The Abuja-Kano road remains an eyesore six months after the initial completion date. Lives have been lost and means of livelihood destroyed on the road while more could still be lost as the Federal Government reveals a new five-year plan for the completion of the road in 2025.
When the Abuja-Kano Road was awarded by the Federal Executive Council at the sum of N155.7 billion to Julius Berger in December 2017, many Nigerians would never believe that the project would outlive the eight-year tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The project was awarded in 2017; construction was flagged off after six months, in June 2018. And six months after the supposed 36 months completion date, a new 2025 timeline was revealed to stakeholders at a town hall meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing at the Kaduna State University Conference hall.
Travellers dread the road due to the several ditches and diversion occasioned by the construction. Asides road crashes caused by the deteriorating nature of the road, the Abuja-Kaduna axis of the 375.9km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria to Kano road, has become a death trap for motorists due to the activities of bandits. Eight Ahmadu Bello University students were last week kidnapped on the road.
“The new deadline is now 2025. Kaduna-Zaria will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022, Zaria-Kano will be completed in the first quarter of 2023 while Abuja-Kaduna will be delivered 2025,” Managing Director, Julius Berger, Engineer Lars Richer, said.
Several engagements and tantrums between the legislators, construction officials and other stakeholders could not help the completion of the project as the plights of the commuters have just been extended by five years.
With the new five-year timeline for the completion of the project through, the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, urged Nigerians to exercise patience as the president plans on leaving ‘a solid legacy for the country.’
He said: “PMB sent me because of the reactions that have trailed the slow pace of the work, to see what is happening by speaking with the contractors and all the stakeholders involved in the project so that I can report back to the president for him to know what steps to take.”
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had in 2017 said the road was in a state of serious disrepair and so there was the urgent need for reconstruction. The urgency in his tone was tuned down during the stakeholders meeting as he acknowledged delay in the construction work.
He said one of the reasons why work could not commence early on the road, was as a result of the request made by some members of the National Assembly to expand the road from two lanes to three lanes.
A statement from the ministry read in part, “Shortly after we flagged off the road, we received a letter from the Senators in the National Assembly asking the Federal Government to expand the road from two lanes to three lanes, that was not from us, it was from the National Assembly, and they wrote to the president and copied my Ministry.
“We needed to redesign an expansion to accommodate about 40 different bridges on this road to align with the lanes. So, if they are going to expand from two to three lanes, a new design needed to be created. The process for doing that required us to hire a design consultant. We had to follow the procurement process established by the National Assembly,” he said.
The process took some months before the approval of the Federal Executive Council to hire a consultant to do the design requested.
Fashola said after going through all the processes of procurement for redesigning to three lanes, the ministry received another instruction to revert back to two lanes due to paucity of fund.
Fashola also attributed the delay in completion to the total length of the road and the process of construction.
He explained, “Each lane is 375km. So, if you multiply that by four, we are building a-1500 kilometres of highway. No matter how hard you tried to work, if there were 25 hours in one day to do this work, we will commit to it, but the truth is that materials take time to react, minimum and maximum processes must be observed.”
Prior to the town hall meeting, the House of Representatives had expressed worry over the slow pace of work on the highway, and the Chairman House Committee on Works, Kabir Abubakar Bichi, had said: “We are disappointed that after about 26 months since the commencement of work on the project, only less than 20 percent of the work has been done. Despite collecting N70bn out of the N155bn total sum of the contract, Berger is yet to do substantial work on the projects and the contract tenure is 36 months.”
His displeasure was re-echoed by the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani, who at the meeting wondered why a significant road like the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road could not be given priority. Sani had said: “Because of the importance of the road, the ministry ought to have given it priority and ensure its speedy completion in at least one year. People are dying on that road; all funds should be provided to that effect.”
The Managing Director, Julius Berger, Engineer Lars Richer, said the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road is a high priority infrastructure of national significance.
“It forms a crucial part of one of Nigeria’s most highway, the A2, which is a main artery within the country’s transportation grid, pumping the country’s lifeblood by enabling the movement of people and products from the North to the South and vice versa thereby uniting the Nigerian economy,” he said.
“Considering the need for a robust, long-lasting infrastructure solution, the Nigerian government expanded the scope of the work for the project from rehabilitation to reconstruction for the entire 375.9km length of the dual carriageway,” he said.
The managing director noted that to ensure reliable delivery of the project, three sections of the road are being worked on simultaneously saying: “The current status of work is reconstruction of 2×2 dual carriageway with new technology, drainage works in rural and township areas, palliatives work to keep roads motorable and road traffic concept.
He said the major concern and ongoing challenge the project continues to face has to do with accidents and breakdowns.
For the sake of safety and to enable uninterrupted work schedules for timely delivery of the road, he appealed to road users to comply at all times with the road signs and the diversions provided by the company to ensure the wellbeing of citizens and of the project.
Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, said: “Nigerians should know that there is no point finishing the road on time, and in five to 10 years, we are back to square one. I have seen the quality of the road because I was commissioner for works in Kano State for six years, so I know quality road when I see it and truly, the quality of the job being done is good,” he said.
He called for patience with the government as well as the contractors so as to deliver the project on time.