the amount showed that three road projects in the South-East were allocated N38.55bn during the period.

The roads are Onitsha -Enugu road, which was allocated N15.02bn; Port Harcourt-Enugu road, which got N18.87bn and the Ikot Ekpene-Aba road, which had N4.66bn.

In the South-West, two major road projects were allocated N6.25bn. The Lagos-Abeokuta road was allocated N1.2bn during the period and N5.05bn was earmarked for the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso road.

For the North-Central, N26.72bn was allocated to three road projects in the zone. N8.36bn was allocated to the Ilorin-Jebba road, while the Lokoja-Abuja road got N15.68bn and N2.68bn was earmarked for the Makurdi-Enugu road.

The Federal Government also allocated a total of N9.37bn to two road projects in the South-South. Also, N9.25bn was earmarked for the Calabar-Itu-Odukpani road, while N123.53m was allocated to the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja road.

In the North-East, about N3.65bn was earmarked for two major road projects. The Biu-Gombe road was allocated N1.83bn, while N1.82bn was earmarked for the Damaturu-Biu road.

It was gathered that no construction work was ongoing on the Abeokuta-Lagos road.

Almost all sections of the road, including parts of Sango, Owode, Itori, Kola and Tollgate, have become impassable.

It was said that Julius Berger, the contractor handling the contract, abandoned the road after doing some palliative work in the Owode area a few months ago.

A resident of Sango, stated, “We have not been seeing them (Julius Berger) and people are leaving this area because there is no hope government will do anything.”

The spokesperson for Julius Berger, Moses Duku, had, in May, said the company had not abandoned the contract, but that it was working with what he described as a “funding schedule.”

Duku said, “The project is ours. We have a tradition, which is that we don’t abandon projects once they have been given to us. But we also must work with the funding schedule of the project.”

Despite N5.5bn allocated to the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso road, work being done on the road was still very slow.

Drivers protested that a journey on the 163.5 kilometre road took four hours as a result of potholes and craters.

The road, which was said to have been sparsely maintained as a result of poor budgeting, accounts for the death of several commuters.

At 3.47pm on December 19, five lives were lost with several other persons injured in a crash involving two commercial vehicles.

A commercial driver said, “The Oyo-Ogbomoso road is like old clothes that keep tearing as they carry out repairs. There is no way they can keep maintaining the road. It requires reconstruction.”

Another driver, described the road as a nightmare to commuters, saying government should take urgent steps to address the problem.

The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency’s Road Engineer in Oyo State, Ige Babatunde, said although it was obvious that the condition of the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso road was bad, palliatives were being carried out on it.

Babatunde stated, “What we are doing now at the Ibadan-Oyo end of the road is just palliative.

“The basement structure that we have now is different from the old structure. New roads that are being built currently can carry 100 tonnes of loads and the impact would not be felt; but this, we all know, costs a lot of money.

“The maintenance that we are carrying out at the moment between Oyo and Ogbomoso is just for vehicles to pass. When we see potholes on the road, we will cut and patch it. Most of the points we patched are still standing but there are new potholes on other sections of the road.”

He said the construction firm was also working on some critical sections of the Oyo-Ogbomoso road.

On the award of the road contract, Babatunde said, “When you say money is approved for a particular road project, you are talking of the Ministry of Works. FERMA is just a road maintenance agency under the Ministry of Works. It is the Federal Ministry of Works that approves road reconstruction and rehabilitation.”

While RCC was to handle major contract on the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbmosho road, he explained that FERMA was also working on the critical sections of the road.

It was gathered that no work was going on on the Ikot-Ekpene-Aba road stopped work on the road in June.

A resident of Abia State said there were only minor interventions on the road a few months ago.

“We are calling on government to rehabilitate all portions of the road for easy movement,” the resident said.

It was also gathered that the contractor handling the Enugu-Onitsha road project stopped work after the February general elections.

A truck driver decried the the state of the road, noting that a journey on the road, which shouldn’t take more than three hours, lasted for five hours.

At the Enugu end of the road, the firm handling the project, it was gathered, constructed one lane from 9th Mile to Ezeagu near Ugwuoba and stopped work since March because of alleged non-funding.

In Rivers State, a former Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Oyigbo Local Government Area, Chisom Gbali, decried the slow pace of work on the Oyigbo section of the Port Harcourt-Aba-Enugu road.

Gbali said, “We are worried, but what can we do? We are handicapped; the Federal Government has turned its back on Rivers State.

“People are suffering because of the bad road. They spend four to five hours from Eleme Junction to Oyigbo (less than two kilometres).”

The Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway was, in 2018, reawarded for expansion from a four-lane dual carriageway to an eight-lane dual carriageway on both sides from Eleme Junction in Rivers State to Aba in Abia State.

However, a resident of Oyigbo lamented the hardship people faced due to the slow pace of construction and expansion of the axis of the Port Harcourt-Aba-Enugu road.

The resident whose workshop is close to the road said his business had not been thriving since the reconstruction of the road began.

He said, “For a while now, since the reconstruction of the road started, the front of my shop has been excavated and access to my workshop blocked, making it difficult for customers to enter my shop. As a result, customers are no longer patronising me.”

Also, a driver said because of the poor state of the road, he always spent more fuel and hours on the road.

The driver added that most passengers, who travelled regularly, had avoided regular trips as a result of the poor condition of the road.

He lamented that the poor state of the Rivers section of the Port Harcourt-Aba-Enugu road had forced passengers to deliberately avoid vehicles plying the road.

From 2017 to 2019, the Federal Government allocated N9.25bn to the reconstruction of the Calabar-Itu road. The axis between the Odukpani Junction and the Okurikang Junction has been in a very terrible condition for several months.

A traveller,said “when trucks fall at bad spots and block the road, commuters find it difficult to cross to the other side.”.

He added, “So, the way out for some of them is to board motorcycles from the Odukpani Junction to the Okurikang Junction.”

Also, a motorist, when asked whether the state of the road justified the over N9bn budgeted for it in the last three years, said, “Government could not have spent such money on that road considering its present state. Government has not spent any money on Calabar-Itu road.

“Anybody saying the Federal Government has spent such money on the Calabar-Itu road is lying. It may have been budgeted for, but it has not been spent, at least not on that road. That is the issue.”

It was observed that the rate of work on the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja road was slow.

But the construction of a single-lane Ilorin-Jebba road has been completed. The Federal Controller of Works in Kwara State, Wasiu Atitebi, said the road would be handed over to the Federal Government in January.

The Asiwaju of Shao in the Moro Local Government Area of the state, Chief Oluwole Oke, said the road was better but it had not been dualised as promised by the Federal Government.

There was no budgetary provision for the Makurdi-Otukpo-Enugu highway in 2017 and 2018, while N2.68bn was earmarked for it in 2019.

Although the worst portion of the road is the Makurdi-Aliade-Taraku axis, the Taraku-Otukpo-Enugu portion of the road is being rehabilitated.

It was gathered that the rehabilitation of the Otukpo-Enugu portion of the road, which commenced about three years ago, had not been completed.

It was also gathered that the rehabilitation of the Taraku-Otukpo portion was completed a few months ago, while the Makurdi-Aliade-Taraku axis had been neglected.

The Gombe-Biu Road, which the Federal Government voted N1.83bn for in three years , is also in a bad condition.

A motorist, said the road was as horrible as the Gombe-Yola road. “Nothing significant has been done on the road. There is nothing to suggest that they are working or have worked on it,” he stated.