The Goodluck Jonathan administration said in January this year that the government had spent N10bn on the project out of the N130bn total cost of the contract.
But the Director-General, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Mr. Aminu Diko, in an interview with State House correspondents on Wednesday, after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the ICRC was currently withholding the certificate of compliance for the project.
He said the certificate was being withheld because of many issues regarding the project, adding that the commission was engaging the Ministry of Works on how to resolve the issues.
Specifically, he said the ICRC had asked the ministry to review the cost of the project with a view to justifying it.
He also identified the clamour for compensation by owners of the land where the project is being sited as one of the pending issues.
He said, “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. But before it can be finalised, 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 land has been taken and that they have not been compensated adequately. As a matter of fact, we got a letter from the Onitsha Traditional Council complaining that they have not been adequately represented in this transaction. With this kind of issue, 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 will also talk about the actual cost of the bridge eventually; we have asked the Ministry of Works to review it and justify how much the project should cost.”
Diko, however, said he had no idea of the present state of the project, whose groundbreaking was done with fanfare by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He explained that there would be a lot of studies, including an integrity test, to be done on the bridge.
Diko said, “I have no idea about the status of the project. What I need to tell Nigerians is that the PPPs take a long time to mature. This is different from a project in 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 a PPP transaction, you first engage a number of people. You have bankers, lawyers, engineers. They all collaborate to form consultancy for that transaction. 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 to Nigerians.”
The ICRC boss added that when properly signed and executed, the commission would also take custody of the agreements to ensure that there is total compliance.
He added that he also told the President some of the limitations the commission has, the most significant of which was the commission’s enabling law. He described the law as “ineffective.”
Diko said, “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.
“We also discussed some of the legacy concessions that we inherited such as the port terminals, the Lagos International Trade Fair, the Tafawa Balewa Square and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
“We also discussed all the projects that were started under the ICRC Act, one of which is the second Niger Bridge, the National Theatre Complex, Lagos.
“These are important projects to the country and in addition to that, this country is proposing to build three deep seaports for Nigeria with a combined estimated cost of about $6bn. So, you can imagine the kind of opportunities it can create as far as job creation is concerned and as far as vibrancy of the economy is concerned.
“So, we are reviewing this proposal with the Ministry of Transport and in due course, we will come out with a position on that.”
Diko said the President handed down two directives to the commission.
He said the President directed that state governors should be involved in encouraging farmers to utilise the 33 agricultural silos being built all over the country.