Prince Clem Agba, the immediate past Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, said that the Benin-Auchi-Okene-Obajana Road has yet to be completed due to insufficient funds for the project.
Agba spoke on the road project while sharing his thoughts with the audience at the grand reception and dinner night organized in his honour by the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Benin.
According to him, budgetary provisions had always been spread thin on projects that were usually inserted in the budget by the National Assembly, such that the money budgeted could not accomplish the projects.
He said that “with the national budget, there have been a lot of challenges. Yes, there have been improvements in terms of the cycle, but particularly as a person, I am not very happy with the content because we seem to spread ourselves so thin that we don’t have enough to do work.
This is one of the things that affected the Benin-Auchi-Okene-Obajana road, which started 15 years ago. Have I been a minister for fifteen years? I was only a minister for three and a half years, yet I was the cause of the problem on that road because I tried to offer a solution.
“I found out that the problem with that road was insufficient funding, and each time budgetary provisions are made, our representatives from the state do not protect what is there. So, when the budget comes back, the amounts are lower and insufficient to do the work.
“We started by trying to use SUKUK funding, which is the Islamic interest-free loan, to do it. But with that, we had to spread the amount across the country, and I realized we moved very fast with the second Niger Bridge; we moved very fast with the Lagos-Ibadan expressway; and we also moved very fast with the Kano-Kaduna road.”
Agba said that there was a presidential infrastructure development fund and a sovereign wealth fund that were making contributions to the fund, and all the funds that were returned from corruption issues like the Abacha loot were going into these three projects.
“That was how we were able to practically complete the projects. I thought that was one of the things we needed to do to fast-track the work on the Benin-Auchi-Okene-Obajana road, where there are three sections by three contractors that have been on the road for the last fifteen years.
“So, I approached my colleague, the minister of works, on the need for us to use the tax credits, and we spoke to the chairman of the FIRS, and he started working with NNPC Ltd. on this. But the NNPC Ltd. report, I must say, did not include that road. So, it was a big battle for me to ensure that Edo State was included.
“I want to especially thank my two colleagues and brothers, Mr. Sunday Dare and Prince Goddy Jeddy Agba, who are here because they joined me in that fight and in the lobby to get funding for it. In the end, each section got an approval of N25 billion, which means N75 billion, and I was also able to get another N10 billion in budget 2023 for two sections.”