Fashola paving way for socio-economic growth through road construction, Housing as Nigeria clocks 61

 Modestus Umenzekwe

As Nigeria clocks 61, it is indeed germane to look at the country has faired over time in road and housing

Excellence begets excellence, and the only way to acknowledge good work is promotion. Indeed it is not in the character of any good leader to ignore merit, he goes for the best for the good of those he leads, no wonder then, after the 2015 Presidential Election, the winner of that election, President Muhammadu Buhari in his sagacious judgement brought in the former Governor of Lagos State, Batunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and handed over to him, three key Ministries: the ministries of Works, Housing and Power.

Many called them juicy ministries, but critical thinking citizens saw the move as a well thought out one. Of course many did not see the justification of handing three key ministries to one man, but he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches; the vision bearer, the president, knew exactly what and who he actually needed in order to translate his vision, dreams and aspirations for Nigeria into fruition.  The president knew exactly what he wanted and he went for it without fear or favour. Indeed since the Honourable Minister came on board of President Buhari’s cabinet, it has been a case of one project after another, he has delivered numerous quality projects making him one of the very few current government functionaries that have displayed passion for the realization and implementation of President Buhari’s good agenda for Nigerians.

In the same vein when President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in 2019, Fashola was also brought in, this time perhaps as a democrat who listens to the voice of those that elected him; the President chose to split the overload on the amiable minister and allowed him to concentrate on Works and Housing for optimum performance. Since he left Power evidence today has shown that a colossus indeed left a gaping vacuum difficult to fill.

Fashola’s coming into Federal Platform as a minster, bringing to bear his exemplary leadership style for which he was known in Lagos which brought unmatchable developmental strides to Lagos, has brought sincerity and quantum of projects never seen before in the annals of the country.

Politics aside, the passion and professionalism with which he goes about his responsibility needs commendation and acknowledgement.

By June 21, 2021, when he made a presentation titled, “The Politics of Economy and the Economy of Politics: Infrastructure Development; the Progressive Way” at the first APC Youth Conference in Abuja, Fashola said infrastructure deliverables had shot to 895 ongoing Highway and Bridge projects, internal road rehabilitation in 43 federal tertiary institutions, construction of new Federal Secretariats in six states and rehabilitation/maintenance of 24 Federal Secretariats across the country, construction of housing estates under the National Housing Programme in 34 states, rehabilitation of 41 bridges, scheduled maintenance of 5,461.88Km of roads and 8,000km of Highway maintenance by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), all across the nation while government established the first ever National Building Maintenance Policy for the country, leading to the creation of the Department of Federal Public Asset Maintenance (FPAM) with the Ministry.

Of course with the SUKUK Bond, amounting to N162, 557,000,000, aimed at facilitating the execution of major road projects across the country, it becomes easy for the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola to do what he knows how to do best.

As at today, 44 Federal Roads spread across the six geo-political zones are being financed under this SUKUK road project: North Central having eight, North East Eight, North West Seven, South West Six, South East Five and South-South having Ten roads each, with the breakdown of the financial implication as follows: North Central N26.5b, North East N30.5bn, North West N26.5bn, Southeast N26bn, South-South N26bn, and South West N27.05bn

What are the benefits of road construction to the people and economy? Fashola in one of his outings listed the many economic benefits of road construction to the people, saying that a lot of jobs have been created for labourers, artisans, suppliers of building materials, sand suppliers, farmers, and even food vendors who make their daily earnings from the construction sides. He said “President Muhammadu Buhari has been legitimately distributing wealth through investment in road infrastructure and the 100 million Nigerians he would take out of poverty in a decade would be achieved,” he said.

Remember what Fashola once called ‘infrastructure catch up’ In 2017 Fashola made it clear that the road projects under his ministry are spread out in such a way that no zone has been left out, Mr. Fashola listed the proposed priority highway projects slated in the 2017 Budget to include Kano-Katsina Road; Ilorin-Kabba-Obajana Road (Sections 1&11); Ibadan-Ilorin Road, Section11 (Oyo-Ogbomosho); Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Dual Carriageway, Sections 1&11; and Lagos-Otta Road.

Included also are Apapa/Tincan Port, NNPC Depot (Atlas Cove) to Mile 2 Accessd Road, Apapa-Oshodi Road, Third Mainland Bridge, Apapa/Tincan Island Port-NNPC Depot Access Road, Benin-Ofosu-Ore Ajebandele-Shagamu Road, Obajana Junction-Benin Road Phase 2: (Sections i-iv), Sapele-Ewu Road Sections 1&11, Second Niger Bridge, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway (Amansea-Enugu State Border), Yenegoa Road Junction-Kolo-Otueke-Bayelsa Palm and Bodo-Bonny Road with Bridge.

Others are Odukpani-Itu-(Spur Ididep-Itam)-Ikot Ekpene Federal Highway Sections 1&11, Ikom Bridge, Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriageway Sections i-iv, Calabar-Ugep-Katsina Ala Road, Vandeikya-Obudu-Obudu Cattle Ranch Road, Oshegbudu-Oweto Road, Oju/Loko-Oweto Bridge with approach roads, Nassarawa-Loko Road, Abuja-Lokoja Road Sections i&iv, Suleja-Minna Road Section 11. Kaduna Eastern Bypass, Kano-Maiduguri Road Section 1-1V, Hadejia-Nguru-Gashua-Bayamari Road and Kano Western Bypass.

In the list also are Onitsha-Enugu Road (Section 1&11), Enugu-Port Harcourt Road (Sections i-iv), Calabar-Odukpani-Itu Road (Section1), Calabar-Ugep-Katsina Ala Road (Sections 1&11), Alesi-Ugup (Iyamoyung-Ugup) Road, Ogoja(Mbok Junction) Abuochichie Road, Otukpo Township Road, Kano-Maiduguri Road(Sections i-v), Kaduna-Zaria Road and Kaduna-Katsina Road, among others.

His housing projects are legendary as the Nigerian government has begun a national housing scheme in 33 states under which it plans to build 2,736 housing units across the country.

Fashola has also shown that he is a man that is in love with merit. He chooses and partners with down to earth professionals who are ready to make his job easy and his assignments realizable by appointing Senator Lawal Shuaibu, Board Chairman and Senator Gbenga Ashafa as Managing Director of Federal Housing Authority.

In 2019 Fashola said that 1, 094, housing units have been completed under the National Housing Project from the 2019 budget. He spoke during an oversight visit to the ministry by the Senate Committee on Housing led by its Chairman, Sen. Sam Egwu,

Indeed out of the N83.661 Billion budget presented to the Federal Government, only N33.4 billion was released to the ministry. “The ministry got only 39 per cent financial support from the federal government in the appropriation of 2019 to the housing sector, he had lamented. But that did not deter him from working in tandem with available resources.

In tackling the housing problem with the seriously it deserves in the country, the Federal Government through the dedicated efforts of Mr Fashola announced plans to launch a dedicated web portal for the sale of buildings to Nigerians.

The platform was expected to help contributors to the National Housing Fund (NHF) access mortgage loans on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fashola said this while speaking at the ninth meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Jos, Plateau State.

Represented by the Minister of State for Works and Housing, Abubakar Aliyu, Fashola pointed out that the ministry is currently at the completion stages of the first phase of the national housing programme in 34 states of the federation, which provided land for it. He said, “We urge the state governments to alert their residents to this opportunity for interested persons to apply.”

Just as we discuss the impact of Fashola in piloting the affairs of his ministry, we must not over look the broader vision of Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari and his party platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Let us just look at one zone. The Southeast zone is one zone many least expected the APC-led government of Buhari to work for the people, but he has completely disappointed the doubting Thomases. Below is a compendium of President Buhari’s ongoing and completed infrastructure projects and policy successes in Southeast Nigeria as compiled by the Presidency Office of Digital Engagement (PODE); September 2021.

These laudable projects which deserve commendation and acknowledgent include the reconstruction of the Runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, following President Buhari’s approval of a 10 billion Naira special intervention fund in 2019; Work is still ongoing on the upgrade of the International Terminal Building. There is the 200 billion Naira Second Niger Bridge, comprising the Main Bridge across the River Niger, and 10km of a six-lane Expressway, in Onitsha and Asaba, scheduled for 2022 completion.

Also there is the Ground-breaking done in 2021 for reconstruction of Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Rail Line, linking the Southeastern States to a planned new Sea Port in Bonny, and to Northern Nigeria. 

Energizing Education Programme (taking clean and reliable energy to Federal Universities across the country): One of the first EEP projects to be completed and launched was the 2.8MW Solar Power Plant at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State.

The government also has an initiative of taking clean and reliable energy to economic clusters i.e. markets, shopping complexes etc, across the country, one of the first to be completed and launched was the first phase of the Ariaria Market (Aba) IPP, supplying electricity to 4,000 shops in the Market. 

In healthcare under the NSIA Healthcare Investments, a Brand new $5.5m Medical Diagnostics Center in Umuahia has been completed and operational. 

The president has also given approval for new Air Force Base in (Owerri) and Naval Base (Oguta) in Imo State. Also Ebonyi was among the first set of State Governments to sign up for the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI). The result is the revitalization of a moribund Fertilizer Blending Plant in Abakaliki, which now supplies NPK Fertilizer to farmers in the State and beyond.

There is the ANOH gas processing plant, with a processing capacity of 300 million standard cubic feet of gas, and 1,200MW of electricity generation potential, in Imo State. The project is a Joint Venture between Seplat Petroleum Development Company and the Nigerian Gas Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In 2020 President Buhari commissioned the first phase of the Waltersmith Modular Refinery, with a production capacity of 270 million liters of petrol annually, in Imo State; he also approved the investment of $10 million by the Federal Government into the project. 

Imo State was selected as one of 7 pilot States for the Special-Agro Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) Programme, which is a $500m partnership between the FGN, AfDB Group, and other stakeholders including the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Bank of Industry, with the goal of establishing modern agro-processing centres across the country.

President Buhari has approved the establishment of the following: A new College of Education in Isu, Ebonyi State; a new Federal Polytechnic in Ohodo, Enugu State; and a new Federal Science & Technical College (FSTC) in Amuzu, Ebonyi State. 

More than 60 ongoing Federal road and bridge projects, across the five States of the region, financed through SUKUK Bond and other mechanisms, including 

Sections 1 to 4 of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway,  Construction of Ihiala-Orlu Road in Isseke Town-Amafuo-Ulli with Spur (Ihiala-Orlu-Umuduru Section) in Anambra State,  Rehabilitation of Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe Road Route Section II:  Anambra/Imo States Border-Ibinta-Okigwe Road; Construction of Oseakwa Bridge in Anambra State; Rehabilitation of Old Enugu – Portharcourt Road (Agbogugu-Abia Border Spur to Mmaku); Rehabilitation of Nsukka-Obollo-Ikem-Ehamufu-Nkalagu Road in Enugu State; Rehabilitation of Owerri-Umuahia Road Sections I, II & III Imo/Abia States; Rehabilitation of Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe Road Section II: Anambra/Imo States Border-Ibinta-Okigwe Road; Rehabilitation of Bende – Arochukwu – Ohafia Road Section I in Abia State; Rehabilitation of Abakaliki-Afikpo Road Sections I and II in Ebonyi State, among others. 

Recently MTN Nigeria announced its intention to reconstruct the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway: This is under President Buhari’s Executive Order 7 (the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme), signed in 2019. The MTN Board has approved the company’s participation in the Scheme. 

The committed implementation of the automotive policy of the Federal Government has helped support the revival of the old Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company Limited (ANAMMCO Limited) factory in Enugu State. Since 2016 the revived factory has assembled more than 4,000 trucks, valued at tens of billions of Naira. 

The formal flag-off of the N-Power Build Programme: The Buhari Administration’s Vocational Training and Apprenticeship programme, took place in Enugu State, on the premises of Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company Limited (ANAMMCO Limited), on Friday May 18, 2018.

Talk about the Completion of a new 120MVA 132/33kV Substation in Awka, that will deliver an additional 70MW of electricity capacity to Anambra State. Completion of the following: Installation and commissioning of 2Nos 132kV circuit breaker at Abakaliki Transmission Substation (T/S); Construction of a new 33kV IGI Feeder at Aba 132KV T/S; Energizing of the 1X40MVA Substation at Nsukka; Installation of a 60MVA Transformer at GCM, Onitsha, Another 60MVA Transformer in Aba; and 2X60MVA Transformers in New Haven, Enugu. 

Completion of installation and commissioning into service of a brand new 300MVA 330/132/33kV power transformer in the Alaoji Transmission Substation: This increased the station’s installed capacity from 450MVA to 750MVA and making it the biggest substation in Southern Nigeria. The new Transformer has boosted supply to Enugu Distribution Company, benefiting Abia North (Ohafia, Arochukwu, Item, Abriba), Imo State (Okigwe, Arondizuogu), and parts of Ebonyi and Rivers State.

There is the ongoing construction of 2x60MVA Substation in Amasiri and a 150MVA 330/132kV Substation in Abakaliki, both in Ebonyi State. There is another ongoing construction of a 2x60MVA transmission substation in Ogbunike/Ogidi communities of Anambra State. 

Of course there is the completion in 2016 (after ten years of stalled construction) of a 330kV Switching Station (and associated Double Circuit lines) in Essien Udim/Ikot Ekpene local government area (LGA) of Awka Ibom State, to serve the South East and North Central Nigeria. The Switching Station wheels power from 4 power plants into the National grid, at Ugwuaji, in Enugu State, and onwards to other parts of the country.

Other well evidenced achievements of Buhari include Payment, in 2017, of pension arrears to police officers who were granted Presidential pardon in 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the Nigerian Civil War. These officers, and their next of kins, waited for their pensions for 17 years since the Presidential pardon. No other administration deemed it fit to clear the backlog.

There is the completion and commissioning in 2018 of the Zik Mausoleum in Awka, Anambra State, 22 years after construction started. 

Don’t forget the Partnership between the Nigerian Army and Innoson Motors, for the local production, modification and repair of armored fighting vehicles and other military hardware.

Ongoing deployment of the Federal Government’s Electric Vehicle Pilot Project, spearheaded by the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Also there is also the completion of Adada Dam in Enugu State and Amauzari Earth Dam, Imo; and Completion of the Inyishi Regional Water Supply Project in Imo State; Ofeme Water Supply Project in Abia State; and Uburu Water Supply Scheme in Ebonyi State.

Latest was the development of Nigeria’s Eastern Ports, to decongest Lagos and to better serve the population in the South East and South-South of the country. 

Of course Calabar, Rivers, and Onne Ports have witnessed significant infrastructure upgrades and fiscal incentives to promote their attractiveness. An LPG tanker berthed in the Eastern Ports (Rivers Port) for the first time ever in October 2019. That year Onne Port also received its first container ship in twelve years, while Calabar Port received its first container vessels in eleven years. The Concession of Onitsha Inland River Port is now in its final stages.

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