The controversial East-West road in the Niger Delta is to be completed by December 2014, Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Elder Godsday Orubebe, has said. He said the road, which was started by the Federal Ministry of Works in 2006, and transferred to the Ministry of Niger Delta by a presidential directive in 2009 at below 10 per cent level of completion, is now 53 per cent completed.
"Thirty-six of the 42 bridges in the project have been completed. 756 of the 786 culvets are also completed. Bridges and culvets are the most critical in road projects. Work has reached over 53 per cent completion and by December 2014, it will be completed," he said.
Orubebe, who spoke in a chat with journalists, however, said the project would require an additional injection of N120billion, saying N70billion has been provided for in the 2013 budget and the Sure-P programme, adding that the ministry is hoping to borrow the remaining amount.
It would be recalled that the minister had come under attack over the delay in the completion of the project.
Orubebe lamented that when the project was awarded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo's regime in 2006 following pressures from the Niger Delta people that something must be done in the region, the project was billed to cost N238 billion and required between N30 to N35 billion as mobilisation fee, but the Obasanjo government only made available N1.2 billion.
"At least one year was needed to do a good design and for the consultancy work to be done. Consultancy work and design took two weeks. It was a baseless survey. But when we took over, we began a complete design and consultancy work, which was completed in 2010," he said.
Orubebe also spoke about allegations that he inflated contracts in the ministry and that N29billion had been allegedly paid out for contracts not executed, saying the Niger Delta ministry had only awarded contracts worth N6billion out of which only N909million had been paid.
"They say Orubebe has mansions and that Setraco has built a house for me. We're owing Setraco over N20billion. What is the moral justification for Setraco to build a house for anybody in government?
"As an elder in church, I cannot afford to destroy the name I have built," he said.
Orubebe said his ministry was building nine skills acquisition centres in the Niger Delta states, stating that the two of them being sited in Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States would be engaged in the area of oil and gas while the one in Calabar, Cross River state would be for tourism and ICT.