Dave Umahi, the Minister of Public Works, revealed on Tuesday that a journey from Abuja to Benin on the Lokoja road left him despondent about the conditions Nigerians must suffer on federal highways.
This statement was accompanied by his admission that under current conditions, no federal road is likely to remain usable for more than seven years.
He rationalized his claim with data gleaned from his recent nationwide tour inspecting various roads.
Umahi noted that several roads are marred by craters, rendering what should be potholes into ‘boreholes’.
Over the course of the years, Umahi voiced frustration regarding contractors’ subpar work, accusing them of scamming Nigerians by utilizing substandard materials in road construction.
His comments were made in Abuja on Tuesday during a meeting at the ministry headquarters with contractors representing all six geopolitical zones.
He stated bluntly, “There isn’t a single project being constructed in Nigeria today that will endure past seven years.
“This begs the question: Are we supposed to repair or rebuild our roads every decade? That seems to be our practice.”
“I myself journeyed from Abuja to Benin City on the Lokoja route, and despite every stretch being contracted out, many of these roads are unpassable. It was a harrowing experience that brought me to tears seeing the suffering of our citizens.”
“The trip took me 14 hours. I embarked at 10 am and didn’t reach Benin City until 2 pm the following day. The experience was a sobering one.”
“President Tinubu directed me to survey all the projects and report back to him. In order for his ambitious plans for the country to be realized, procurement needs serious reform. Bureaucratic inertia means that documents submitted to the Public Procurement Office for non-objection statements can linger for half a year.”
“Without back-up authorization, how are contractors to complete any additional tasks assigned to them?”
Umahi pointed out that contractors have been caught inflating project costs through fraudulent contract variations and overcharging for asphalt, manipulating the fact that its price is tied to global crude oil rates.
The former Governor of Ebonyi further queried the unauthorized additional responsibilities taken on by contractors, urging them to request the necessary permissions. He called for proper documentation and approval processes, asserting that contracts won’t be approved until requisite design blueprints and original road plans are submitted.