Stakeholders are worried on the delay in the completion of the 338 kilometres East-West road, eight years after the contract was awarded.
The contract was awarded in 2006 at the cost of N200 billion and 2010 completion date.
The contract was later reviewed upwards to N349 billion and completion date shifted to 2014.
The road is very strategic as it passed through five Niger-Delta states of Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom.
Difficult terrain, paucity of funds and abandonment of work by construction firms as a result of kidnappings were to some extent responsible for the delay.
Mr Ishaku Darius, the Supervising Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, who recently inspected progress of work on the road, said the project would now be completed in 2015.
He said that the level of work was commendable, adding that 38 out of 42 bridges had been completed.
Darius also said that 900 culverts out of the 1,000 culverts on the road had also been completed.
He said that in addition to the annual budget, additional funds were secured under the
Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment programme (SURE-P) for the project.
The minister also said that the Federal Government secured a loan of 300 million dollars from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the road project.
“About 50 per cent of this loan had been utilised in the 2013 financial year, whereas the balance would be released in 2014,” he said.
During the 2014 budget defence before the National Assembly, the minister said that N111 was required to complete the project.
According to him, out of the N49.1 billion proposed as capital expenditure for the ministry, N8.73 billion was allocated to the East-West road project.
Mr James Manager, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, complained of inadequate allocation of funds to the ministry that was allocated N144 billion in 2008.
“We must appreciate the fact that the East-West road is the flagship of the Niger Delta Ministry because it is very important to the region and Nigeria in general.
“We have to do all we can to rescue the ministry because the ministry is terribly under-funded,’’ he said.
On his part, Senate Deputy Leader, Mr Abdul Ningi, said all hands must be on deck to ensure the timely completion of the project.
“The key to any presentation of good governance rests squarely on the East-West road. Therefore, priority should be placed on the road.
“If we cannot get this project before the end of the tenure of this administration, then all of us will be indicted, he said.
Manager, during a recent inspection tour of the road, urged the Federal Government to explore alternative funding for the project, to ensure the completion of the road by 2015.
He recalled the challenges that hindered the construction of the road since 2006, when the first contract was awarded by the Federal Ministry of Works, and later taken over by Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in 2009.
“You will recall that Julius Berger abandoned the Section Two of the road because of insecurity and militancy at that time in the Niger Delta; when some of their expatriates were kidnapped, and even shot dead.
“Julius Berger now decided to abandon it and the road had to be re-awarded to Setraco, the contractors now handling the project,’’ he said.
Manager said that it took time before the contract was re-awarded, adding that Section Two was not at the same level with other sections as a result of the delay.
“I don’t want to blame anybody for what is happening. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. What is important is for the road to be completed on time and in good quality,’’ he said.
Mr Hope George, Chairman of National Youth Council of Nigeria, Delta Chapter, who commented on the progress of work, stressed the need for timely release of funds to pay contractors.
“The present stage of completion has given hope that the East-West road will be completed.
“The road was said to be delayed because of the terrain, but we the youths were assured during our visit to the contractors that the East-West road will be over sooner than later,” the youth leader added.
Mr Godwin Okojie, a driver with Edo Line, a popular transport company that ply the road, said the road was in a very bad condition before the reconstruction.
“ We experience gridlock for hours before the reconstruction; the gridlock has reduced since the reconstruction attained the present level .
“The Federal Government should ensure that the tempo of work is not slowed down in order for the project to be completed by the 2015 new deadline,’’ he said.
Like Okojie, other stakeholders want the tempo of work sustained. This can only be possible with adequate funding, especially now that adequate security measures had been put in place to check harassment of construction workers.