John Ameh, Abuja
The Federal Government said on Wednesday that road construction and repairs under the Ministry of Works and Housing were a major beneficiary of N650bn so far released for capital projects in the 2019 budget.
It also named the ministries of transportation and power among the biggest beneficiaries of the funds released.
The Minister of Finance/Budget/National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, gave the figure in Abuja, while speaking with State House Correspondents after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had said the nation’s roads were not as bad as they were portrayed.
He also said poor funding was the reason road projects were not executed at a faster pace by the government.
On Wednesday, Ahmed was asked to respond to the excuse given by Fashola. She said, “It is true that we are not able to fund the budget 100 per cent, but whenever we release funds for capital projects, the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Works and Housing are always the priority and the Ministry of Transportation.”
Indeed, the finance minister declared that about N650bn had been released by the government for capital projects this year.
“In October, when the President was submitting the budget to the National Assembly, he indicated that he had given a directive that we should release N600bn for capital expenditure. We already have more than that. The target for us is to be able to release up to N900bn by December. But right now, we are at about N650bn capital release.”
She added that the government also allocated N247bn to Fashola’s ministry in the 2020 budget.
“It gives me an opportunity to state that the Minister of Works and Housing has a proposed budget of N247bn for the year 2020 and the greatest component of this budget is the fixing of Nigerian roads,” Ahmed said.
She added, “Our fiscal space is tight; resources are limited because revenues are underperforming, but at the time we have funds to release, the highest proportion goes to power, transport, works and housing.”
Ahmed recalled that the government introduced measures to partner the private sector on road funding and had issued Sukuk bonds since 2017.
She said, “We have introduced some measures that have seen private sector participants getting involved in road construction. One of these measures is the Road Infrastructure Task Credit Scheme that Mr President approved by Executive Order early this year. So far, we have 17 companies that are carrying out 19 roads (projects) across the six geo-political zones.
“I also want to remind you that for the past two years, we have issued Sukuk bonds. In 2017, it was for the construction of 25 roads. In 2018, 23 roads; there is also another one that is being processed.”
The minster disagreed with the notion that most of the bad roads in the country were federal roads, insisting that the majority of bad roads belonged to the various state governments.
“We have a lot of roads in the country but not every road you see is the responsibility of the Federal Government. The major arterial roads are the ones that are the responsibility of the Federal Government.
“Majority of the roads in the country are within the purview and responsibility of states as well as local governments”, she added.