Some staff members of Julius Berger construction company working on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road project have been sacked over indebtedness to the company by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
SaharaReporters gathered that the workers were sacked over non-payment of the agreed contract fee for work already done on the road by the Nigerian government.
“Over 400 of us working with Julius Berger were sacked on Tuesday; the reason they gave us was that the Federal Government refused to pay Julius Berger.
“Julius Berger was already planning to abandon the project until the Minister of Works (and Housing) came here last week and threatened that the government would revoke the contract if Julius Berger dared to leave the site. So, they decided to sack us,” one of the affected workers told SaharaReporters.
The reconstruction of the 375km Abuja-Kano Road was awarded by the Buhari-led government to Julius Berger in December 2017.
According to the government, the N155.7 billion contract was to be funded from the 2017 and 2018 budgets.
The project eventually began in June 2018, one month after Buhari established the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), to be managed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), to which he also authorised the initial transfer of $650 million for “critical road and power projects.”
In March 2021, the government changed the scope of the repair works to be done on the highway.
According to the Minister of Works and Housing (Babatunde Fashola), the project would now cost N797.2 billion, an increase of N642.2 billion from the initial project cost of N155 billion.
“I presented a memorandum and one report with respect to the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano highway to change the scope of works from rehabilitation previously awarded to full reconstruction of two lanes on both sides,” he had said.
“The council considered and approved the request for that change of scope and the incidental cost consequence of changing the existing contract from N155 billion to N797.236 billion.
“The new scope provides for full reconstruction of the main carriageway, trailer parks, weighbridges, toll stations and additional side lanes in the built-up areas across the FCT, Niger, Kaduna and Kano states, which are all served by the road. This was approved by the council for the same contractor.”
He added that the project would be done in phases with the first phase being the 74km Kaduna-Zaria section, which is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022 (Q4 2022).
Fashola said that the second phase, which is the 137km Zaria-Kano section, will be completed in the first quarter of 2023 (Q1 2023); while the last phase, the Abuja-Kaduna section, should be completed in the second quarter of 2023 (Q2 2023).
Efforts to get Moses Duku, Julius Berger’s head of media relations, to react were not successful as he did not answer calls made to his mobile phone nor reply to the text message sent to him.
Efforts to get comments from Emmanuel Isibor, the media relations officer of Julius Berger, were also unsuccessful.