Category archives for: Construction

Nigeria: Sterling Bank Takes Giant Strides in Housing Sector

Nigeria has a worrisome deficit in housing, which as at 2012, was estimated at a minimum of 17 million units. Recently, the figure was raised and, according to experts, it could be up to 20 million units, if a proper investigation of the state of affairs in the sector was undertaken. Interestingly Sterling Bank Plc., has been playing significant financing role on both the demand and supply side of the housing sector, designed to contribute to a reduction of the deficit. Bennett Oghifo writes

Majority of Nigerians live in blighted and unplanned areas that are unfit, and some are unfit for human habitation, and most of these communities are in cities. Some housing experts argue that the deficit in the 2012 report of the World Bank was as a result of these unplanned communities like Lekki, which, though have beautiful homes, but was not documented as livable because of the unplanned environment.

Recently, stakeholders met in Abuja at a housing show where awards were presented to firms and individuals that contribute to the development of the nation’s housing sector. Sterling Bank Plc., was one of the institutions that stood out with an award, distinguishing it as the Housing Friendly Commercial Bank of the Year.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who was at the event with other senior government officials, remarked that Nigeria has been contending with a huge deficit in the housing sector over the years. He decried the current situation which effectively enables only one per cent of the Nigerian population access mortgage facilities, saying it is extremely low relative to a country like the United Kingdom with 77 per cent.

Fashola expressed concern that the deficit was apparent both on the supply and demand sides, stating that it was not just that the housing situation was grossly inadequate to satisfy the needs of the population, access to a mortgage was also inadequate.

The minister noted that financial institutions have allocated barely one percent of their loan portfolios to housing and about 11 percent to construction in the last 30 years.

However, stakeholders saw the award as due recognition to Sterling Bank Plc., a financial institution that has played a significant role in the housing sector by adopting an innovative model that takes adequate care of the demand and supply sides.

All things considered, Sterling Bank won the award as a result of its remarkable impact on housing delivery in the country. Specifically, the Commercial and Institutional Banking Group within Sterling Bank has established a firm footing in the housing sector by wholly and partly financing some landmark real estates in the country.

Some of the housing estates include; the part-financing of Crown Court Mabushi in Abuja for Crown Realities Plc. The project comprises 72 units of 3-bedroom flats, 18 units of 4-bedroom semi-detached houses and 16 units of detached 4-bedroom houses.

Prior to this, Sterling Bank had part-financed the prestigious Crown Estate in Lekki, located on a 41.7 hectares gated private estate along the Lagos-Epe Expressway in 2000.

Other residential projects part-financed by Sterling Bank in collaboration with developers include, Diamond Estate, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos; 360 low-cost housing units for Diya Fatimilehin & Co., Friends’ Colony Estate, Lekki Lagos; a 210 semi-detached and detached housing units for Aircom Nigeria Limited, Common Wealth Court, Lekki; 36 apartments of Defacto Properties Limited and Bourdillon Court Estate, Lekki, Lagos comprising 192 housing units (flats and Terrace houses) for Aircom Nigeria Limited.

Others are Cromwell Court’s 180 units of apartments; Milverton Estate’s 240 units of apartments, Northern Foreshore Estate’s 566 mixed housing units; Napier Garden’s 220 mixed housing units, all for Aircom Nigeria Limited in Lekki, Lagos and Tarino Towers’ 29 units of apartments for FMT Parkview Limited located in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Sterling Bank also part-financed Visage Apartment’s Victoria Island Lagos, 40 units of apartments for Sat Leasing Limited on Victoria Island, Lagos; Primewaterview Gardens’, phases I & II 539 units of apartments for Primewaterview Ltd in Lekki Lagos; Eko Court, Parkview Estate’s,12 units of apartments for Samtl Properties Ltd in Ikoyi, Lagos; Happy Haven’s Banana Island’s 16 units of apartments for Samtl Properties Ltd in Ikoyi, Lagos; Doby Haven’s 20 units of apartments for Eco Building Ltd in Lekki, Lagos and Pearly Gate Estate’s 40 mixed housing units for Edward Properties Konsult.

The bank has also wholly financed another residential estate for Crown Court in Durumi, Abuja which was inaugurated recently by the Minister of the FCT, Mr. Mohammed Bello.

Managing Director and Chief Executive, Crown Realities Plc, Mr. Darl Uzu, commended Sterling Bank for stepping in to provide critical financing for development projects in the country, particularly in a period of recession. Uzu said the financial institution has proven to be a dependable partner in times of need for Crown Realities Plc.

“At the height of the recession when funds are scarce and investors’ confidence was at its lowest, Sterling Bank stood by us and extended credit to finance our operations,” he said, adding that Crown Realities will not disappoint the bank and will do everything possible to further strengthen the confidence reposed in the company. “We’ll always do our part every time.”

Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Banking of Sterling Bank, Mr. Lanre Adesanya described the bank’s partnership with Crown Realities as a huge success. He said the real estate development company was tested and found to be well-managed, prudent and cost efficient.

Adesanya noted that Sterling Bank has also made significant commitments in the real estate segment especially in Lagos. According to him, the bank has done quite well in retail real estate financing and is ready to provide credit to real estate developers who emulate Crown Realities’ prudent project selection and management model.

“We are happy to be part of the success of Crown Court Durumi, another landmark project which further strengthens our partnership with Crown Realities Plc. It means that Sterling Bank will always do more with a trusted party who never disappoints, and that’s what Crown Realities has proven to be – a trusted party,” Adesanya said.

He said the partnership is a success story for Sterling Bank, adding that the bank is willing to do more for whosoever is willing to do what Crown Realities has done.

Group Head, Non-Interest Banking Group of Sterling Bank, Mr. Basheer Oshodi noted that apart from Housing Friendly Award, Sterling Bank also won a similar award tagged “The European-Islamic Bank of the year Africa in 2016” in London which was organised by a UK based magazine, The European. He said the awards were won in recognition of the giant strides also being taken by the Non-Interest Banking Group in Nigeria’s housing sector.

Oshodi said the model of engagement created by the NIB group enhanced the ability of many Nigerians to own houses under a flexible mode of payment, adding that the NIB group has done so much in making affordable housing available to Nigerians.

According to him, customers who express interest in the home ownership model are made to contribute between 20 and 30 per cent equity over the construction period of 18 months after which the facility is booked for future ownership. He added that rentals in the scheme are less than what would have been paid in a conventional banking arrangement.

“We have developed an innovative method of home ownership for Sterling Bank customers. The model gives an opportunity to the buyer to own a house without the stress of bulk payment. Where the house is already built, a prospective home owner simply makes equity contribution and is booked for future ownership. Even if there is no house on the ground and the customer signifies an intention to access a mortgage, the next step will be to start contributing equity,” Oshodi said.

There is no doubt that Sterling Bank is making significant contribution to the growth and development of Nigeria’s beleaguered housing sector. Although it may represent a drop in the ocean, but the giant strides of Sterling Bank in the housing sector would certainly play a role in ameliorating the situation. It is hoped that other corporate bodies would emulate Sterling Bank’s laudable effort and help to reduce the housing deficit so that every Nigerian will have access to decent homes.

South Africa: Building Prospects in Doldrums Despite Slight Confidence Uptick

Sixty percent of respondents in a recent survey indicated that they are not happy with current business conditions.

After declining by 11 points in the second quarter of 2017, the FNB/BER Building Confidence Index improved by 3 index points to 35 in the third quarter of the year. The uptick was in part due to a 29-index point jump in confidence of building material manufacturers to 37, from 8 in the second quarter. This marks their highest confidence since mid-2015. Underpinning the rise in confidence was an improvement in production and export orders. However, sales remained weak.”The poor performance of building materials sales reflects the poor underlying conditions in the building sector in general,” said FNB property economist John Loos.

Hardware retailer confidence was also higher at 18 index points, from 13 in the second quarter.

Main contractor confidence rose eight points to 44. However, this increase was not supported by the underlying indicators. In particular, activity and overall profitability deteriorated. “The change in confidence and the indices measuring activity and profitability tell a very different story.

“If one is to look at activity and profitability, it is clear that contractors face very difficult trading conditions characterised by weak demand and stiff competition,” said Loos.

Both residential and non-residential contractors reported a similar set of weakening conditions, with residential contractor activity now also showing a marked deterioration.

“In the recent past, residential building activity has acted as a buffer against very poor nonresidential building activity. This no longer seems to be the case, or at least the positive effect seems to be waning,” added Loos.

Architect confidence plummets

Architect and quantity surveyor business confidence dropped to 33 and 42 index points respectively. In the case of architects, confidence is at its lowest since the end of 2012.

According to Loos, “activity for both architects and quantity surveyors was noticeably lower in the quarter. This is worrying as it suggests that the slowdown in building activity implied by this quarter’s main contractor results is likely to continue into the fourth quarter, if not longer”.The business confidence of sub-contractors shed 1 index point to register a value of 37 in the third quarter. Residential sub-contractor confidence was somewhat higher during the quarter due to an uptick in activity.

“Sub-contractors are typically further down the building value chain and the uptick in residential subcontractor activity is merely a lagged effect of the better activity among residential main contractors seen over the preceding few quarters,” said Loos.

Despite the marginal third-quarter increase, the sector’s performance is likely to be worse relative to the second quarter due to low activity. This is especially true of main contractors, where residential and non-residential respondents report growth in activity close to multi-year lows.

It is also reflected by lower domestic sales of building material manufacturers, although production boosted sentiment.

In addition, a sharp activity drop at the start of the building pipeline (architects and quantity surveyors) points to further weakness in building activity in coming quarters.

“One possible saving grace could be further interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank, especially for the residential sector. However, this may not be the case if the broader economic performance, employment

growth and consumer confidence remain poor,” said Loos.

Source: Fin24

Malawi: First Lady Hails Construction of Cancer Centre in Lilongwe

By Macneil Kalowekamo

The First Lady Gertrude Mutharika says the construction of a cancer centre currently underway in Lilongwe is a major step in the right direction towards the national fight against different kinds of cancers in Malawi.

Madam Mutharika said this in New York United States of America during the 6th African First Ladies and Spouses Meeting held at Westin Grand Central Hotel on the margins of the 72nd session of the United Nation General Assembly.

The meeting was organised by the Roche Foundation in collaboration with Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation under the theme “Looking forward to a future without cancers: Implementation of access to medicines, diagnostics and Treatment”.

The First Lady said cancer is increasingly becoming one the leading causes of illness and death in Malawi with cancer of the cervix toping the list prompting government to establish the National Cervical Cancer Control Programme.

“Let me share with you that Malawi’s cancer Treatment Centre is under construction. Malawi will therefore be providing radiotherapy to cancer patients within the country. This will be a remarkable milestone in improving access to services,” said Madam Mutharika

She further reported that as First Lady, she has dedicated her time to mobilising women of reproductive age to undergo cancer screening services through mass media campaigns and partnerships with women radio listening clubs.

“Through this approach, I have managed to mobilise women to get cervical cancer screening. Some of these clubs have even gone further to mobilise themselves and have started door to door cancer awareness campaigns which has resulted in more women accessing cancer screening services.

During the meeting, the First Ladies called for specific global commitments in improving the delivery of quality health care and treatment to all forms of cancer affecting women and the rest of the population in Africa.

Increasing health financing for universal treatment and care of cancer, establishments of special departments and sections under the Ministry of Health to oversee to deal with cancer related issues and rolling out vaccines for cancer emerged as key and immediate commitments for implementation.

“Bold leadership is needed for African presidents in financing health care by increasing budgetary allocation to the health sector,” said Princess Nikky Onyeri of Breast Cancer Foundation and Director General of this grouping of African First Ladies against Cancer.

“There is also a need of making health insurance mandatory. Why should people be obsessed insuring things like cars but not their health?” Onyeri wondered.

The meeting in New York attracted participation of four First Ladies from Malawi, Lesotho, Gambia and Ghana with South African and Nigerian First Ladies represented by senior government officials.

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Zimbabwe: City Council to Sell Part of Harare Gardens

By Ishemunyoro Chingwere

The City of Harare is pressing ahead with the proposed sale of a portion of the Harare Gardens for the expansion of Monomotapa Hotel to encompass a Conference Centre, Car Park and related ancillary facilities. The proposed sale which has been on the cards for over a year had been affected by bickering in council chambers but in July the matter was put to vote with a majority of the councillors voting in favour of the deal which will see the City pocketing $1,76 million.

The deal will see the hospitality group, African Sun Ltd, getting about 2, 205 hectares of the Harare Gardens for the construction of a $25 million facility while the City will be left with about 17 hectares.

In a notice published yesterday, the City – in terms of Section 49 (4) of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12) invited individuals objecting to the sale to lodge their reservations within 30 days.

“Notice is hereby given, in terms of section 49 (4) of the Act, of an application to change the reservation of portion of the remainder of the Harare Gardens, Harare from Public Open space and Recreation to licensed residential (Hotel and Conference Centre) and Car park.

“The property in question which is owned by City of Harare, is zoned Public Open Space and Recreation in terms of the operative City of Harare City Centre local development plan number 22. The proposal seeks to carve-off a portion of the property measuring approximately 2 205 hectares for the expansion of Monomotapa Hotel.

“Any person wishing to lodge objections or make representations must lodge them, in writing with the undersigned within 30 days from the date of the first insertion of this notice,” reads the public notice.

The proposed sale is a follow up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2010 between African Sun as a founder for the joint venture agreement for development of a shopping mall and expansion of the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel.

As previously reported by this publication, in terms of the envisaged joint venture, three floors of parking, commercial shopping facilities, commercial offices, executive residential apartments and the expansion of the hotel were going to be undertaken.

Addressing shareholders in June this year, ASL’s major shareholder, Brainworks Capital chief executive Mr George Manyere said the group was committed to the project which will give the hotel a competitive advantage against regional and international peers.

“It is a $25 million investment and it is a development we are committed to,” Mr Manyere told shareholders in June.

“We are still in discussion with the City of Harare to get that land near Monomotapa for the expansion project,” he said.

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Zimbabwe: Group Services 700 Park Stands

Shelter Zimbabwe has so far serviced 700 stands out of the 1 500 Adelaide Park project, general manager Francis Mugandani has said. Mr Mugandani said the total cost of the project will amount to $31 million while revenue is expected to be approximately $40 million. “In total, the Adelaide Park project will have 2 800 stands ranging between 300 and 600 square metres,” said Mr Mugandani, adding that they expect to have completed the project in the next two to three years.

He also said selling of the stands also involve the mortgage type while corporates have also been keen on taking up some of the housing units.

“We have since delivered 85 housing units to Lafarge under the mortgage facility and we will be delivering another 300 to other companies under similar arrangements,” he said.

Mr Mugandani, however, said Shelter Zimbabwe and the property sector in general had been affected by the depressed economic environment that is seeing most customers defaulting on their instalments.

“We have since seen a high degree of default upwards of 15 percent on the back of job losses and non-payment of salaries,” said Mr Mugandani, adding that the formal sector which makes up the bulk of the clientele base has been the most affected.

Mr Mugandani also bemoaned the growing cost of providing fully serviced residential stands as there is now a lot of price undercutting within the sector.

“Quality is now being compromised and not prioritized and that affects demand for quality,” said Mr Mungandani, adding that the availability of poorly serviced stands has had a negative impact on the demand for quality.

“The other challenge we have is that financial institutions, our traditional providers of funding are also competing in the same space as us, making it difficult because they are more liquid and can get funding cheaper than us.

“This will affect the delivery process as well as the cost as we will then be forced to look for expensive money to finance the projects,” said Mugandani.

He added that this was at a time the industry is facing pricing challenges as reflected in the inflation figures.

Mr Mugandani also said players in the industry might end up resorting to cash pricing as they were losing out on payment terms.

“Our customers have been paying on installment basis, but the value of money has been falling and at the end of the term, what we charge today might not be enough to cover our costs.

“For instance, some of our suppliers are now charging a transfer premium upwards of 20 percent when we want to purchase materials and equipment to service the stands and this erodes our margins,” he said.

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Zimbabwe: Bank, Construction Firm in Partnership

The Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) has partnered listed construction firm, Masimba Holdings, for the development of its residential projects in Kariba. THE bank intends to develop 1 557 high, medium and low density residential stands in Baobab, Batonga, Kasese and Kasese Extension as part of efforts to narrow the country’s ballooning housing deficit.

IDBZ indicated it would start the implementation of its mega infrastructure projects across the country in the second half of the year.

As part of the implementation programme, IDBZ has contracted Masimba Holdings for the project.

“Further to approvals granted by the board of directors of IDBZ to undertake Kariba Housing Development Projects (KHDP), we are pleased to advise that the bank has now concluded an agreement with Masimba Construction for the KHDP – Lot one Baobab and Lot two Batonga in Kariba.

“The contractor is in the process of mobilising for commencement of civil works at the identified project sites with the projects expected to be complete within a period 79 days from commencement date,” said IDBZ.

Part of the Kariba housing development projects are earmarked for the relocation of 391 families at Mahombekombe who have been residing under a high voltage power line transmitting electricity from the Kariba South power station to different parts of the country.

Apart from the Kariba projects, IDBZ is also working on other residential projects in Hwange where it seeks to develop over 2 000 high density stands which will be for off-take through various corporate and employer-based housing schemes as well as create the necessary housing units for Hwange.

The housing projects are also in line with the country’s economic blue-print, Zim Asset, which seeks to address the country’s housing deficit.

The national housing deficit is currently estimated at 1, 2 million units and Government is working with various stakeholders in the housing development sector in an effort to provide decent and affordable housing solutions for Zimbabweans.

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Namibia: Parastatal to Foot Salini’s Debts

By Luqman Cloete

Government wants NamWater to borrow N$600 million to settle Salini Impregilo invoices for work done so far at the Neckartal Dam.

Salini, the company which was awarded the N$2,8 billion tender in 2013, suspended operations at the dam site last week, and sent about 600 workers home until further notice.

Friday’s work stoppage is the third this year taken by the company after government failed to pay them.

The project was expected to have been completed within 36 months from September 2013, but is only about 90% complete.

Agriculture minister John Mutorwa revealed the NamWater arrangement during a meeting with Salini management at the dam site on Friday.

He said the decision to have NamWater borrow money under a government guarantee was taken by the Cabinet treasury committee during its meeting last Wednesday.

The minister said a special technical committee was set up to engage NamWater on the decision, and to give feedback to the Cabinet treasury committee today.

Mutorwa was quick to add that the move does not mean NamWater was bailing out government, but it was transferring expenses to the bulk water supplier’s balance since it is responsible for infrastructural development and maintenance.

The technical committee was also assigned to “brainstorm” all possibilities for funding to ensure the completion of the outstanding 10% work at the dam.

Mutorwa said the Neckartal Dam project was “never really adequately funded,” and explained that N$1,7 billion was needed to complete the project.

He added that the ministry only received a budget allocation of N$414 million, leaving a shortfall of N$1,3 billion.

“I am not criticising anybody. But sometimes people think this problem (non-payment) is because of poor planning,” he stated, adding that the economy is currently facing “headwinds,” stemming from the global environment.

“Government is not bankrupt,” he stressed, while assuring the nation that government, in principle, cannot or may not abandon the Neckartal Dam project.

“Let this be clear to the workers,” he noted.

Mutorwa further revealed that Salini and government were embroiled in a legal battle over the costs which escalated by N$300 million because of delays.

The dam construction was set to start in April 2013, but due to a legal challenge instituted by the losing bidder, it only commenced five months later in September.

It emerged during Friday’s meeting that government had paid more than N$3 billion to Salini by the end of June, while the cost of the project is expected to escalate to N$5 billion upon completion.

Salini’s project manager, Fabrizio Lazzarin, told the meeting that construction work on the dam is set for completion on 2 May next year.

However, this would depend on when operations would resume, but Lazzarin was non-committal. He only stated “let’s wait and see”, referring to payments of Salini’s overdue invoices, which Mutorwa said government will settle this week.

The project manager also revealed that workers who have been sent on forced leave last week would receive their full basic salaries.

Meanwhile, the government has temporarily cancelled the tender for the lease of land rights at the Neckartal Dam irrigation first phase project because of the new Procurement Act that came into effect on 1 April.

The tender to lease plots at the irrigation project near Keetmanshoop was advertised in 2016.

In his presentation about the project at the Keetmanshoop business seminar held last week, Agriculture Business Development Agency (Agribusdev) electrical and project manager Erikson Nghiitwikwa said the tender was cancelled due to the new procurement policy.

He said Agribusdev is currently busy working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Ministry of Finance on the public-private partnership (PPP) framework, adding that a new tender would soon be invited.

Potential investors should thus start working on proposals, and be on the lookout for the re-advertisement of the irrigation project tender.

“Participation of local investors or joint ventures is highly encouraged,” Nghiitwikwa noted.

The envisaged plots measuring 1 880 hectares will be subdivided into sectors, namely commercial (1 116 hectares), medium- scale farmers (420 hectares), and small-scale farmers (344 hectares).

– luqman@namibian.com.na

Nigeria: Govt Urged to Expedite Action On Lagos Port Access Roads

By Eromosele Abiodun

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and other stakeholders in the maritime sector have called on the federal government to use part of the money being generated by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) from the port to fix the roads leading to the Lagos ports.

The Apapa and Tin-Can Customs commands, the stakeholders noted, generate over N2 billion daily from the ports.

The stakeholders argued that the N100 billion required to fix the roads can be generated by Customs and other government agencies within two months.

The Public Relations Officer of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto, in a chat with journalists urged President Muhammadu Buhari administration to support the current management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in finding a permanent solution to the gridlock on Apapa/Tin Can Island roads as well as reduce hardships on the users.

ANLCA said that the danger in moving in and out of the Lagos ports and its environs has increased geometrically and urged Buhari to declare emergency on the road.

He added there was an urgent need for the federal government to fix the Tin Can Island road as the NPA, Dangote Group and Flour Mills plc embark on reconstructing the entire Wharf Road.

The deplorable state of Apapa roads, he further noted, is hampering access to the Lagos seaports and affecting businesses around the area.

He commended the board and the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for injecting the huge amount of money for the repair of the Apapa Road.

On his part, an importer, Mr. Adeyemi Adeleke said the federal government needs to compliment the laudable efforts of the NPA by taking steps that will eliminate the Apapa gridlock to achieve sustainable result.

“To tackle the problems which we attribute to the poor port access road, the nefarious activities of tanker drivers and operators of articulated vehicles, the Federal Government needs to declare emergency on the road so that we can enjoy the support of other government agencies like the NPA.

“Although the roads leading to the ports are in bad shape, but we must also understand that the problem on that road comes from the tankers and containerised truck drivers who go to the ports to lift fuel and others. So it is necessary to appreciate the bold step being taken by the NPA because it is not the only government agencies generating money from the ports. We have Customs and others. Therefore, it is inaccurate and uncharitable for anybody to say that NPA is not doing enough to solve the challenge faced on that road or that the agency has lost the battle.

“The problem from the port was that vehicles that used to park inside the port have been driven out by the concessionaires and they have no option than to park on the road in order to gain access into the port,” Adeleke said.

The President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu had in a chat with journalists, complained that the bad roads were causing avoidable economic losses, accidents and loss of man-hours, on a daily basis.

Shittu said that the bad roads were affecting economic activities and the health of the road users.

“Every day, importers, clearing agents and other port users sit for hours trying to get in or out of Apapa and it is causing a lot of stress that can lead to various health problems.

“Apart from the stress and the health of the users, the additional cost the importers are paying to terminal operators and the revenue the federal government is losing due to these unnecessary delays are serious issues that need to be addressed o make the ports attractive in the sub-region, “he said.

Nigeria: Death Traps in Edo and Delta

By Adibe Emenyonu

Adibe Emenyonu writes on the harrowing experience the people of Edo and Delta pass through as a result of failed roads.

Last July, the Senate Committee on Works led by its Vice Chairman, Senator Clifford Odia, an indigene of Edo State and of the Edo Central senatorial zone extraction led other members of the committee on a fact finding mission on the state of roads under construction in the state.

Though the visit was one of those regular routine visits usually embarked by government officials, it however afforded communities living within the long stretch of the road especially those around the Ewu in Edo Central Local Government Area, and Ekopma, Esan West Council Area to lament their frustration to the Odia-led team on the state of the road which is in the worst stage of disrepair.

During that August visit in the month of July, spokesman of Ewu community, and a septuagenarian, Pa Jerome Idiata, told the Senate committee point blank that they are tired of burying dead bodies occasioned by the increasing rate of road accidents especially along the notorious Ewu Hill axis of the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi-Okene Expressway.

He told the committee that shortly before the 2015 general elections, his people were full of praises for the federal government in its decision to make the road a dual carriageway. He however expressed the people’s disappointment that what ordinarily should be a thing of joy eventually became a source of sorrow both for commuters and motorists, as well communities living within and along the road.

Pa Idiata is not alone. At Ekpoma, a university town down to Ehor, headquarters of Uhunmwode Local Government Area of Edo State, the story of frustration and utter neglect is the same.

A community leader at Ekpoma, Ojeme Titus echoed the same sentiment when he said the situation in the area was worsening as all the internal road networks have been destroyed due to diversion of traffic to avoid the badly damaged major road.

The consequences of the Benin-Auchi Expressway is that the failed portion has paralysed businesses within the affected areas which some who could not cope with the situation have been forced to relocate due to lack of patronage.

But for the construction of the Irrua-Usugbenu-Igueben-Ujiogba roads in Edo Central district by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole motorists would have opted to pass through Agbor in Delta State to Uromi. Even at that, that section of the road is nothing to boast of as there are bad portions along the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Expressway.

Alternatively, motorists now take longer routes to get to Ekpoma and Auchi by navigating either through the Sobe-Ifon in Ondo State down to Uzeba Road for those traveling to Afuze, Sabongida-Ora and Igarra; while Ekpoma, Irrua and Auchi bound vehicles are forced to go through Isi-Ujiogba-Igueben-Irrua.

These options no doubt have increased transport fares from Benin City to towns in Edo Central and Edo North by over 50 per cent. For instance, fare from Benin to Ekpoma that cost N500 now cost N1,000; while Benin to Auchi which previously attract N700 now cost N1,400. Not only that, traveling from Benin to Auchi that ordinary takes one and half hours, takes close to three hours on arrival.

Just as light vehicles are able to move along these alternative routes, the heavy duty vehicles find it difficult to manoeuvre because communities where the new link roads pass through their area now used cross bars to prevent big trucks from plying to prevent them from damaging the roads.

Against this backdrop, youths in some of the towns and villages took advantage of the ugly situation to make brisk business to keep soul and body together. A movement to some of the affected areas one could see the youths carrying out makeshift road repairs to get tips from motorists to enable them pass through. Most times those who prove stubborn pay the price by remaining at a place for several minutes or hours until they are able to pay. And while this is going on, other vehicles at their back would be forced to remain at a standstill.

It was the quest for these alternative roads that led to the death of 20 persons including a family of five in a ghastly accident during the last Eid-el-Kabir celebration day.

According an eye witness account, 16 passengers were said to have died on the spot, as the bus was severely wrecked, while eight others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Unfortunately, four out of the eight injured could not make it as they were pronounced dead shortly after arriving the hospital for treatment.

The accident THISDAY gathered, occurred at about 6:30pm when a commercial bus, marked ABD 206XA on its way to Auchi, but had to pass though Isi-Ujoigba Road had a head-on collision with a truck laden with livestock coming to Benin, the state capital.

Confirming the incident, Edo State Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Public Relations Officer, George Otoaviokhai, said the bus had attempted to overtake another vehicle in front of it when it rammed into the truck, marked DRZ347 XA, on the other lane.

He attributed the accident to dangerous overtaking, adding that the incident was avoidable.

“There was a vehicle in front of the bus; the bus was trying to overtake. That was not even needed. The accident was avoidable,” Otoaviokhai stated.

The FRSC official could be right in his observation but Ebhalu Ikhile, an indigene of Egoro Naoka, a community in Esan West Local Government Area however, refused to buy the above reason. He said the accident occurred on that faithful day because of pressure on that particular road following the collapse of the Benin-Auch Expressway.

Ikhile said that very accident that consumed the lives of people including innocent children was uncalled for. “Losing 20 persons in one accident which also wipe out a whole family travelling for the Sallah holiday was most unfortunate because of bad state of the major road,” he lamented, urging the federal and state governments to do some palliative work to make the road motorable for the mean time.

He described the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Road as a death trap and nightmare to motorists and commuters plying it. According to him, a journey that could take about 1.45 minutes now takes between 3-4 hours. Besides, he said several lives have been lost while goods worth billion of naira have been destroyed as a result of the bad state of the road without compensation from government who it is their responsibility to repair the road.

The contract for the state for the dualisation of Benin-Auchi-Lokoja Expressway was awarded in September 2014 to four contracting firms namely: Renold Construction Company (RCC), from Benin to Ehor expanding 47.70km; Ehor to Auchi, covering 29.20km awarded to Dantata and Sawoe; Auchi to Okene, stretching 26.70km granted to Mother Cat; while the Okene to Obajana overspreading 40km was assigned to CGC Ltd.

According to then Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, the total contract sum for the four sections of the road was N75.8 billion to be completed within 36 months.

Unfortunately, the three years scheduled to deliver the road have elapsed and the road still remain a death trap, causing passengers and motorists alike, hardships.

In the past three years, the only semblance of dualisation of the road is the Benin axis covering just 14km out 143.6km stretch of road. This however, cannot be compared to other axis like between Ehor and Ekpoma through to the Ewu Hill, Irrua that have completely cut off.

As the time of filing this report, some palliative works are being done by the contractor handling the Ekpoma axis of the road, which many termed as a medicine after death. Motorists and residents of the area have expressed mixed feelings as according to them, the contractor apparently appeared because of the visit of the Senate Committee on Works.

Responding to question, the Project Manager, Dantata and Sawoe disclosed the difficulties facing the construction firm during the rainy season, adding that not much can be achieved. He however, promised that after the palliative measures, they will come back fully during the dry season.

He said work on the dual carriage way became difficult because no mobilisation fee was paid by the relevant authority. According to him, “it is difficult to do major work. As soon as the rains are over, we will come back. What we are doing presently is just to clean up the bad areas in preparation to come back with working materials as soon as the dry season set in.”

Odia however countered, disclosing that the sum of N1.3 billion has been advanced to the contractor as mobilisation, only that the contracting firm refused to do what it’s suppose to have done particularly at the Ewu Hill axis.

“This cannot be true. I’m aware that some amount has been paid. Those sections that are bad is part of scope covering Ewu Hill. If he says the amount is not enough, that I can understand. But to say nothing was paid is not true,” Odia said.

Continuing, the senator disclosed that government directed the firm to come and carry out the palliative work because the communities were angry.

Similar anger is written on the faces of communities living along the Onicha-Ugbo-Uromi axis, another federal road which has remained in a state of disrepair for more than three years.

The state of the road which connected Delta State and Edo State to the Northern axis of the country is another death trap which is also crying for attention.

Nigeria: Govt Pays 62 Contractors N47.169 Billion to Continue Road Projects

By Kayode Ekundayo

Lagos — The Federal Government has paid N47.169 billion to 62 contractors working on 149 projects across the country.

According to the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, the payment which was made out of N90 billion budgeted for works, was done to enable work to continue on roads and bridges and keep people at work.

Speaking at BusinessDay road construction summit in Lagos, Fashola, said similar payments were being made to supervising consultants and to contractors in Housing and Power Sectors of the ministry.

The minister also disclosed that the Federal Government had so far identified 28 toll plazas out of the old ones, on roads where construction work was currently going on, with intention to restore them.

“We have also concluded traffic surveys on 51 major highways and now have current traffic data on these roads and we can project vehicular traffic movement for tolling and concession purposes. We have concluded preliminary designs for the plazas, and we are now looking at how to incorporate technology such as using contact cards, installing fibre optic, using GSM to enable people pay with minimum use of cash,” he said.

Nigeria

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