By Dada Jackson
Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has expressed the determination of the Federal Government to complete the ongoing reconstruction of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano dual carriageway.
He stated this at a town hall meeting of stakeholders organised by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing held at the Kaduna State University Conference hall, Kaduna
Fashola said, “Mr President is more passionate and concerned about finishing this road and many others before his constitutional term ends.”
He also said the objective of the town hall meeting was to expose the realities and explain the challenges involved in the construction of the road.
Responding to questions from stakeholders who wanted to know why the construction work on the road was taking too long, the minister explained that one of the reasons why work could not commence early on the road was as a result of the request made by the some members of the National Assembly to expand the road from two lanes to three.
He said, “Shortly after we flagged off the road, we received a letter from the senators in the National Assembly asking the Federal Government to expand the road from two lanes to three lanes; that was not from; it was from the National Assembly, the Senators. And they wrote to the President and copied my ministry.
Fashola also stated that based on the directive from the presidency to undertake that expansion, “we needed to redesign an expansion to accommodate about 40 different bridges on this road to align with the lanes.
“So, if they are going to expand from two to three lanes, a new design needed to be created. The process for doing that required us to hire a design consultant. We had to follow the procurement process established by the National Assembly,” he said.
Accordingly, he said the procurement process was a long one, which entails advertising; waiting for a period of six weeks after advertisement; reviewing of tender; picking of consultant and going to the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) and finally to the Federal Executive Council for approval to hire a consultant to do the design requested.
The minister also disclosed that after going through all the processes of procurement for redesigning to three lanes, the ministry received another instruction to revert to two lanes due to paucity of funds.
Fashola attributed the delay in completion to the total length of the road and the process of construction.
He said, “Each lane is 375km. So if you multiply that by four, we are building a thousand and five hundred kilometres of highway. No matter how hard you tried to work, if there were 25 hours in one day to do this work, we will commit to it, but the truth is that materials take time to react, minimum and maximum processes must be observed.”
Responding to a question on the Kaduna-Western By-pass, the minister explained that the Kaduna State Government initially requested it to be transferred to the state and the request was granted, but later due to the inability of the state to raise the financing for it, the commencement of the work was stalled.
He added that a recommendation to put the project under the Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme was later considered and approved.
He said, “As far as the Western By-pass is concerned, let me also say that it is on record, Kaduna State was the first state to apply for the transfer of federal road to them; that I recommended to the Federal Executive Council and the council approved and I transferred it to the state governor in his first term. It was after the unsuccessful attempt by the Kaduna State government to raise financing that we recommended that it be put under the Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme.”
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, stated that her ministry would collaborate with the Ministry of Works and Housing and Messrs Julius Berger to expeditiously work on the reconstruction of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano dual carriageway in order to ensure completion before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
She explained that the issue of funding had been addressed because the Ministry of Finance had given $650 to the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) whose responsibility was to generate additional funds to ensure that the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano dual carriageway and other designated projects are fully funded.
Leader of the delegation and Chief of Staff to President Muhammad Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, assured the people that President Muhammad Buhari’s commitment was real and realizable before the end of his tenure.
The Managing Director of Messrs. Julius Berger who also made presentation at the town hall meeting, revealed that the company had introduced a new innovative cold recycling method of constructing roads in Nigeria, which he said was being used for the first time in Nigerian for the reconstruction of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road.
He listed the benefits of cold recycling as achieving shorter construction time, conservation of resources, cost effectiveness, enhancing road safety and impacting positively on the environment.
He stated that the scope of work on the roads had been divided into three sections, with section one covering Abuja to Kaduna road, with 165.5km; second section, Kaduna to Zaria with 73.4km and the third section, Zaria to Kano with 137.0km .
In attendance at the town hall meeting were the Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje; the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Dr Hadiza Balarabe who represented her governor, representatives of the Niger State Governor, Commissioner for Works and Housing and that of the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Shehu Hadiza Ahmed.
Other stakeholders at the meeting were legislators from both the national and state assemblies from the concerned states, representatives of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), community and traditional institutions.
NiMet predicts cloudiness, thunderstorm across Nigeria
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has predicted cloudiness and thunderstorm from Sunday to Tuesday across the country.
NiMet`s weather outlook released on Saturday in Abuja predicted sunny skies with patches of clouds over the northern region with few thunderstorms over Taraba in the morning hours.
According to it, there are prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Taraba, Adamawa and Kaduna later in the day.
“Partly cloudy skies are anticipated over the North central region with prospects of thunderstorms over part of Benue during the morning hours.
“There are chances of thunderstorms over parts of Kwara, Kogi, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory in the afternoon to evening period.
“Isolated thunderstorms are expected over some southern states like Ondo, Edo, Imo, Enugu, Ogun, Osun, Delta, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Lagos in the morning hours,“ it said.
The agency forecast thunderstorms over parts of Imo, Ondo, Osun and the coastal belt of the country later in the day.
NiMet envisages partly cloudy to sunny skies on Monday over the Northern region throughout the day with prospects of a few thunderstorms over parts of Taraba and Adamawa states in the afternoon and evening hours.
It anticipates cloudy skies with intervals of sunshine over the North central region in the morning hours.
“Further into the day, thunderstorms are anticipated over parts of Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Benue and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The inland and the coastal cities of the South should be cloudy with prospects of thunderstorms over Bayelsa, Cross River, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states in the morning hours.
“Later in the day, there are prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Ondo, Edo, Enugu, Ogun and the coastal belt of the country,“ it said.
NiMet predicts partly cloudy to sunny skies over the Northern region throughout the forecast period on Tuesday.
It further predicted partly cloudy skies over the North central region in the morning hours with isolated thunderstorms over parts of Benue, Kogi and Kwara states in the afternoon and evening hours.
“The inland and the coastal cities of the South should be predominantly cloudy during the morning hours.
“Later in the day, there are chances of thunderstorms over parts of Ondo, Imo, Edo and the coastal cities,“ it said.
WHO reports global shortfall in mental health investment
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new Mental Health Atlas paints a disappointing picture of a worldwide failure to provide people with the mental health services they need.
In a statement made available on Saturday, it said it happened at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was highlighting a growing need for mental health support.
“World misses most 2020 mental health targets; extension of WHO Mental Health Action Plan to 2030 provides new opportunity for progress reading time, four minutes (1003 words).
“The latest edition of the atlas, which includes data from 171 countries, provides a clear indication that the increased attention given to mental health in recent years has yet to result in a scale-up of quality mental services that is aligned with needs,” the global health agency said.
According to WHO, the Atlas is a compilation of data provided by countries around the world on mental health policies, issued every three years.
Others are legislation, financing, human resources, availability and utilisation of services and data collection systems.
According to the global health body, it is also the mechanism for monitoring progress towards meeting the targets in WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan.
“It is extremely concerning that, despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, which has become even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met with investment.
“We must heed and act on this wake-up call and dramatically accelerate the scale-up of investment in mental health, because there is no health without mental health,” it quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, as saying.
The statement said that none of the targets for effective leadership and governance for mental health, provision of mental health services in community-based settings, mental health promotion and prevention, and strengthening of information systems, were close to being achieved.
It said that in 2020, just 51 per cent of WHO’s 194 member states reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments, way short of the 80 per cent target.
It said that only 52 per cent of countries met the target relating to mental health promotion and prevention programmes, also well below the 80 per cent target.
WHO noted that the only 2020 target met was a reduction in the rate of suicide by 10 per cent, but even then, only 35 countries said they had a stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan.
It said that steady progress was evident, however, in the adoption of mental health policies, plans and laws, as well as in improvements in capacity to report on a set of core mental health indicators.
It said that, however, the percentage of government health budgets spent on mental health has scarcely changed during the last years, still hovering around two per cent.
Vigilante Group Kills Imam, 10 Others In Sokoto
Gunmen suspected to be members of the outlawed Yan Sakai, a vigilance group in Sokoto State, have killed 11 persons, including an Imam, at Mamande village in Gwadabawa local government of Sokoto State.
Our reporter gathered that the victims died on the spot while four persons who sustained gunshot injuries were taken to a hospital by the local government council for treatment.
The Imam who was identified as Malam Aliyu was said to be leading prayers in one of the daily prayer Mosques in Salame.
The incident happened at about 3:30pm on Thursday.
The victims were said to have come from different Fulani settlements around the area to purchase food and other items at the weekly Mamande market.
The Yan Sakai were said to have stormed the market from Goronyo Local Government Area, attacking the victims whom they accused of aiding banditry.
A relative of the Imam, Abdullahi Riskuwa, said his brother was killed unjustifiably because he never had any criminal record.
“He is sound in religion knowledge and had been leading prayers in one of our mosques in Salame town.”
“His only sin was that he belonged to the Fulani tribe.”
According to Riskuwa, Imam Aliyu only went to the market to buy goods when he was killed.
Among those killed at the market, he said, were children and the Yan Sakai went away with their animals.
He called on the government to investigate the matter with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
The state chairman of Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, could not be reached for comment as his telephone line was not reachable when our correspondent attempted to speak with him.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Gwadabawa local government, Aminu Aya, confirmed the attack, saying the Yan Sakai were not from Gwadabawa.
According to him, the deceased were deposited at the Morgue of Specialist Hospital, Sokoto, and some of their relatives went there to recover their corpses.
He however, said that, normalcy was restored in the area.
When contacted, the Public Relation Officer of Sokoto Police Command, ASP Sanusi Abubakar, said he had not briefed about the development but promised to get the details and call back.
However, he had not done so as at the time of filling this report.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had prohibited the activities of Yan Sakai in the state.
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