OrderPaperToday – N69.9 billion sums up the amount of liabilities incurred by the Ministry of Works and Housing in its 2020 budget.

The Minister, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this when he appeared before the joint committee of the National Assembly on Housing for 2021 budget defence on Thursday.

He said: “The concluding part of our 2020 report is to highlight the liabilities that we have outstanding and this is the sum of N69.9billion. So when you look at our 2021 budget, we are almost on a very tight fix because if you we have liabilities of N69.9billion how far will a budget of N76billion then take us.

“However, let me point out that budget of N76billion was based on the envelope prescription from the Ministry of (Finance), Budget and National Planning and also the financial realities at the time the budget occurred and also the price of oil.”

According to him, the Ministry should be commended for revealing its liabilities so it can be resolved.

He assured that the projects will not be abandoned by the Ministry.

“Now the big elephant in the room is the outstanding liabilities and I like to say with every sense of modesty that I think that we should be commended for bringing this out now when something can be done about it. I say that because often times, what we end up talking about is that there are abandoned projects.

“The truth about it is that anytime I look at the word abandoned projects, when you look at abandoning, it means to forsake something.

“We have not taken a decision to forsake those buildings or those projects. What has simply happened is that we haven’t paid enough attention to them to make sure that they are properly appropriated for, to make sure they are properly funded to completion.

“We have resolved that until we finish them they don’t serve the people of Nigeria and we think that that is why you are there and we are here. So a decision must be taken to finish those buildings. As pointed out, if you look at page six of my presentation the big ticket items there is this housing projects of N30billion”, he said

Addressing how the Ministry intends to pay contractors, Fashola said: “What we have done now is to concentrate this revised appropriation on those contractors that are most likely to finish next year and we will hope that at least, maybe a sum equivalent to the original provision in the 2020 budget is provided to help others also advance so that we can finish something in the order of N4 billion will be a suitable provision to keep everybody going.”

On the reasons for abandoned and completed housing projects across the country, the Minister explained that it depends on several factors majorly based on the inputs from the state governments.

He said: “The basis of distribution, we do not determine location. Instead of going to do houses everywhere, let us concentrate on the urban centres. That’s where the pressure really is. They said all states are equal so we must build everywhere. So we asked each governor and our broad specification was give us land where we can access road, existing or one that you commit to build.

“In some places where they gave us, it is either we said we don’t like the site, that explains some of the delays in some places where some have completed and some have not completed. If some places where they gave us land, local communities came and said they haven’t paid them compensation so they can’t start work.

“The response from state to state was different. In some places where they gave us land, it was swampy so we left the land. Some gave us within six months and we are building. Some came a year later. This speaks to the diversity of the country.”

Fashola was queried by the lawmakers for littered housing projects across the country even when over N100 billion have been budgeted for it collectively over the years.

Explaining, he said the amount is insufficient because it covers 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

“I see the attempt to tally up figures for housing schemes. Excuse me sir, with very great respect, N100 and something billion to build houses across Nigeria, with great respect sir, it is nothing. I don’t want to be misunderstood.

“At the time I was leaving office as governor of Lagos state, the 2015 budget of the housing unit of Lagos was N40 billion and it was not enough.

“If Nigeria is now building N100 and something billion, six years after when the prices of cement and everything have gone up and put in over 36 places. I have kept explaining that what we are doing in the Ministry is modeling.”

The Minister canvassed that Ministries, Departments and Agencies allocate a specific amount for maintenance of projects in their annual budgets.

“We can do something really definitive about maintenance to create employment in areas of skilled and non skilled labour. The Federal Government has passed a facility maintenance programme. It is now left for Ministries, Departments and Agencies to key into it.

“I think that all MDAs should make a provision something in the order of 2 to 10% of their capital budget for maintenance. For health and education, which are places where we have real identified challenges, I think it should be up to a minimum of 7%.”

The former governor equally called for amendment of procurement laws which he noted is “a basket of solutions that will help” adding that there should be “some leeway for certain types of procurement if we want to end the cycle of projects that are not completed or failed.”

Finally, he stated that the Ministry’s 2021 budget will prioritize completion of projects.

“It is not the number of what we start but the impact that it has in their lives and use”, he added.

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