The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has reiterated the commitment of the present administration to fast tract the completion of ongoing projects, especially its flagship project, the 338km East West highways dualisation in order to impact positively in the lives of citizens particularly from that region.
Senator Akpabio, who vowed to vigorously pursue infrastructure development and social amenities empowerment in the region in line with the ministry’s mandate, revealed some steps taken so far to ensure the administration meets the timeline for the completion of the East West road project.
According to him, a total sum of N19.4billion of funds for 2020 capital projects budget of the Ministry is being committed to the East-West road and N7.5billion has been paid while additional funding of N35 billion will come from Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, for the project,
The minister, who spoke while featuring at the 19th session of the State House Briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, also noted that request for mobilization of special funding from SUKUK Issuance through the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning has also been made to Mr. President to ensure the completion of the road.
The immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is more interested in the grassroots development therefore he has shown keen interest in the activities of the Ministry, that is why the Ministry is determined to undertake laudable projects that will uplift the lives of the Niger Deltans.”
He said that the Ministry was created in 2008 to address infrastructural deficit, environmental degradation and pollution and other sultry issues confronting the oil rich region and since his inception into office in 2019, the Ministry has made efforts to live up to the mandate, adding that it has embarked on various projects and programmes to improve the socioeconomic well being of the people.
The Minister informed that the East-West road project which is a carriageway that spans a total of 338km, containing over 41 Nos. bridges had a historical debt of #11billion in 2019 owed to contractors which has been cleared by the Ministry, adding that “this came from the magnanimity of Mr. President who approved the payment when he returned the project to the Ministry and thereafter we have had various sums of monies released to contractors who had gone back to sites”.
He stated that the Eleme-Onne Section was not included when the East-West road project was awarded because as at that time, it was in good shape and the 2 bridges were functional. However, the Ministry has released the sum of #2.5billion in August 2021 for a quick and emergency intervention due to the present deplorable condition of the section.
Senator Akpabio further stated that “we are redesigning the entire area because of the defects we have noticed, that area would be 6 lanes, no longer 4 lanes, we are going to construct additional 2 bridges, 2 flyovers and a new flyover bridge at Akpajo intersection because of heavy flow of traffic as the road links to the big fertilizer company at Indorama, Wotore , Onne Port Harcourt refining company, PPMC. I, therefore appeal to the Eleme people, Niger Deltans and Nigerians for their patience and support as we are working hard to salvage the situation”.
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The Minister also assured the completion of the Section 1-4 linking Warri to Oron through Kaima, Ahoada, Port Harcourt, Ogoni and Eket Township while Section 5 axis would be considered soon. Other projects embarked upon by the Ministry cutting across 9 States of the region, include: 13 Inter State road projects, 109 Intra state road projects, 9 Jetty design projects that have been completed with 1 being constructed in Nembe, Bayelsa State to improve water transportation, Akpabio revealed.
In the area of Social infrastructure, he informed that the Ministry is implementing 43 different categories of electrification projects, construction of over 500 Housing Units which have been handed over to the beneficiaries, construction of 18 classroom blocks with 15 completed and 3 on-going, 6 renovated, initiation of 16 Health centres with 9 completed, 7 ongoing and 3 other renovated.
The Ministry has constructed 500 Boarding Capacity Skill Acquisition centres with varied specialization and are at various levels of completion in each of the 9 States of the region, while the centre at Otuoke, Bayelsa State has been handed over to the Federal University Otuoke and the centre at Agadagba-Obon, Ese-Odo LGA, Ondo State is about to be handed over to the Federal Polytechnic, Ile- Oluji, the centres at Ibeno, Akwa Ibom and Ohaji Egbema, Imo State are completed, he stressed.
The Minister added that the Ministry has engaged the youths and women in various economic empowerment projects, human capital development training and key stakeholders which have led to remarkable improvement in the peace, security and stability in the Niger Delta region.
He pointed out that the Ministry has harmonized its action plan for effective coordination to encourage rapid socioeconomic development while its Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP) approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC) in March 2021 will result in joint accountability, elimination of project duplication, wastages of scarce resources as well as preventing abandonment of projects in the region.
He stressed that despite inadequate funding that is a major challenge in the project implementation, the Ministry would endeavour to actualize its programmes to improve the living standard of the people of the Niger Delta region.