The Federal Government on Thursday threatened to withdraw funding for the suspended N120bn Bonny-Bodo road project as a result of lack of cooperation by host communities meant to benefit from the project in the Niger Delta.
It called on leaders of the affected communities to unite, adding that the fund released for the project by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company might be refunded if the host communities failed to agree on specified terms.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, gave the warning to leaders of the communities at a meeting in Abuja, which had prominent traditional rulers from the Niger Delta region, officials of Julius Berger Plc, NLNG and council of elders from Ataba and Gokana, among others, in attendance.
Fashola begged the leaders of the communities to forget their differences and stated that if the discord persisted, he might petition the President over the issue and ask him to withdraw the N60bn contract sum for the project.
He explained that the Bonny-Bodo road project had enjoyed the largest funding, as the NLNG was providing N60bn with additional N60bn counterpart funding from the Federal Government.
The minister told his guests that the contractor handling the project had been mobilised, yet the project was suspended due to lack of cooperation from the benefitting communities.
Fashola expressed worry over the position of the elders, who insisted that the project would not be implemented except they were carried along and an additional route would be constructed in Ataba. He said, “You must work this peace. Today is Thursday, since you said you know the permanent secretary, I will leave you with him. All I want is a peace accord and an invitation to Julius Berger not later than Wednesday, February 28, otherwise I will write a report to Mr. President that it doesn’t seem that this project is ready to go, but we can move the money to another project.
“Whether it is Ataba, Ogoni or Gokana, you must own this project. The people you call militants are not spirits. They take their cue from how you react. You are leaders there. If you go back home today and say it is over, the militants too will calm down. They don’t do anything without alerting the leaders.”
Fashola added, “For us, we can’t keep the money down. The contractor has received his money but now he can’t work. There are projects where contractors are waiting for money, but they don’t have it. That is a contradiction that will not last long.
“So, I will leave you. You know where we stand. We have an idea of where you stand. For me, it is a compromise that holds the project. The NLNG will not be there forever. It took time to even beg them to release this money. So, if you don’t take ownership of the project and put it to use, we might as well tell them to take their money back and that the project is not ready.”