The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, said on Thursday that his ministry owed 3,504 contractors handling its various housing projects N69.91bn.
Fashola stated this when he appeared before the joint National Assembly Committee on Housing to defend his ministry’s 2021 budget estimates.
The minister sought the assistance of the lawmakers on how to defray the liabilities because the N76.4bn allocated to the ministry in the 2021 budget would be grossly inadequate to execute its186 projects across the country.
Fashola specifically sought the understanding of the lawmakers to assist in defraying the liabilities.
He said 2,601 contractors being owed N33.9bn actually executed constituency projects.
He pleaded with the lawmakers to identify the affected projects in their constituencies that had attracted huge liabilities and pick them as their special intervention projects for 2021 instead of proposing new ones.
Fashola said, “If we have liabilities of N69.9bn, how far will a budget of N76bn then take us.
“Now the big elephant in the room is the outstanding liabilities and I’ll 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.
“We have not taken a decision to forsake 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.
“The big ticket items in our presentation is the housing projects of N30bn.
“The next one is special projects. Who are special projects? Special projects are your constituents and those are the people on whose behalf you are here.
“They are the primary schools, the mathematics centres, the skills centres…that is what it is.
“So we have to make a choice. That is why we are saying, instead of starting new ones next year, let’s look for possible solution.
“Let’s behave like the very smart people that we are and so instead of starting a new one next year, let’s use next year’s appropriation to finish this so that we can pay those small contractors and there will not be default in the system.”
The lawmakers rejected the idea and instead asked the minister to propose a supplementary budget for the purpose of paying the contractors that handled the building of schools under the special intervention programmes.
The Chairman of the joint National Assembly Committee on Housing, Senator Sam Egwu, interjected saying that money should be appropriated specifically for completing such projects.
Egwu said, “It is better that you appropriate it in the budget so that the money will be meant specifically for completing the projects and so that they don’t remain abandoned.
“Nobody is suggesting that you abandon them. We are just saying that instead of using the money for the current year to pay liabilities, you appropriate money from the beginning so that money for that will be used to clear outstanding debts.”
Fashola did not disagree with the lawmakers but said his ministry would concentrate on the completion of the 2,140 units of houses under the National Housing Programme in the 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
He also said the ministry planned to complete the ongoing federal secretariats in Anambra, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Osun and Zamfara.
He said, “The major factor militating against the timely completion of projects is insufficient budgetary provision for projects to sustain annual cash-flow requirement levels.”
He urged the lawmakers to consider a possible legislation that would ensure proper maintenance and operation of public buildings in a way to generate employment and additional revenue to the country.