By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Prince Clem Agba, the immediate past Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, said that 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 audience at the grand reception and dinner night organised 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 money budgeted could not accomplish the projects.
He said that “with the national budget, there had been a lot of challenges. Yes, there had 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.
“I hear people say that the National Assembly pads the budget. I wish they pad the budget because what they are doing is un-padding the budget. If they pad the budget, that means they are putting more money in it, right?
‘’And, so, you have more money to work? Right? But what they are doing is that they are removing from what have been provided and then creating other projects, making us spread too thin, and not having enough money to work.
“This is one of the things that had affected the Benin-Auchi-Okene-Obajana road, which started 15 years ago.
“Have I been a minister for fifteen years? I was only 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 of 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 with 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 the sovereign wealth fund that was making contribution into 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 the 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, fighting 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) that 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.” (NAN/vitalnewsngr.com)