The Federal Government has secured an alternative funding arrangement to meet the December 2014 target for the completion of the East-West Road, which has been hamstrung by annual low budgetary allocations.
The road, which is currently undergoing rehabilitation in some sections following devastating floods, is currently at 51 per cent completion.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, who fielded questions with journalists during a post-flooding assessment tour of the road, assured that the December 2014 completion target was achievable with the availability of alternative funding sources.
Although the minister did not divulge more details on the alternative sources of funds for the road besides budgetary provisions, THISDAY gathered that the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other development partners are now to be involved in the funding to deliver the project on schedule.
Giving an update on the work done so far on the road, the minister said: "Almost all the bridges have been completed, remaining the general road work. We have alternative sources. Funding will no longer be a problem as far as the road is concerned."
Orubebe, who spoke at the Patani section, Delta State where flood had severed the road into two, said flooding was a natural phenomenon beyond the making of man, adding that with the remedial efforts being expended by the contractor, Setraco Nigeria Limited, commuters were already getting succour.
He stated that for the past weeks after the flood, engineers from the ministry and the three contractors involved in the road had been involved in the assessment of the impact, noting that his ministry had challenged them on a recovery plan from Onne in Rivers State to the Delta State axis.
The minister noted that the desire of President Goodluck Jonathan was to ensure that traffic flows freely during the impending festivities heralding the end of the year.
The minister disclosed that despite being owed about N20 billion, the contractors had gone ahead with rehabilitating the road Orubebe noted that the road is the ministry's flagship project, which it inherited in 2009 from the Federal Ministry of Works when it was just at 10 per cent completion level, assuring that with the availability of funds, no stone would be left unturned to deliver the road at the target date of December 2014.
On compensation to people whose property were demolished at the Port Harcourt section to ensure the expansion of the road, the minister said funds had been released to the contractors to pay compensation to the affected people.
Orubebe, who reacted to the agitations from the people of Niger Delta for the development of the region, noted that President Jonathan who was born and bred in the area, and himself as minister in charge of the affairs also from the area, nobody had the interest of the people at heart more than those from the region.
He, however, noted that while people would want a swift replication of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja in the Niger Delta, other pressing national needs would not make that possible in the short term, adding that there have been coordinated and consistent efforts to develop the region, in spite of the constraints.
Orubebe stated that in spite of the financial constraints, 11 roads, nine housing projects and four skills acquisition centres, among others, were currently being handled by his ministry, which have reached advanced stages.
The 338 kilometre East-West Road is divided into four sections, including Section 1-Warri-Kaiama (87 kilometres); Section 11 Sub-section 1-Port Harcourt-Ahoada (47 kilometres); Section 11 Sub-section 11-Ahoada-Kaiama (54 kilometres); Section 11-Port Harcourt-Eket (99 kilometres), and Section IV-Eket-Oron (51 kilometres).
Awarded in 2006 during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, conbtractors involved in the road are Gitto, Reynolds Construction Company Limited, and Setraco Nigeria Limited.
About N193 billion needed to deliver project, which is put at a total of about N300 billion.