The Yoruba Council of Elders, pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and a youth organisation, Yoruba Socio-Cultural Association have blamed the executive arm of government and the National Assembly for the suspension of work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Reynolds Construction Company Nigeria Limited, which handles the expansion of Section II of the Lagos-Ibadan highway, in a letter dated June 2, 2017, called the attention of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to the worsening financial obligations to the project.
It stated that the letter was a notice of its intention to suspend work on the project over an N8.9bn debt. The company had since stopped work on the project.
The Federal Government on Sunday said Julius Berger Nigeria Plc had also suspended work on the Section 1 of the road project.
Afenifere, in its reaction, blamed the Federal Government for the abandonment of the Lagos-Ibadan highway project by the contractors.
It described the development as a clear case of negligence, stressing that the government’s action was unpardonable in view of the number of lives being lost to auto crashes on the road.
Afenifere’s publicity secretary, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said it was a shame that the government could not adequately fund the only major project it was executing in the South-West.
The group pointed out that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway served the whole country and not just the South-West region, adding that the government ought to show concern for the number of lives lost to auto crashes on the road every day.
It said, “It would count heavily against this administration unless the right thing is done for the contractors to go back to site.
“People are dying on that road daily and for the government not to be concerned is clear negligence and it is unpardonable.”
Afenifere carpeted the National Assembly for reducing funding for the project and canvassed the restructuring of the country to enable state governments to handle all road projects within their jurisdictions.
“I am sure if the road is within the jurisdiction of the state government, the people would have been on their neck to repair it and that is why we said the current federal system cannot work and it’s not working,” the group stated.
Also, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, said it was unfortunate that the contractors handling the highway left the site due to lack of funding.
Falae, a former finance minister said the Federal Government should find an urgent solution to the problem, noting that the road was the only major road that linked Lagos with other parts of the country.
He said, “It is very unfortunate if the minister (Babatunde Fashola) says there is no money to continue with the project because this is the major road that links Lagos State with other parts of the country.
“I will only appeal to the Federal Government to find a solution to the problem. The road is more useful to Nigerians than (for it) to be abandoned. I hope something will be done soonest on the matter.”
On his part, the Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, told one of our correspondents that the National Assembly must be blamed for the suspension of work by the two contractors working on the expressway.
According to Olajide, legislators from the South-West need to be told to take issues concerning the region seriously when they contribute to debate at the National Assembly.
Olajide stated, “It is unfortunate that we allow the matter to degenerate to the extent that the two contractors, handling both sides of the road, had to suspend work because of lack of fund.
“We should not blame the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, for their actions. Don’t forget that a few weeks ago, members of the Senate reduced the money budgeted for the project. Fashola was so furious that he made some statements and was summoned by the legislators.
“We must find a way of putting pressure on legislators from the South-West so that they will be more interested in issues concerning the region. We are at this level because of the Senate action.
“The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is the busiest road in Nigeria. It leads to our ports, airports and it is very important to commerce in Nigeria.
“We are all aware that because of the dangerous state of the road, many lives were lost in the past years.”
Also, Yoruba youths, under the umbrella of Yoruba Socio-Cultural Association, threatened to embark on protest over the suspension of work on the Lagos-Ibadan highway by the two contractors handling the project.
The Osun State Coordinator of the YYSA, Mr. Oluwabusoye Adeboye, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Osogbo on Monday.
The YYSA coordinator also blamed the National Assembly for the suspension of work on the road he described as “one of the most important roads in the country.”
Adeboye added, “Nigerian lawmakers are anti-masses in most of their deeds. They do things to satisfy their greed without considering their impact on the people of Nigeria, who they claim to represent.
“The lawmakers intentionally reduced the budgeted amount and inserted ‘invisible’ projects due to their selfish interests. If the contractors fail to continue work on the road between now and early September, we will embark on massive protest to let the whole world know that Nigerian lawmakers are working against those who voted them into power.”
Also, the Ogun State Chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Olayinka Folarin, condemned the National Assembly for tampering with the budget submitted by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
He argued that considering the economic importance of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Federal Government and the legislators must wake up to the realities of true governance by ensuring that the road and others currently under construction were completed.
He stated, “This is the busiest link road to the economic hub of the country. Considering the height of casualties being recorded due to the bad state of the road, the government of the day should be passion-driven to complete the project on time other than owing the contractors.
“That the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, raised the alarm on the suspicious tinkering with the budget some months ago and yet, no one listened to him shows that the government of the day is less passionate about the masses.
“I would enjoin the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to walk the talks by doing away with the past approaches to projects execution, a situation where several projects are abandoned.
“The Federal Executive Council and South-West governors, should, as a matter of urgency, make a timely intervention to constructively see to the mobilisation of the contractors back to site.”
Monarch calls for urgent release of funds
In his own reaction, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, called on the Federal Government to provide funds for the contractors handling the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a matter of urgency.
The traditional ruler, who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Michael Adeyeye, on Monday, decried the deplorable condition of the roads in the South-West, saying there was a need for the government to respond to the needs of the contractors so that the South-West roads would be put to proper shape.
The monarch added, “The deplorable condition of major roads in the South-West is becoming worrisome and affecting the economic fortunes of the region.
“Most of the roads in the South-West are fast becoming death traps and making life difficult for those plying the roads.
“It is most regrettable to hear that the contractors are no longer on site due to paucity of funds. There is no doubt that the South-West remains a hub for commercial activities in Nigeria.
“I want to passionately appeal to the Federal Government to mobilise the contractors back to site as a matter of urgency. The government cannot afford to shy away from the fact that the roads in the region need urgent attention.
“In fact, it will not be out of place to declare an emergency as far as the roads in South-West are concerned.”