The House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Affairs on Tuesday in Abuja queried the allocation of N15 billion to the East West Road project.
The members of the committee at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs 2021 budget defence frowned at the allocation of N4 billion to all other human developmental projects in the region.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Essien Ayi (PDP-Cross River) said that the East West road had been under construction for over 14 years. “We just finished with EndSARS, we know what happened, the whole of my state capital everywhere was turned upside down.
“The kind of devastation that I saw there, it would have taken us about 10 years back. “If the budget is youth-oriented, then why are we going to use N15 billion for East West road. I listened to the news where the Senate President warned that we should be careful that if this thing resurfaces again it is going to be very devastating. So, minister, we have about 300 or more projects in Niger Delta. So, how are you going to allocate the money to these kinds of projects, it’s not possible, we will not do it,” he said.
Also, Rep. Edim Eta (PDP-Cross River) said that budgeting N15 billion for East West Road and N4 billion for other projects in the Niger Delta is unfair. According to him, I believe the bulk of the funding that is coming in 2021 should go to youth programmes.
“We all witnessed the EndSARS protest, all these were from frustrations of staying at home from ASUU strike, unemployment. So can only N4 billion out of the total budget of Niger Delta go to those projects. I do not think that is a good idea; if the East West road has been taken from the sovereign wealth fund, then the provision for that 15 billion should have been done separately to cover that,” he said.
Responding, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, said that he wanted to deliver a road that would last. The minister said that it was on record that roads constructed under his watch had no potholes even 13 years after.
“So, I have a lot hope I will deliver same in the Niger Delta. So we will provide for you the details of designs and all. “I have not allowed any single variation, because I have not seen the kind of quality of work, I would have loved to see. There was one that entered into Federal Executive Council and I had to step it down. I have not yet presented a single variation, let them do the original work so that we see, because this thing has taken too long. From 2006 up till date, when I was not part of government, I used to think that the road was over priced, but now that I am part of government, I think it was adequately priced. “It is just that the aggregate has gone up in terms of materials,” he said.
The Governor further explained that N15 billion could spread across projects and not a single one will be completed under the current administration saying, “let us just close our eyes and do something.” He said if that was not done, the ministry would be like Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with about 12,000 abandoned projects across Niger Delta after spending trillions.
The minister said that the amount for the road in Section 1-4 is about N423 billion and amount so far paid to date is about N354 billion.
“The total completion in my opinion is about 80 per cent. Yes, the terrain is challenging, annual rainfall affects the work, releases of funds are slow and then COVID-19 added to it too. “But we are determined to surpass those challenges. That’s why we are here today,” Akpabio said.