Giving a brief history of the NNPC/FIRS agreement, Mr Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works and Housing, who said that the NNPCL was investing its resources into infrastructure, explained the ideology of the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme as “a new model of partnership with the private sector companies whereby government is saying, “Give me my tax in advance and I will invest it in infrastructure”.
As contained in a press the release issued by the special adviser on media to the minister, Mr Hakeem Bello, Fashola told the audience consisting of funding agencies and government representatives as well as contractors and newsmen that the model and innovation “shows the clear difference between two different government policies and it shows how they affect your businesses”.
On the 44 roads, the Ministry of Works and Housing, which explained that many of them have been contracted but without funds to execute them, told the contractors, “This intervention, therefore, is to complete those roads and the NNPCL is providing the fund. And this is the crux; because it means that whether we are here, Buhari is here but is going in the next four months, there is sustainability in the completion of these roads. And they have assured me that when you work to specification, the money is there”.
Noting that there are 21 roads in Phase One of the Scheme covering 1,804.6 kilometres, Fashola explained that there are other interventions by other groups like the Dangote Group, the NLNG Group in Bodo-Bonny, the MTN Group in Enugu-Onitsha Highway and others adding that this represented a very defining moment for the construction industry and allied industries.
Fashola Updates on Right-of-Way Compensation to Residents
The Minister appealed to all the communities encroaching on the right-of-way along the road corridors to vacate the places adding that all the claims for compensation by people who have encroached on such right-of-way would not be honoured while they must quit the encroached places or risk forceful ejection.
“Our right-of-way is 45.75 metres from both sides of the centre line. Many of the people who have built petrol stations and shops are inside our right-of-way. We will not pay compensation to those who have trespassed into our land, so they must leave”, he said appealing, however, that where the government needs right-of-way outside its zone, State governments, Village and Traditional Heads should appeal to their people to allow passage.
Fashola added, “These roads are not taking away your lands rather they are bringing prosperity to you and we expect that in the process of nation building everyone must be ready to contribute something”.
Highlighting the benefits of the revitalized construction industry to the economy, the Minister declared, “We have increased the number of quarrying companies, sand quarrying has also increased from 247 to 302. Granite quarrying companies have also increased from 334 to 655 and those who are quarrying laterite have increased from 108 to 259”.
Describing quarrying as a driver of the construction industry, the Minister who said it is impossible to build roads without laterite and granite, added “And this translates to jobs as we build more quarries. I am sure members of NARTO and NURTW who are here can begin to calculate how many trucks trips and how much income that could bring. I was at their AGM recently and the least they could say is “Business is good”. This is the impact of a policy that is driving the economy”.
The Minister also cautioned the Contractors against variation in the contract noting that the agreement was very specific on the variation. He declared, “So if you are going to ask for variation please opt out and say you cannot carry on with the programme. That is one of the reasons we are signing the agreement; and that is from the investors’ side because they are not factoring in variation”.
He appealed to the financiers for timely payment of certificates for work done adding, “We need to improve the governance side of payment so that when receipts come, payments should not be delayed unnecessarily. Delayed payments increase the chances of variation. So, it is critical now that we also, with dispatch ,sign the contracts when we are able, start the work so that we can process all the advance payments”.
He urged the legal department of the Ministry to hasten the preparation of the documents so the agreement could be signed soon adding, “We have just finished our EMBER Months programme so this meeting is very strategic and we should handle it properly. The NNPC and FIRS are ready to go. So, I call on our legal department to accelerate the completion of this agreement.
The Minister also warned the contractors, “Quality must not be compromised; they will have their own consultants. So, if their consultant queries the quality of your job you don’t get paid. We don’t have the money, they have the money”.
Those who spoke at the event included the Group Managing Director of NNPCL represented by the Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Umar Ajiya, the Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Mohammed Nami, who all pledged to ensure the success of the Scheme, representatives of the contractors and President of NARTO, President of the NURTW who all hailed the Buhari administration and the Minister for driving the economy positively through massive investment in infrastructure. According to the NARTO President, “This Minister has set a record of achievements”.