The Minister of Power Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has said Nigerians will experience some difficulties on power and road projects during the rainy season.
He also disclosed that the ministry has ordered contractors, transmission companies and distribution companies to be proactive in order to forestall effects of the rains.
The Minister said the procurement law was not compatible with the present infrastructural needs of the country.
He said the cumbersome nature of the law was responsible for the slow pace of project execution across the country.
He disclosed this in Abuja on Monday while giving a closing report on the status of infrastructure in Nigeria and the launch of a book; ‘Proof of infrastructure delivery across Nigeria.’
He spoke on the likely impact of the extreme weather on some of the road and power projects in the country and efforts made to minimize the impact.
He said: “We are mindful of global and extreme weather changes. We are always prepared for ‘ember months’ and end of year traffic movement but perhaps, we have not had a preparation for rainy season and we have been meeting as ministry to prepare for rainy seasons and thankfully, two permanent secretaries have responded and we have been having meetings in the last five weeks.
“We have given directives to our contractors because our roads will not finish immediately. So, contractors have directive now to try and close all the earthworks and protect them from being washed away. Places where they have not finished, they have to make sure that they are motorable for commuters until the dry weather comes for them to finish their work.
“We are also trying to work with state governments so that they help to trail their channels and canals so that we can control the flow of water that passes through their states.
He continued: “The permanent secretary and his team have given directive to Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and DisCos to start a process of preventive measures by trimming down trees because tree branches affects. They are to generally prepare and see how we can ensure that the rainy season is not a very inconvenient season for us.
“Let me not be understood because when the rains come, flooding will come when the rains are heavy. So, nobody should say Fashola said there will be no problem during the rainy season. There will be problem but we are preparing to make the impact of the problem less severe. This is the first in our records and it is happening under the Buhari government. It shows that civil servants can also be proactive and prepare instead of being reactive.
Speaking on the procurement steps and the need to amend the procurement law, he said: “Somebody came to me and said he wanted to build a road from one part of the country to another and I asked if he had done a survey for the right of way, he said no. I told him he has to do that first to establish the right of way. He also has to do enumeration of the communities whose land the road will pass through, also identify the crops and the buildings that are there so that he can know how much compensation will be paid. Then he has to do soil test to know what is under the soil so that he can design the road properly because if it is not designed properly, he will lose money if the road fails. Then he said if these were the procedures needed to build a road, he will no longer do the business again.
“I say it because members of the public need to know what our engineers go through at the process for a road. When all these are done, then you have a design and that is just beginning of the job.
Highlighting the various steps, Fashola said: “You will go and prepare a budget and that is part of the national budget that the president presents to the National Assembly. All this while, you can do nothing. When the budget is then approved, you can start the process of trying to award a contract. If the amount of contract is above N500million for works, then you take a memo to the Federal Executive Council and go and wait till it is your turn.
“If you succeed in persuading members of the cabinet, then you will come back to your ministry and begin the process of legal compliance. You have to sign the contract and pass it to legal. Before you get to FEC, you have to advertise and when you do that, you will open bid where all sectors of the society are represented. Assuming all goes well and you have contract date, the contractor has to go to the bank to get advance payment guarantee in order to be able to collect his advance payment. When all that is done, you will now wait till when ministry of finance has cash to give you money. If there is no cash, then you will wait for NASS to pass the borrowing plan then the ministry goes to go and raise funds to borrow from local or international. It is when all that is done that you will now give the money to contractor.
“What does the contractor do, contrary to what we think, contractor does not keep building materials, so he starts to order for the materials and then the process of construction evolves. So, sometimes when you hear that one road has been awarded by FEC, the journey is just about to begin. The question is; is this procurement law compatible with our urgency as a nation? As we go forward, these are the things we must think about. How to make this quicker and more responsive to our urgent and compelling needs.”
On how the law has affected project execution of the ministry, he said: “Still in connection to the procurement law; we have a conference room with photographs of all the ministers that have served here. I counted and I realized that we have had 34 ministers of works in Nigeria over a period of 67 years starting from 1952. If you do a simple mathematics, given the analysis I shared about how long it takes, you will find out that we have one year and nine months per minister. So, match that with the procurement process. But that is not what has happened. What has happened is that about five ministers have served for over five years, the rest have served an average of one year and 18 months in our history and that is not enough time to even design a road. This means that our realities are very stark.
“So, instead discussing whether the president went on a private visit to London; these are the issues that we should have urgent national discussion and a consensus about to solve these challenges. So, I seek the cooperation of the National Assembly. There can be no compelling time than now to quickly amend the procurement law. Please let us quickly do something about that.”
Fashola also disclosed that the ministry will start running on solar by the end of the year following approval from FEC.
“This ministry and some of our public buildings now have FEC approval. So, we will be deploying solar to this ministry and our offices in power and hopefully, by the end of the year, we will demonstrate that we can practice what we preach.
“One of the Discos has actually signed a contract to buy our power at night while we are not at work and we don’t need the power to distribute it to its consumers in Abuja area.”