The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday said the immediate past administration left N3.7trillion uncompleted roads and other liabilities.
FEC also approved the purchase of 320 prisons operational vehicles at N3.5 billion.
It also approved the purchase of three transformers of 150 MVA to be installed in power sub-stations at Kumbotso (Kano), Shiroro (Niger) and Osogbo (Osun) at N1 billion.
The Ministers of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, and Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Also at the briefing were the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu.
Dambazzau said the vehicles are to convey inmates to courts to speed up trial of awaiting trial inmates, who he said constituted 70% of the 65,000 prison population.
He said: “In our efforts to strengthen criminal justice system and to also contribute towards decongesting the system, we presented a memo for the procurement of 320 operational vehicles for the Prison Service at the cost of N3.5 billion.
“This procurement is from local manufacturers, assemblies and vendors within Nigeria and the effort is to follow through government policy to ensure that most of the procurement of the equipment and such vehicles are done locally. That will also provide opportunity for job creation and things like that.”
The minister said the ministry would provide maintenance to ensure that the vehicles are well-maintained and they are judiciously used.
According to Dambazzau, part of the problem in the prison is lack of logistics, which has worked against transportation of prisoners and inmates to 5,022 courts in the country for their trials.
He said that there were other problems with other two legs of the tripod, the police and the court, that are working against speedy trial of inmates.
He said: “One of the problem of the courts is adjournment of cases; that is also tied to the issue of conveying prisoners to court. This is in addition to the fact that some of those delays are caused by the lawyers.
“The third part of the issue is how to strengthen the police in terms of investigations because if the cases are not properly investigated, that too can cause delay in the trails.”
The Minister added: “We are trying to see how we can reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial. But the Criminal Justice Act of 2015 has also made provision for alternative to sentencing; otherwise known as non-custodian sentencing.
“The courts can now use that, rather than sending the individual to prison, depending on the crime committed, apply other means of dealing with his case. There is inter-ministerial committee looking at that issue of decongestion.”
On the three 150 MVA transformers, Fashola said: “As you know, the Transmission Company of Nigeria is the manager of the transition system, which is the transporter of electricity, in that it provides service to the generation company to whom they evacuate power and to the distribution company to whom they deliver power.
“They needed three transformers of 150 MVA to be installed in sub-stations in Kumbotso, Shiroro, and Osogbo.
“The purpose is to continue to reinforceý, to expand and to maintain the existing transmission capacity so that as the progress of our incremental power initiative expands and achieves its purpose, transmission company is able to competently deliver the power.”
He blamed the National Assembly for removing some road in the 2016 budget, which he said is adversely affecting some projects.
He said: “I think that we need to properly identify the nomenclature of some of these roads. The fact that the roads are in the FCT does not necessarily make them federal roads. Secondly, the point also to make is that our ability to intervene is constrained by our budget. You cannot build a road without appropriation and authorisation for it.
“When we set out last year on assumption of office I made it very clear what the liabilities that we had were. We had to deal with contracts valued in the region of about 2 trillion or 2.2trillion naira that had been awarded before we came; there were debts owed to those contractors; there were liabilities to complete them in the region of about N1.5 trillion.
“Now the budget that we have for the three ministries that I superintend, we are in the region of N400 plus billion. Over N200 billion is dedicated to roads across the country. So that is the deficit that we have to deal and in making those choices we then have to deal not with roads that necessarily bother us but roads that carry the heaviest traffic.
“First is to deal with roads that evacuate our energy needs because without energy the nation will grind to a halt. Those roads evacuate energy from South to North fuel in particular. Secondly, those roads that evacuate our nourishment and food supply, our millet, tomatoes and yam from North to South.
“We also have to ensure that the transportation business does not die. So when you are hearing Lagos-Ibadan, it is not Lagos-Ibadan itself it is Lagos-Ibadan as the arterial and critical support to keep the economies of this country going. That is where importers from North or South, the bulk of imported cargo come from the Apapa and Tincan port. That is where fuel is largely discharged from the country from the tank farms in Apapa and discharged to the furthermost part of the country.
“So we are in situation where we have to make choices and this is how a family makes choices, what gives the greatest good to the possible greatest number with the most limited resources.
“What we see on the Lagos-Ibadan is also happening even in the Middle Belt axis where we are connecting the road that leads to the Abajana road. So we are limited by resources but trying to ensure that each geo-political zone is not left behind. We are also trying to ensure that we are able to keep the economy of the nation going.”
He promised that the ministry would move to the next level in roads in the 2017 budget.
He said: “We have provided a three-year plan to begin to address the roads, but they are subject to the appropriation we receive and once a road is not appropriated for, you can’t put money on it. It is a violation of the laws of this country and you will be penalized for it and I won’t breach the law.
“So I am limited by what I am authorized to do when appropriation comes.”
Fashola spoke also on the Benin road. He said it did not go bad overnight but deteriorated progressively over the years at a period when Nigeria had resources but did not address the problem.
“What we have done was first to say that we would not award any new road contract, we would deal with the over 206 roads that have been awarded but not funded for over three years. Again, in making those choices, what you need to understand is that most federal roads are very long roads, they stretch over hundreds of kilometres. Therefore, the inherited practice was to break them into sections and award to different contractors. I think the purpose was to avoid single wrist failure or one contractor failure and also to create opportunities.”
“What has followed is that each section is budgeted for. On the Benin-Abuja road certain sections were removed from the budget when we presented it. So it is not the entire stretch that is bad. What has happened, therefore, is that those are budget practices that must change. We tried to change them last year.
“If we are doing Benin-Abuja road, give me the total budget of whatever it is; don’t budget it by section. Let me now use my discretion on the same road. While contractor one is working, if there is a failure in section two, I can say ‘go and emergency repair and stabilize the road’, but I can’t do that today because I will be breaching the law,” he said.