The Minister of Works, Mr David Umahi, on Tuesday lamented the poor quality of roads built in the country, disclosing that no road, whether already existing or currently being built will last the next seven years.
Speaking during separate meetings with hundreds of contractors and the ministry’s engineers in Abuja, Umahi stated that there was also little or no monitoring of projects by either directors or controllers, thereby resulting in shoddy jobs nationwide.
The minister who underscored the need for transparency in the award and variation of contracts, explained that he will not sign any final certificates if full explanations were not given on how for instance a N20 billion contract suddenly rose to N120 billion.
The former Ebonyi State governor maintained that contractors must redesign their projects to concrete rather than asphalt, stressing that there was no going back on the decision except it is reversed by President Bola Tinubu.
He warned those who are blackmailing him because of his stance on value for money and transparency in the ministry to be prepared for a long-drawn-out fight, insisting that whatever is not in the interest of the Nigerian people will not be accepted.
He also barred controllers from sending certificates to him and instructed them to do so through their directors.
He accused the directors of helping the contractors to jerk up contract fees inexplicably, explaining that wherever compromise is suspected, he would personally write to the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to withdraw their certificates.
Umahi directed the permanent secretary in the ministry to recall all the controllers for retraining, insisting that whoever fails the test that will follow will be shown the way out.
The minister, an engineer, stressed that since he resumed office, he had travelled many roads in the zones of the country, lamenting that Nigerians were being killed by bad roads and being kidnapped because of the poor road construction.
He decried the number of sponsored attacks due to the new policy direction of the ministry under him, insisting that he would continue to do the right thing for the people.
He reminded the engineers and contractors who compromise their profession that the life of any Nigerian cut short on the highway due to bad roads or kidnapping will be demanded of them whether now or in the hereafter.
The former governor explained that Nigerian roads have now gone from having ‘potholes’ to having ‘boreholes’, stressing that he shed tears the last time he embarked on an inspection tour of the Abuja -Lokoja-Benin-Warri-Port Harcourt highway.
He also stated that he disagreed vehemently with the design of the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road, stressing that many roads were failing because of wrong design. However, he noted that he was satisfied with the quality of work and monitoring by the ministry’s engineers in the South-west.
“I must always have my say. And I say, these projects, give them three to four years, they will fail. There is no project being constructed in Nigeria now that is going to last for seven years. There’s none.
“The question is: Are we just going to be maintaining or reconstructing our roads in this country after every 10 years or so? And that’s what we have been doing,” he stated.
He expressed happiness that he spent 14 hours on the road from Abuja to Benin to feel the pain of Nigerians who ply the road, noting that he got to the Edo state capital by 2am even though he left Abuja around 10am the previous day.
Umahi sounded a note of warning to in-house engineers as well as foreign contractors to take their jobs seriously or be sanctioned, no matter the big man behind them.
He also promised to treat the files of those who comply with the law promptly, explaining that Nigeria cannot afford to delay the process.
“I should be able to explain to Mr President why a project of N30 billion came to N120 billion,” he stated.
Also, Umahi who met with COREN members headed by Prof Sadiq Abubakar, said that henceforth he will involve the regulatory body and the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in the building of roads in the country to ensure quality.
“I want to involve COREN and the NSE in our road construction. l have gone round the three regions of Nigeria. It seems that it is only in the South-west that there are very capable hands and hard working directors and controllers. Notwithstanding, we will put the same template to use in all the regions.
“There is no concrete road constructed in Ebonyi that has not lasted seven years. Henceforth, every project is going to have one senior consultant,” he stated.
He enjoined COREN to join him in the propagation for the reintroduction of concrete pavement in Nigeria, explaining that some roads were already collapsing even while still under construction.
The president of COREN, Abubakar, in his remarks, promised to key into the new policies, stressing that the lack of supervision will be addressed.
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja