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2021 budget: FG to prioritise Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano roads, 2nd Niger Bridge, others  

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By Dada Jackson

Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, says the Federal Government will focus on the completion of ongoing road and bridge projects in the country rather than beginning new ones, in the implementation of the 2021 Budget.

He listed the road projects as Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano, 2nd Niger Bridge, Ilorin-Jebba, Jega-Tambuwal-Sokoto and Enugu-Port Harcourt, among others.

Fashola, in a statement made available to News Trends, spoke during the defense of his ministry’s proposals in the 2021 budget.

He listed roads whose completion would be prioritised during the budget year to include those categoriszed as A1-A9, adding that 18 of such road projects, which had reached appreciable level of completion had been identified across the country for completion within 12 to 15 months include those leading to the ports and major agricultural hubs across the six geopolitical zones of the country adding that the decision to prioritise those projects was in line with the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom, he recalled repeatedly emphasized the necessity to focus the Budget on completion of projects.

According to him, other categories of road and bridge projects on which the ministry will focus for completion during the budget year also include those that have attained 70 per cent completion, adding that subject to the availability of funds, such projects would be completed as early as possible.

He pointed out that some bridges which connect several geopolitical zones and Federal roads had not been maintained for several years before this administration.

Fashola added that some of the bridges required replacement of expansion joints and hand rails while others required major underwater repairs of exposed piles, pile caps and piers.

“Bridges like the Third Mainland Bridge, the Koton Karfe Bridge and the Makurdi Bridge are part of about 50 bridges being rehabilitated simultaneously among others,” he said.

He also said the ministry had its focus on the completion of the construction of Chanchangi Bridge along Takum-Wukari Road in Taraba State and Ikom Bridge along Calabar-Ikom Road.

Expressing the need for the support of the National Assembly in realizing the stated objectives, Fashola, who put the estimated cost of rehabilitating all the bridges at N80.984bn, however, pointed out that there was a need, in the course of each year, to address wash-outs and erosion envisaged with the subsiding discharge of flood waters nationwide.

“We are mindful of the limitation of resources but the frequency of these natural disasters caused by climate change and aging infrastructure must compel us to think of making provisions for emergencies”, he said, adding that the international best practice for such emergencies was between five and 10 per cent of the capital budget.

Fashola, who said the ministry had selected two roads and a bridge in each of the six geopolitical zones for enhanced funding during the budget year, also listed for adequate funding the Federal Government of Nigeria’s counterpart fund for projects financed by the China Exim bank.

On the ministry’s interventions on internal roads in federal tertiary institutions across the country, the minister, who said out of the 43 such projects 18 had been completed, explained that inadequate budgetary provisions had stalled the projects which, according to him, the ministry started since 2018/2019.

He stated that the 17.35 per cent cut in the 2020 budget made it impossible to pay contractors who were being owed N3.31bn while the money required to fix the remainder was given as N3.54bn.

Reiterating that the major challenge of the ministry in completing ongoing projects on time was inadequate budgetary provisions, the minister explained further that aside from the fact that the funds were inadequate, there was also the problem of timely release of funds to sustain annual cash flow requirement level adding that although funds from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) and SUKUK Bond had helped to bring some funding relief, the ministry’s exposure had continued to expand due to annual addition of new projects.

He said although the sum provided for highway projects in the 2021 budget was an improvement over the 2020 budget provision for the sector, it was still inadequate to address the funding challenges of highway projects pointing out that with about N1.2tn as the year 2021 projected cash flow requirement, funding for works planned to be executed on the projects in 2021 would have to be “efficiently optimised”.

Fashola said in order for his ministry to make significant impact on the improvement of the federal road network and boost the nation’s economy, there was an urgent need to enhance the release of funds for the projects under the Amended 2020 Budget to defray the outstanding payments; enhance budget ceiling for highway projects in the 2021 budget proposal to cover the execution of works during the year and leverage other alternative funding sources as well as make provision for emergencies to enable government to respond to damage and destruction caused by natural disasters, climate change and other unforeseen events.

The alternative funds, he explained, included the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), which is being used to rehabilitate, reconstruct and expand the Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan Dual Carriage way, Construction of Second Niger Bridge and rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Dual Carriageway.

They also include the Sukuk Bond being used to fund a total of 44 road and bridge projects, which are mainly dual carriageways on major arterial routes A1-A9 on the Federal road network using the 2020 Sovereign Sukuk Issuance and Tax Credit Scheme being used in the construction of Bodo-Bonny Bridge across Opobo Channel in Rivers State and the construction/rehabilitation of Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin Road Section II in Kwara and Kogi States, among others.

On the issue of delay in project completion raised by committee members during the interactive session, the minister said aside the twin challenges of inadequate funding and delayed releases, there was also the fact that some of the roads carry heavy traffic which had to be managed while construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation was going on.

Fashola said it was necessary to put some measures in place for the safety of both the workers and commuters.

The minister told the lawmakers, “When we talk about delay of projects, I would have loved you to have specifics of what is considered as delays. It is important to understand what happens at the construction site, especially on highways, where we are reconstructing and commuters still have traffic,” adding that ideally on a construction site traffic should be shut down.

He cited as examples the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos with an average Daily Traffic (ADT) of 122,978 vehicles, the Koton Karfe Bridge with Average Daily Traffic of 11,942 vehicles and the Makurdi Bridge, adding that the Lagos-Sagamu-Ibadan carries the heaviest daily traffic in the country followed by the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road.

On why the Sukuk could not be expanded to fund other road projects as a means of overcoming the problem of inadequate funding, he explained that at every issuance, there was a specific amount which the government could withdraw, adding that no money would be left as reserve for Sukuk fund.

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Fuel queues return to Abuja over price hike rumour

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Fuel queues have resurfaced in the Federal Capital Territory over speculations of an imminent increase in the pump price of petrol.

This is coming about 24 the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had said there would be no increase in the ex-depot price of petrol in May and not until the end of negotiations with organised labour.

But reports say remours about a price hike and scarcity have led to the latest long queues that surfaced on Tuesday at petrol stations in the FCT.

Long queues of motorists waiting to buy fuel were seen at retail outlets in Wuse, Gwarimpa, Wuye and Kubwa expressway on Tuesday while other outlets were not selling the product.

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NNPC says no petrol price increase in May, subsidy continues

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The Federal Government will continue to pay fuel subsidy as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has said it will not increase the ex-depot price of petrol in May.

Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, disclosed this on Monday on the company’s social media post during a meeting he held with the National Association of Road Transport Owners/Petroleum Tanker Drivers.

Kyari had last month disclosed that the current market price of petrol had risen to N234 per litre, far above the average pump price of N163 per litre across petrol stations in the country.

Tanker drivers had on March 29 issued notice of industrial action, citing poor remuneration and other hardship as reasons for their action.

Kayri said, “We want to inform oil marketing companies that the NNPC will not increase the pump price of PMS in May. I am giving the assurance and I ask Nigerians to go about their normal businesses; we have over 20 billion litres of petrol in our custody.

“Many of you are aware of this and with the assurance with tanker drivers and NUPENG, there is no need for panic buying of the product. Petrol will be available in all the depots in the country including NNPC dispatched depot across the country, so nobody should panic in buying the product.”

Speaking on the on the strike by the PTD, the NNPC boss said the strike was associated with NARTO’s inability to increase their compensation which was not resolved last week.

He said, “We have given commitment to both NARTO and PTD that we will resolve the issue within a week and come back to the table to have a total closure on the issue.

“We also have a robust engagement with our oil marketing partners in respect of increase in the volume product that is check in the Nigerian market. “We have agreed to work jointly with all the security agencies to contain any possible infractions seen in our borders. We will work as a team to curtail this fraudulent practice with the help of the security agencies.”

He explained that the meeting also discussed issues on payment by Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) to oil marketing companies.

He said that all stakeholders agreed in making the PMS available to marketers.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, NARTO President, Alhaji Yusuf Othman, commended the NNPC for the intervention and assured that within the next seven days, things will normalise in the adjustment of allowances of PTD.

He said, “NARTO requested that they bring three persons so that we discuss the issues but that would not have been possible without this intervention. “We hope that within the next seven days things will normalize and I want to assure Nigerians that we are committed to it.”

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UBA posts 26.8% profit, double-digit growth on income lines

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The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc says its profit after tax (PAT) increased by 26.8 per cent in the first quarter (Q1) for the period ended March 31, 2021.

The bank’s PAT jumped to N23.2 billion in Q1 2021 from N30.1 billion in the same period in 2020.

According to a statement from the bank, it also recorded a double-digit growth across most of its major income lines in period under review.

The tier-1 bank said between January and March, it recorded N40.6 billion, representing a 24 percent year-on-year growth in profit before tax compared with N32.7 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2020.

It stated, “Interestingly, UBA again sustained its strong profitability recording an annualised 20.5% Return on Average Equity (RoAE) compared to 19.9% in the same period of 2020.

“Driven by a year-on-year growth in interest income, UBA Group recorded another impressive 5.5% percent year-on-year growth in Gross Earnings to close at N155.4 billion for the three month period ending March 2021, compared to N147.2 billion recorded in the first three months of last year 2020.

“The bank’s total assets also rose by 2.5 per cent to N7.9 trillion in the period under review, compared to N7.7 trillion recorded at the end of the 2020 financial year whilst shareholders’ funds grew to N762.4 billion up by 5.3% from N724.1 billion as at FY 2020.”

Group Managing Director of UBA, Kennedy Uzoka, said the result reflects the bank’s capacity to grow earnings in a highly uncertain macroeconomic environment.

He expressed satisfaction with the bank’s performance, adding that its current capital and liquidity ratio have positioned the bank as it continues to support its customers across diverse sectors and markets, guided by prudent risk management practices.

Uzoka said the bank is committed to sustaining its performance through a customer driven approach for the rest of the year.

“This impressive 2021 Q1 results reflect the capacity of our business to sustainably grow earnings even in a highly uncertain macroeconomic environment,” he said.

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