The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Tuesday concluded a two-day inspection tour of on-going Highway Projects in Niger State stating that President Muhammadu Buhari was making the Nation’s economy the front and centre of his administration’s Next Level Agenda.
Speaking at Bokani Junction in Niger State where he was briefed on the progress of work on the Dualization of Jebba-Mokwa-Bokani Road (Section II), Fashola said the President, in making this decision, has chosen the development of infrastructure as anchor to achieve economic growth more quickly adding that the passing of the 2020 Budget in the first week of January was a clear indication of that decision.
Hakeem Bello, Special Adviser on Media to the Minister quoted the minister as saying to hundreds of residents of Mokwa Community who trooped out to welcome him at the site: “Whether you notice or not, the President has been very clear in his commitment to build infrastructure”, adding that the passing of the annual budget in the first month of the year has not happened in the country for a very long time.
“From the first day of the year, we already have a budget in place. That hasn’t happened for a budget to be in place in January in Nigeria for a long time”, he said adding that the economy forms “a very front and centre issue for the President and his Team”.
Underscoring the readiness of the government to pursue the goal, Fashola, however advocated the cooperation of the communities hosting infrastructural projects across the country saying nothing would be achieved without the cooperation of the communities by way of peace and readiness to cede portions of their lands through which road projects must pass.
The Minister, who noted that the present Dry Season, which, according to him is expected to last for the next five to six months, was the best time to work and make progress on the road projects, said the cooperation of the people would be paramount in order not to lose the advantage provided by the period.
He told the community members, “This is the dry weather when we can do a lot of work if the communities cooperate with us”, adding that although the President has directed that states hosting Federal road projects should handle all compensation issues, the Federal Government could always come back and deal with such issues. He added, “But we will lose the dry weather if we don’t get that cooperation quickly”.
Reiterating the commitment of President Buhari in getting the job done, Fashola declared, “The economy is the front and centre issue for the President “, adding that he and his team were in the State to inspect road projects as a demonstration of the commitment to infrastructure development.
“My team and I have been in Niger State since yesterday. We have done the Suleja-Minna Road ; we have gone to Lapai and Lambata Road, we have gone to Agaie-Barro Port Road, we have gone to New Bussa-Kaiama Road this morning and now we are on this road (Jebba-Mokwa-Bokani Section 2). These are just about five of the 16 road projects that we have in Niger State”, he said.
The Minister, who emphasized the need for the cooperation of the host communities in the successful completion of the project, told the people, “So it is a lot of work going on here and we need people’s cooperation now to deliver it because that is what you are expecting. But we can’t do it alone”.
While interacting with newsmen on the first day of the inspection, Fashola expressed his displeasure at the illegal parking of trucks on the nation’s highways, noting that the dumping of fuel and diesel on ongoing road projects was responsible for the premature deterioration of the roads adding that the petroleum products destroy the binding capacity of asphalt.
Reacting to the parking of trucks and dumping of fuel and diesel on a portion of the ongoing Suleja-Minna road where, according to him, asphalt was laid just two weeks earlier by the contractors, Salini Nigeria Limited, the Minister said this has been one of the major challenges facing road construction in the country.
He added, “And the uninformed will say the roads are not well built. But the roads are well built; but because of the petroleum products dumped on them, the asphalt loses their binding capacity. The chemicals and asphalt do not mix”.