By Cecilia Ijuo
The Senate on Wednesday invited Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, to brief it on the delay in completing Bodo-Bonny road project.
It directed that the minister should brief its Committee on Works on circumstances surrounding Federal Government’s inability to partner Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas to complete the project.
The upper chamber resolved that the committee should carry out independent and comprehensive evaluation of the project and brief it within four weeks.
This emanated from a motion by Sen. Thompson Sekibo (Rivers-PDP) at plenary on Wednesday.
Presenting the motion, the lawmaker decried the non-completion of the project in spite of previous appropriations for the completion of the project.
“In 2016, Gov. Nyesom Wike approached the NLNG management and appealed to the corporation to partner the Federal Government to execute the project.
“He made the appeal in view of the fact that it would benefit both the Federal Government, the NLNG business empire, the people of Bonny, other communities along the road and the business community.
“The 37-kilometre Bodo/Bonny road project in Rivers linking Bodo community in Gokana Local Government Area with Grand Bonny in Bonny Local Government hosts the NLNG complex.”
The project was awarded in 2002 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration at the contract value of N20 billion.
The Obasanjo’s administration did not do much on the project after mobilizing the contractor to site as it was poorly funded.
“The Federal Government did not spend any amount out of the appropriated amount in 2015 and to worsen matters, the project was not captured in the 2016 budget.
“In the 2017 budget, the Federal Government proposed to spend a meagre N9 billion which is not adequate to mobilise the contractors to site.
“This is the same attitude of the past administrations that eventually caused the abandonment of the project for this long,’’ he said.
He said that knowing the importance of the project, the NLNG management accepted to contribute 50 per cent of the contract re-valued at N120 billion, which was N60 billion.
Sekibo said that the completion of the road project would enhance the status of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas and attract more revenue to the government.
He stressed that it would improve the business environment and assist in uplifting the standard of living for the indigenes, who had accepted to peacefully host the gas facility.
In his contribution, Sen. James Manager (Delta-PDP) called for the political will on the part of the Federal Government to complete the road.
He said that the onus lay on the government to fulfil its part of the agreement, particularly with the commitment of the NLNG to pay 50 per cent of the cost.
“There is N9 billion already in the 2017 budget. So, what is important is for the committee on works to do the necessary coordination for this very important commercial road to come to fruition.
“If there is any road that should be constructed it should be that road,’’ he said.
The Chairman, Committee on Works, Sen. Kabiru Gaya, pointed out that the present administration was fully committed to the project.
He said, “for the government to put N9 billion on a 35-kilometre road, it shows its commitment.
“This road is very important because it is the access link between the NLNG and the neighbouring environment.
“This project from what I have gathered is taking off soon and I assure that all the bottlenecks will be removed,’’ he said.
Sen. Magnus Abe (Rivers-APC) said that the project was not one for the South-South, but a project for all Nigerians.
He said that all Nigerians would benefit from the project, adding that dividends from the Bonny NLNG paid to the Federal Government over the years, was in billions of Naira.
“It has been very difficult for Bonny NLNG to operate in maximum capacity at maximum profit because of the cost of transporting every single item by sea and air.
“And, due to the insecurity in the area, most of the staff members have to be airlifted at every point, every day and all that has created great challenges for the successful operation of the company.’’
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, commended the sponsor of the motion, describing it as important.
He said that the project ought to be completed for quick take-off, adding that it would improve host community-company relationship.
“I remember when the NLNG paid me a courtesy call. They did emphasise this point, that they were ready to finance 50 per cent of the project. The political will is really what we need now.
“This is another example of public-private-partnership. We just need the political will to make this happen. So, we ought to make this a priority to make sure it benefits all Nigerians,’’ Saraki said. (NAN)