The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday, revealed that the problem of insufficient funds and the increasing price of construction materials were the only issues delaying the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
This was as he blamed the previous administration for neglecting critical infrastructure.
Fashola made the revelation when he appeared on Television Continental programme, Your View, where he said crash barriers returned to the site because of the volume of vehicles plying the road, as he pleaded for patience and cooperation with the contractors.
He added that the last mile of the project would be completed in the first quarter of 2023.
He said, “Let me first appreciate commuters who use that road, a major transport artery in Nigeria for their understanding. This road could have been built between 1999 and 2015 but it wasn’t. This road is in better shape than we inherited and it is now at the last mile of completion.
“The major source of delay first is funding.
“You remember at a point this road was removed from the budget completely and I was engaging the National Assembly until the president unveiled the presidential infrastructure development fund which was essentially from investments from the Nigerian LNG and funds recovered from outside Nigeria.
“So, when people talk about corruption and anti-corruption, a president who goes to recover funds stolen and put it in investment for his people is the real anti-corruption as far as I am concerned.
“On the crash barriers, they are there because we are building through a major transport artery. Our last traffic count indicates that at least N40,000 vehicles use that road from the Lagos end to the Sagamu end.
“After Sagamu it drops to 22 thousand so that has to be managed to ensure the safety of the construction workers.
“We closed site work in December because traditionally construction companies shut down mid-December and resume mid-January.
“We are still expecting to finish the project in the first quarter.”
When asked about solutions to reduce gridlock, he said, “You can’t expect to drive fast in a construction zone, there will be a bit of slowdown and it is in that slowdown that ‘how we behave’ becomes very important.”
Speaking further, the former Lagos governor disclosed that the construction of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway had received funding of N7 billion from the new Sukuk bonds assuring that the pains of Ogun residents would be alleviated soon.
“I hear the concern about Lagos-Abeokuta (Road) and there are people we should ask why Lagos -Abeokuta (Road) was not built.
“I can categorically say that all roads that lead into and out of Lagos as a strategic commercial capital of Nigeria are receiving one form of attention or the other.
“Again, contractors had abandoned the site when we came and we revived and we are putting the Sukuk into it and the last Sukuk has about N7 billion in it. So, we don’t have all the money to build it. I understand there is more pain on the Ogun side but the Lagos side work is going because the contractor is constructing from Lagos to Ogun.
“In a matter of weeks, I am hopeful we would have a more enjoying financial solution not only to Lagos-Abeokuta but also to Akure and Ado Ekiti and once that is done, whether we are in government or not, those roads will be constructed,” he said.
On the need to toll some roads, he asserted that it was a necessary business venture that would raise revenue without sacrificing the quality of service delivered to commuters.
He stated, “First, we have to understand that out of about 200,000 plus kilometers, the total quantity of roads that would be under the tolling policy approved by the government will be only five per cent, so it is not such a high volume of roads.
“The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was built as a toll road from day one and we want to sustain the quality of service.
“I think it is sensible in terms of traffic volume that roads can be subject to commercial policies, not just to raise revenue but render quality service to Nigerians.
“Tolling itself is business everywhere in the world. We have to continue opening up the economy to these things.
“We can’t stay with agriculture, oil, tech and all of that. We have to open up more economic opportunities.”
Furthermore, the minister announced his retirement from public service, stating that he had been extremely privileged to run government for 21 years and wanted to take a break.