Onolememen owes Nigerians apology over Second Niger Bridge, says Oshiomhole



FG clarifies position on project 

GOVERNOR Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State says former Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen owes Nigerians apology for allegedly expending N140 billion on the Second Niger with nothing substantial on ground.

The governor also stood by his earlier statement that the project had gulped the sum. He said the revelation came from those who were managers of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), adding that the figures were not manufactured.

Oshiomhole, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Peter Okhiria, said: “They told our committee that about 700 million dollars were taken from the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the Second Niger Bridge project.”

The statement advised the former minister against dissipating energy, but clarify on “the managers of the Sovereign Wealth Fund who have depleted the savings on the explanation that it was meant for the Second Niger Bridge.

Fully aware that not much has been achieved on that project, Onolemhemen and the managers of the Fund should explain to Nigerians what really transpired instead of asking Comrade Oshiomhole to apologise to Nigerians.

The real people who should apologise to Nigerians for their many sins against the country are those who expended so much of our resources without any corresponding achievements to show for it.”

According to the governor, “any right thinking Nigerian should be ashamed of the state of Nigerian roads especially with the enormous resources budgeted for road rehabilitation and construction.

In Edo State, the Aduwawa end of the Benin-Auchi Road is almost impassable, especially during the rainy season. As we speak, erosion has cut off the road into two and motorists are going through hell using it.

What about Benin-Abraka road? One hell of a road completely abandoned and vandalised. In the name of politics, hey came trying to impress Edo people, but ended up depressing all of us. “When we complained of utter neglect of the state in the scheme of things, they hurriedly brought caterpillars to site and vandalise the roads, pretending to be working. If you visit Federal Government roads today in Edo State, you will weep for Edo people.

People should find time to pass through Uromi-Agbor Road, a major highway connecting the eastern part of the country. It is an eye sore, yet we had a Minister of Works who hails from Uromi,” Oshiomhole stated.

Former Minister Onolememen should explain to Nigerians how he expended the billions of naira that were budgeted for the Ministry of Works because what we have on ground as a product of such expenditure cannot score for any pass mark.

Roads from Oyo to Ilorin, Ilorin to Jebba and Bida, from Ore to Ijebu-Ode, from Ikom to Calabar, Onitsha to Enugu are amongst the several roads that explain the sad commentary on the state of Nigerian roads. Aside from being death traps, they represent in graphic terms, the poor performance of the last regime in terms of roads construction and rehabilitation.

Rather than hide his head in shame, Onolemhemen is still oozing out diatribe against Nigerians. We deserve explanation and no amount of blackmail can stop us from speaking out about the fate of our country,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has no intention to halt the project. Rather, it only intends to resolve the gray areas in the implementation of the scheme.

The clarification came yesterday from the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, (ICRC) through a statement signed by its Director-General, Aminu Dikko. Dikko explained that the commission “did not say the Second Niger Bridge project is ‘on hold’, ‘stalled’, or is being ‘probed’ or even ‘suspended’ as reported in some media headlines.”

He emphasised that the commission would like to see the Niger Bridge completed to alleviate the plight travellers face on that route, especially during festivities. “We know that it is critical, we also know how Nigerians suffer during festive holidays and we hear people sleep on that old bridge. The time has come to bring succour to Nigerians”.

The Director-General however, said as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, the project must pass through various checks to satisfy the Federal Government and investors alike “of its viability, affordability, and also to ensure people get value for money.”

He affirmed that the commission had expressed concerns about project cost vis-à-vis projected toll fees and engagement of community stakeholders, whose land would be affected along the bridge’s right of way, amongst others. “ICRC wishes to state that these regulatory issues predate the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Indeed, the immediate past Chairman of the Commission’s Governing Board, Senator Ken Nnamani was emphatic that as important as the second Niger Bridge is, it must be procured in strict compliance with the ICRC Act and the national policy on PPP.

To this end, the commission assures Nigerians that it is working with the Federal Ministry of Works to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.

We had expected the media reports would give prominence to other seemingly important projects we talked about which are currently being subjected to the same regulatory oversight, such as the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Sagamu-Ore-Benin road, the Murtala Mohammed road, the three deep, each at Ibom, Lekki, and Badagry, the agric silos, hydro power projects, among others.

All these projects are important to the nation and it is in our interest that they are successful. Most importantly, our duty is not only to oversee the provision of quality infrastructure services, but also to ensure that while investors are assured of the opportunity recoup their investments, the nation and citizens are not short-changed,” Dikko stated.

The ICRC was established by an Act in 2005 to regulate PPP endeavours of the Federal Government, aimed at addressing Nigeria’s physical infrastructure deficit which hampers economic development.

The commission is responsible for setting forth guidelines to promote, facilitate and ensure implementation of PPP projects in Nigeria with the objective of achieving better value for money (VfM) for infrastructure services and enhanced economic growth.

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