Tuesday, May 17, 2016 3:20 pm
Contractors handling all Federal highways across the country are set to return to site as the Federal Government plans to pay outstanding fees following the signing into law of the 2016 Budget by President Muhammadu Buhari, just as the contractors also promised to recall all their workers previously laid off as a result of paucity of fund.
According to a statement issued by Hakeem Bello, Special Adviser, Communications
to the Minister, the contractors, who gave the commitment in a communiqué after a meeting with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola SAN, also committed themselves to building roads that will meet international standards. These will include standard road furniture, in terms of road markings and signs as well as other signs related to safe usage of the road networks.
They also agreed that all road projects not captured in the 2016 budget would also be addressed before the end of the year while the contractors handling them would go back to site as soon as funds are made available.
Earlier in his opening address, the Minister called on the contractors to ensure that they recall all laid off workers in their firms as soon as they return to site, pointing out that the objective of the Federal Government was to reenergize the economy through construction of the roads which according to him would set off all the value chains that come with construction.
Fashola, who promised that very soon funds would be made available to enable them return to site, said what Government hoped to achieve was to complete as many roads as funds would allow. He added that for those that could not be completed, enough progress would be made before the end of the year to impact on the travel conditions of Nigerians.
According to the Minister, “We have very simple objectives, to return the economy to growth, to create jobs especially construction and its ancillary value chain, construction, labour, material, cement, water, gravels, granite and all that”.
He said Government’s expectation was that after disbursing funds to them, the contractors would go back to site and deploy the money where they should go, into the construction of standard roads with internationally accepted road markings and the recall of all laid off workers back to work.
Appealing to the contractors to be ready to make sacrifices for a better Nigeria, Fashola declared, “So we expect that when we disburse this money, at least they would go right back where they should go, back to work. So I hope that this is something that all of us will agree upon”.
The Minister, who noted that the rains would soon come added, “So we just need to do some unusual things if it is necessary”. He listed such unusual things to include working everyday, including Sundays and public holidays. He added, “We may need to give up some of those niceties because we need to work more quickly; because we don’t have much time”.
He pointed out that the Chinese contractors work every day, promising government support in terms of providing security for those who wish to work in the nights. He urged the contractors, “All you need is to provide some incentives to your workers so they that they can work”.
“I am appealing to all of us, it is a very tough time and I know that you have sacrificed, I am going to ask you to sacrifice a little more out there. Some of you who have been here long enough have seen some of these times before. We will come out of them, we will pull out of them. And when the prosperity returns, we will all benefit”, Fashola said.
The Minister, who noted that some of the contractors have experienced tough times before, however, added, “Those who are experiencing this for the first time I assure you we will pull the country together. But all of us must work together. Build the roads and every road you complete you are actually contributing to the growth of the economy”.
He said the roads would enable farmers bring their farm produce to the markets while goods and services would move quicker and cheaper and people could travel cheaper adding that motorists would burn less fuel if the roads improve as travel time would decrease.
On safety, Fashola called on the contractors to provide enough and adequate safety facilities for their workers as well as ensure that they provide road signs and reflective signs during construction to enable motorists drive through without accidents.
The Minister, who also appealed to the contractor to be compassionate to their workers, pointed out that it was the only way to get the best out of them adding that they should also stabilize the roads during construction so that motorists would still be able to use them as construction goes on.
Thanking the contractors for responding to the invitation, Fashola, who said the meeting would have held earlier noted that it was important that the meeting should hold when action could be taken adding, “We couldn’t take action until the budget had been signed”.
“Some of you had tried to meet me since last year and I was hopeful that we would meet at your sites because that was where really I hoped we would be able to validate the progress that was being made. But that is all in the past now. We are where we are”, he said.
Noting that both himself and other principal officers are new in the Ministry, Fashola added, “We are building a new team. This is first what informs this meeting, getting to know all of you slowly. Getting to understand the problems and constraints you face at your various sites”.
“I have been to some of the roads, mostly at the Northern sites. I will definitely come to your sites in due course. It is tough to do so because I am travelling by road to see the roads themselves and to experience what is going on. So it is a gradual process”, he said.
According to him, “Very soon, probably, in a matter of days, we will get some funding to disburse to you. What we hope to achieve is to listen to you, to hear what the problems are and when you think you would be able to finish”.
Present at the meeting were representatives and Chief Executives of major construction companies like Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, RCC, Arab Contractors , Dantata and Sawoe, Reynolds Construction, Stallini, Gitto and Setraco among others.