THE Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has dismissed insinuation that the present administration sourced infrastructure fund from Sukuk was part of the plan by President Muhammadu Buhari to Islamise Nigeria.
Addressing a press conference to showcase the achievements of the administration in Abuja on Wednesday, the minister remarked that the government merely resorted to Sukuk as an alternative funding arrangement because of the paucity of resources to implement planned capital projects.
Sukuk is a Sharia-compliant bond-like financial instrument that requires no interest on loans.
The briefing was hosted by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who announced the launching of a new series of media briefing to showcase the achievements of the Buhari administration.
Fashola stated that many of the ongoing and completed projects have benefitted from the financial initiative, noting that those who suspected that it was a move to islamise the country are now using the roads as well in one form or the other.
The minister conceded that concerns being expressed by Nigerian about constant resort to loans are legitimate, asking, “But should we not do the things we do?”
He said that at the time Buhari took over government in 2015, the budget allocation to the Ministry of Works for road projects was N19 billion but that now it has increased to N200 billion.
Fashola remarked that because of the volume of roads to deliver, government had to resort to alternative funding such as Sukuk, which he said is not faith-based.
He said government had also ensured a level of transparency by mounting Sukuk signboards on all the road projects being implemented through the initiative.
While noting that the Second Niger Bridge has been fully connected, Fashola said the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road is the biggest road project being presently undertaken by the Federal Government.
He said work on the road is being delayed by issues concerning relocation of communities along the way and the need to lay the pipelines for the AKK Project.
Similarly, he said the Lagos-Ibadan Road is awaiting the last finishing touches with just about six kilometres at the Lagos end yet to be completed.
Fashola, who spoke on the impact of infrastructure implementation on the revitalisation of the economy, revealed that just one contractor out of the 100 engaged by the Ministry of Works paid out N45 billion to 1,421 sub-contractors.
He said the ministry is also investing in tertiary institutions in Nigeria with 83 internal road projects being executed in such federal institutions across the country.
On the housing sector, Fashola explained that the National Housing Programme initiated by the Buhari administration is delivering its objectives to ensure affordability and accessibility to housing.
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He added: “Apart from stimulating the economies of the 35 states and the FCT in the communities where work is being undertaken for the construction of houses, by providing work for artisans, builders, engineers, and other skilled persons in the built industry, the construction sites have been and remain centres of supply for building materials and other commodities.
“With the programme now in a season of completion, many of the houses have been completed and are now being handed over to the beneficiaries who follow the allocation procedure set out in the National Housing Programme web portal (nhp.worksandhousing.gov.ng).
“The National Housing Programme has, therefore, produced new homeowners but in the process also produced citizens who found economic fulfilment as contractors, suppliers of various construction items and artisans.”
Recalling the ‘Change Agenda’ of the administration launched in 2015, Fashola stated: “In these last seven and half years, the administration has been very resolute in the pursuit of progressivism, which is globally recognised as the improvement of the human condition.
“Indeed, the Ministry of Works is present in all the States of the Federation either through a Road, Bridge, and Housing is National Housing Programme, Federal Secretariat or Special Intervention Project.”