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 Buhari Addressing Poverty Through Infrastructural Development, Says Works Minister Fashola

He revealed that the 2nd Niger Bridge will be open for Christmas festivities starting December 15.

Nigeria’s Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has declared that the  Muhammadu Buhari administration is already addressing poverty in the country, with  investment in infrastructure renewal and expansion.
Fashola’s comment came against the backdrop of a report released in November by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the country’s poverty index which recommended investments in health, education and infrastructure, among others as a viable means to reduce poverty.
While presiding over the 2022 Ember Month Programme’s Press Briefing of the Ministry, Fashola, who noted that many people had been quoting the report in terms of the poverty rate, explained to the audience that what the NBS recommended were already in the works.
“That (infrastructure) was already happening before the recommendation came. President Buhari had started investing in infrastructure. That is why you and I are here,” he said.
The minister pointed out that the importance of infrastructure development lies in the fact that it not only addresses monetary poverty but also multidimensional poverty which, according to him, includes absence of access, choice and efficiency.
“And so for me, why is infrastructure so important? It is addressing poverty in the monetary and multidimensional modes because it provides jobs during construction and makes life better after construction. And as we have seen, as construction is going on, journey time is getting better year-on-year”, he said.
Fashola said that results would manifest in due course, adding that people who express anxiety over the seeming delay in the results of the investments should commend the administration for investing the nation’s resources for the benefit of the people.
He recalled that there was a time before the present administration when funds were being taken out of the country and also from an agency of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to fund elections in the country, adding, “If they took away funds meant for national development, that was one of the causes of poverty.”
He added: “NNPC is now investing N621 billion in road construction but that was the money some people used to fund electioneering campaigns and provide cars for friends in the past. Buhari has put back the money where it belongs. These are things that are heading in the right direction.”
The Minister explained that when crude oil prices crashed at the onset and revenues fell, this government found other funding sources.
“So, we now talk of the SUKUK; we are now talking about the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, we are now talking about the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund”, he said.
The minister, while reiterating his challenge to the opposition for a debate on the role of infrastructure development in achieving economic growth and poverty eradication, said the opposition has a penchant for celebrating the negative figures often thrown up by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and similar bodies .
On the opening of the Second Niger Bridge, Fashola explained that the bridge would be open to traffic from December 15, 2022 to January 15, 2023, pointing out, however, that the access would only be for traffic going from the West to the East of the country.
He added that the flow would be reversed on January 15, 2023 to benefit traffic from the East to the West of the country.
He emphasised that work on the access road to the bridge was not yet finished, explaining that the reason for the temporary opening was to ease pressure on the first bridge which was usually congested as a result of the huge traffic on it during the yuletide period.
“I believe it is good news so I can confirm it. As I have told you we have completed work on the bridge. So, as it is now you can walk from one end of the bridge to the other; you can drive from one end to the other. But the connecting roads that link the bridge are what we are working on; that has not finished”, he said.
Fashola attributed the delay in completion of the entire work on the access routes to the bridge to the flooding occasioned by the predicted heavy rains and the fact that contractors could not work on Mondays in the South East leading to the loss of 52 days in a year.
He, however said that the flood that occurred in the area during the season was also a blessing, explaining that the original level for the design of the access road had to be changed.
According to him, on Abuja-Kano, from Kaduna to Zaria there will be no diversions at all, stating that from Zaria to Kano, which is over 130 km, there will be only one diversion.
“And from Abuja to Kaduna, which is about 165 km there are going to be four diversions. So, from Abuja to Kano, which is 365 km, there are going to be only five diversions.
“I think this is significant and the contractors are working to provide valid access. There are places where we are just going to patch so that you can drive because we are coming back to remove it for full construction which is the main contract,” he added.
On the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, he said the instruction to the contractors was no diversions or obstructions on the Lagos-Shagamu end from the 15th of December adding that on the Ibadan end there would also be no diversion.
Fashola also appealed to the people of Akure, Ado-Ekiti, people in Kabba and Benin-Sapele and all the people who use the Benin-Okene Road, the East West Road that government understands the challenges on those roads and is leaving nothing undone to solve them.
 “Some of them are mired in our procurement processes which as matters of law we can’t change. So, we are working to fix them,” he stated.

Emmanuel Addeh