Ajaokuta Steel Firm to Start Producing Rods in March -Umahi

The Ajaokuta Steel firm will start producing Iron rods next year, says Works Minister David Umahi.

This is just as he accused contractors handling Federal Government projects as being bent on frustrating its determination to discourage the use of asphalt for road construction.

The Minister of Works, David Umahi, stated this while defending his ministry’s 2024 budget proposal before the joint National Assembly Committee on Works, chaired by Senator Mpigi Barinada.

He, therefore, solicited the cooperation of the National Assembly to ensure full implementation of the policy from next year, saying there was no existing law that had hindered it from doing so.

He told the federal lawmakers that apart from being too expensive to import with foreign currency, the use of asphalt had been counterproductive because it doesn’t last compared to those constructed with concrete.

The Minister noted that while the concrete roads could last up 50 years, asphalt ones have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years.

He also said embracing concrete roads would save the country a lot of foreign exchange because it would prevent frequent upward review of road projects.

He said: “We have received a lot of attacks concerning our policy to make concrete roads construction mandatory for our contractors.

“Some people were saying that it is illegal for us to insist on concrete for road construction.

“However, Article 2 of all contracts and clause 51 of all conditions forming the contracts allow the ministry to change the scope, quality and quantity of every contract that is on-going.

“We have the right to change from asphalt to concrete without defiling the contract.

“All the contractors know this. The major reason we want to change from Asphalt to concrete is because we have many on-going projects that need to be reviewed.

“If the contract must be increased the President of Nigeria must know. After his approval, we would head to BPP which would evaluate and give approval.

“It will then go to the Federal Executive Council. It is a lot of rigours and this brings out a lot of delays in projects execution. The more the projects delay, the more inflation sets in.

“That’s why we then said the use of concrete apart from the fact that it would last longer is better.

“While the rise in the prices of asphalt is on geometric progression, that of the concrete is all about local contents and the rise of its price is on arithmetic progression.

“At the moment, we are being frustrated by contractors who are giving us a very high cost of N350,000 per metre cubic. I think it’s unreasonable. We have allowed it in a number of critical roads like Lokoja-Benin and the entire East-West roads.

“We have told the contractors handling those critical roads with asphalt that the new lanes would be built with concrete.

“The first 40 kilometres on the Abuja-Kaduna road is critical and we are doing it with concrete.

“Generally, we have moved back to concrete. Starting from 2024, roads projects apart from palliatives and emergency repairs, would be built on concrete so that we can maintain steady stability in the course of our projects.”

He added: “The basis of the 2024 projects is to look at critical ones and their funding and to keep all projects alive.

“We have a bitumen deposit in Ondo State. It should be developed. From the research we made, we discovered that the importation of bitumen represents about 30 percent of the cost.

“We are discussing with the Minister of Steel on how we can partner with him on how to get the steel content.

“He has assured us that before March next year, the production line that would produce the rods we needed would begin full operation.

“We have got those that would finance it and we had guaranteed it. That is the reinforcement. The cement is produced here. The chippings are produced here. The sand is produced here. The labour is here.

“Therefore the local content law as passed by the National Assembly is brought to the front burner.”

Umahi informed the lawmakers that without any presidential pronouncement, some parastalas which were hitherto under the Ministry of Works had been provided for in the budget proposal of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

He listed them to include, Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation (OSGoF); Federal School of Surveying, Oyo (FSS); Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN); and the Surveyors’ Council of Nigeria (SURCON)

“It will be good that these committees do get these parastatals back to the Federal Ministry of Works,” he said.

Umahi, explained that the total sum of N657,228,251,596 was proposed for the Federal Ministry of Works and its parastatals for capital, personnel and overhead estimates in the 2024 Appropriation Bill.

He said the main ministry got an allocation of N 566,466,977,361; Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) got N 51, 282,456,911; while the African Regional Institute for Geo-Spacial Information Science and Technology AFRIGIST (RECTAS) got N104,039,920 making a grand total of N617,853,474,192.