The Minister of Works, Sen. Dave Umahi, has warned indigenous and expatriate contractors engaged in the construction of road projects across the country against substandard work.
The minister, who gave the warning in Abuja at a meeting with contractors handling federal roads, said sub-standard work was no longer acceptable.
Umahi said most of the roads currently being constructed in the country could not last for seven years after construction
He frowned at how contractors cheat Nigerians with the materials they use to construct roads in the country.
“Our expatriate contractors, this cannot happen in any of your countries; it cannot.
“Anywhere there is a project going on, the first thing that is done is for the convenience of the people. I feel we are being taken for a ride, and we are being taken for granted.
You feel you are doing us a favour; you are not doing us a favour; this is business, and this attitude must stop,” he said
He also decried the discomfort and pain Nigerians face while travelling on federal roads, saying he had to feel their pains when he travelled to Edo from Abuja.
He said the contractors constantly increase the cost of projects and cheat the country through contract variations and the use of asphalt materials, which are subject to the international price of crude oil.
According to him, there is no project being constructed right now in Nigeria that is going to last for seven years.
“The question is, are we going to be maintaining or reconstructing our roads every 10 years?
“That is what we have been doing. I travelled from Abuja to Benin City through Lokoja; all the stretches of the road are on contract and ongoing; this is through the policy of the last administration, but how much of the roads are motorable?
“I travelled through the roads myself, and I shed tears for the kind of pain our people are going through.
“I spent 14 hours on the road, having started my journey at 10 a.m. and getting to Benin City at 2 p.m. the next day, and I was very happy I experienced the pains.
“President Tinubu said I must travel through all the projects so that I will brief him on my experience and tell him the truth,” he said
Umahi further said he had stopped the signing of the funds to be released to contracts that are seeking price variations for their contracts, adding that Mr. President was not aware of such increases.
The minister debunked the claim that the price of cement would go to N9,000 if the government started making concrete roads, saying that it was blackmail against him by the people who don’t want progress in the construction industry.
He added that he was doing his work with the fear of God.
“This is my line of instructions. I will do whatever the president instructs me to do, and he is the only one and God who can cancel my instructions, so don’t waste your time reporting me to anyone apart from these two.
“No matter the amount of blackmail and lies, it will not prevail. I travelled to the south-west, and I am not totally unhappy with the project there and the supervision, as I gave them 80 marks.
While critiquing workers in the ministry for not doing their supervision of contracts as expected, he said they had blood on their hands for the number of people who died in road accidents and those who were kidnapped.
“Unless Mr. President does something about it, his lofty intention to help this country may not be totally achieved. Documents will be sent to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), where they will stay for six months.
“How will the contractors do the additional job you directed them to do without a backup authorisation?
“I am warning all directors to get their controllers back to work. I want to see all the roads motorable; trucks should be off the road; any road where trucks fall, I recall the director,” Umahi warned.
Also at the stakeholders meeting, President of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Prof. Sadiq Abubakar, said the council was delighted to be part of the meeting.
According to him, the minister has shown a peculiar direction in bringing change to the sector.
He said Colin was going to do a follow-up and have a meaningful engagement with the contractors.
He complained that there was a lot of non-compliance on the aspects that have to do with expatriates’ engagement in the country, especially quota allocation, adding that Nigeria, having been admitted to the Washington Accord, demanded compliance.
Abubakar, therefore, appealed to the directors to bridge the gaps noted by the minister, adding that COREN would do its own due diligence.