Business News

Debt: Construction Firms Stay Away From Sites

Construction companies have not returned to their various project sites despite calls by the Federal Government for them to go back to work.

About two weeks ago, the Federal Government promised that it would commence the payment of contractors, who were owed billions of naira by the previous government, in a matter of days.

It also urged the contractors, particularly those who were handling road projects, to return fully to their respective sites, stressing that some of the funds meant for the settlement of their arrears as contained in the 2016 budget would come in within days.

However, it was gathered on Sunday that the government had yet to fulfil its promise to the construction firms.

The President, Federation of Construction Industry, an umbrella body for the construction companies in the country, Mr. Solomon Ogunbusola, told our correspondent that operators in the sector held a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the issue of payment to the contractors.

He, however, stated that none of the construction firms had been paid, stressing that the little repairs seen on some major roads were corporate social responsibility efforts by some of the firms.

Ogunbusola said, “If they (government) have released money, it has not got to the contractors. If the money is in the ministry, it is until when it gets to the contractors that we can say they have paid. Whatever form of work you see on project sites is just for us to keep faith with the government.

“We recently came out of a meeting with the Vice President and we made him know the problems we have as contractors. The Debt Management Office and the ministries of Finance; Power, Works, and Housing were also at the meeting. They told us that they were trying to look for ways of handling the debt issue concerning the construction industry.”

When probed further that some construction firms had started working, for instance on a bridge around the Kubwa axis of the Zuba-Kubwa Expressway, Ogunbusola declared, “Listen to me, that is just a minor job. How can you be talking of minor repairs when we are talking about drafting heavy duty equipment to sites?

“What they are doing there is just asphalt overlay of a small section. Is that what you are calling construction work? They are trying to patch the road because that place has been an accident zone, as many commercial and private car owners crash their vehicles on barriers there almost every day. We are human beings and we can’t continue to watch people kill themselves; so, that is why you see some repairs there, but that’s not construction work at all.”

The FOCI president stated that construction firms were, however, hopeful that the government would fulfil its promise to pay the debts, but was quick to state that it would be practically impossible to mobilise to site without the payment.

“We hope to start receiving payment soon, according to ministry, and when that happens, you will know. I also want you to know that representatives of the various construction companies were at that recent meeting where the government made promises. But mind you, it will be difficult to mobilise to site without payment,” he added.

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