Minister of Works, Engr Dave Umahi, on Tuesday, said he had secured the buy-in of President Bola Tinibu on the decision of his ministry to adopt the concrete reinforcement method for the construction of public roads
Umahi, who disclosed this while speaking to journalists at the State House, Abuja, after meeting with President Bola Tinubu, also explained reasons why the Federal Government decided to adopt the new method instead of the age-long use of asphalt, one of which he hung on the durability of the works.
The Minister also alleged that he had discovered there are collaborators within the ministry working with contractors that had ganged up against him and the Federal Government on the choice of concrete reinforcement.
He threatened to flush out these elements within the ministry who have been conniving with contractors to frustrate government’s efforts at development, adding that he would be employing the services of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to prosecute the affected officials.
He also highlighted the advantages of cement roads over asphalt/bitumen, including cheaper costs and the need to encourage local production of cement against importation of bitumen.
Speaking on why Nigeria is going for concrete and how he had managed to secure President Tinubu’s support for it, Umahi said: “so why would you allow adulterated bitumen and then you come here you say you’re putting modifier.
“We are all witnesses that in the 50s, the roads constructed on asphalt in the 50s, were much more durable than what we witness today. So this is all we are saying, we are not saying people should not construct roads on asphalt, but if Nigerians are saying they should not have value for their money, that roads should continue to be constructed every year, the same roads, then it’s very unfortunate.
“That is what my ministry is fighting and we are ready, I’m very courageous to defend this. I learned there is gang up by contractors, but there is no going back and Mr. President is backing this position.
“We are offering alternative. What is the alternative? The alternative is what High Tech is doing in Lagos with Dangote. The alternative is for you to go to Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and see what they are doing on concrete. Every day you have over 500 static loads from the wharf loaded on that road, you will not see any crack. No asphalt work, no matter who did it, can sustain that.
“So we are saying that concrete is very friendly with water and so we want you contractors to have an alternative. There is a catalyst in the use of concrete pavement. It will create jobs for our people. Everything about the construction is local. 10 manufacturers of cement have indicated interests to build cement factories.
“That is good for our economy. It will reduce pressure on the naira. The road is going to be much more durable and some people say it’s more expensive. It’s not more expensive. Some people put even three binders on their road construction, I get the roads will fail,” he said.
The Minister disclosed that he had been able to get approval from President Tinubu for works to immediately commence on some road projects across the country, adding that a task force, comprising of stakeholders from various sectors.
“Let me also announce to Nigerians that Mr. President is a listening President. All the interventions we requested in our East-West Road in Benin-Sapele road, in Lokoja, in Shandam Lafia, you know, the bridge that has broken, in the two bridges in Enugu that got broken, in a Owerri-Onitsha road that got broken at two points. The third mainland bridge resurfacing and the underneath work. I can’t finish all, they have all been approved by Mr. president
“So we have set up Taskforce in all the locations where these approval that were made by Mr president to ensure that within three months we would conclude all that is needed based on their approval.
“And let me also announce that we have Taskforce that would supervise for contractors, all the way from Lokoja to Benin, to Warri, Bayelsa, Rivers State and Cross River. We are also deploying consultants to supervise our roads. Our engineers will also be sites to learn from experience. Mr. President has also given approval,” he said