The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has explained that it halted the Second Niger Bridge project due to some technical defects. The commission said it was currently withholding Certificate of Compliance for the Second Niger Bridge project because of many issues it was not comfortable with.

ICRC’s Director-General, Aminu Diko, made the disclosure while speaking with State House correspondents after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari of its activities in the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday. He listed the grey areas detected as the suspected inflated cost of the project and the clamour for compensation by owners of the land where the project is being sited.

His words: “The issue of the Second Niger Bridge is one of the projects that we discussed with the President. We did say that the project is in the commission for regulatory oversight. We have been discussing the transaction with the Ministry of Works.

“The commission has to give a certificate of compliance, but we have not done that because we have seen a lot of issues that we are uncomfortable with. We are talking with the Ministry of Works for them to correct it. The communities around that area are clamouring that their lands have been taken and that they have not been compensated adequately”, Diko explained.

According to him, the commission received a letter from Onitsha Traditional Council complaining that they have not been adequately represented in the deal for the bridge project. “With this kind of issues, we are not saying that something has not been done properly but we need to be convinced that these few problems are sorted out properly. We have asked the Ministry of Works to review it and justify how much the project should cost,” he added.

Diko hinted that the project which groundbreaking was done with fanfare by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan will take longer  time to complete due to its nature as  Public Private Partnership initiative.

His words: “I have no idea about the status of the project, what I need to tell Nigerians is that PPPs take a long time to mature. There is a difference between the project which you have money in your pocket or in your account and you just bring it out and tell somebody to go and do it.

“But when it is PPP transaction, you first engage a number of people. You have bankers, lawyers, engineers. They all collaborate to form consultancy for that transaction.

He explained further: “For the Second Niger Bridge, there will be a lot of studies that need to be done on the integrity of the bridge itself which will take time, it is not something we can see being completed in the next six months. I will like us to be patient about it, we know that it is a critical road, we also know how Nigerians suffer during festive holidays and we hear people sleep on that old bridge. The time has come for us to bring succour Nigerians.”

According to him, while the private sector would be allowed to invest in the country and recuperate their investments, the ICRC would be there to guide Ministries, Departments and Agencies on how to structure the transactions. “The private sector both in and outside the country must be accepted as partners in progress, provided that the nation would not be short-changed in anyway.

Diko disclosed that despite the imperative of PPP in nation building, the way the PPP model is currently being operated in the country is fraught with some defects. And that he discussed the modalities for its better application, including review of the commission’s enabling law with President Buhari.

“It (the law) is very ineffective. So we have proposed an amendment to the law and he has agreed to support the passing of the bill when it comes back to him from the Attorney-General’s office,” he disclosed.

By Olisemeka Obeche


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