Supervising Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta, Mr. Darius Ishaku, on Friday doubted the earlier assurance given by his immediate predecessor in office, Mr. Godsday Orubebe, that the 338km East-West Road project, which started in 2008, would be completed by the end of this year.
He told the Senator James Manager-led committee on Niger Delta Affairs while defending the ministry’s 2014 budget estimates at the National Assembly that completing the project this year would be a mirage.
Orubebe had in February, shortly before his removal as minister, told the Senate Ad-Hoc committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, that the East West Road would be completed and inaugurated by December this year.
The former minister however, hinged his assurance on the release of the N113bn to the ministry which was needed to complete the project.
But his successor declared before the senate committee, saddled with the oversight functions of his ministry that “with just N46bn allocated to the ministry for capital projects execution in the 2014 Budget out of which a paltry sum of N8.73bn is allocated for continuation of work on the East West Road project, completing the project this year, would be a mirage”
The minister insisted that “for the project to be completed and inaugurated this year, N111bn would be needed to be sourced elsewhere or extra fund added to the N8.73bn already earmarked for continuation of work on the project in the approved 2014 budget of the ministry.”
Ishaku said, “Out of the N349.8bn estimated for the project, a total of N238bn has so far been expended on it by the ministry and other intervention agencies like Sure-P and loans sourced from the African Development Bank leaving the balance of N111bn to be sourced for completion of the project.
“We would not be able to commission (sic) this project by December 2014 as earlier promised by the former Minister unless we get additional funding from all available sources to the tune of N111billion”
A member of the Committee, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi (PDP Kogi Central) had asked the minister why the ministry had not collapsed its entire capital votes in the 2014 Budget for the project alone.
But Ishaku said “even if the total budgetary allocation of N49.193 bn proposed for the ministry in the 2014 budget estimates had been spent on the project alone, it cannot complete it.”
He said, “The entire N49.193bn 2014 budget profile of the ministry was made up of N46.8bn for capital projects, N1.183bn for overhead costs and N1.130bn for personnel expenditures.
“Apart from the N8.73 bn allocated for continuation of work on the East West Road project, another N8.7 bn was set aside for continuation of work on other roads being handled by the ministry in the Niger Delta Area and N6.15bn for completion of work on the Skills Acquisition centre.”
Manager and other committee members nevertheless, berated the ministry for not been able to complete and inaugurate a single project since 2008 when it was established and described the development as very disturbing.
Specically, Manager Said, “It very worrisome that your ministry has not completed and commissioned (sic) a single project since 2008 when it was established.
“Yes, going through the records, your allocations have been reducing on yearly basis since 2010, but that is not enough for the ministry not to be able to complete a single project since it was established about six years ago.
“The little money you have available, it is my utmost view that you use it to complete those projects that are about 70-75 percent completed so that you can have credit for that.”