Bodo-Bonny road: Community, peace committee back Julius Berger to complete project

The Minister of Works, Engr. Dave Umahi, and the Managing Director of foremost engineering construction company, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter have both committed to ensuring the completion of the  Bodo-Bonny Road (BBR) project by the end of 2024.

This is coming just as the minister suggested an additional N20 billion augmentation fee to the contractor to cushion the effects of current economic realities in the country.

A press statemt by the media unit of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, in Abuja, noted that while speaking at a meeting between the ministry and the construction company, Umahi, who was of the view that there was no need for any augmentation, expressed hoped that the additional N20 billion which he announced would assuage the contractor’s burden on the project.

The minister reminded the stakeholders of the importance of the project to both the surrounding communities and the country, adding that when completed it will enhance development even as he gave the assurance to Bonny kingdom that the project would be completed by the end of 2024.

During his presentation, Dr.  Richter drew the attention of the minister to the time lag when the contract was awarded in 2014 when the exchange rate was N305 to a dollar, adding that the cost of relevant construction materials have since risen by over 1000 per cent.

The managing director called for the variation of the contract which he said has become necessary in view of the declining value of the Naira and rising cost of construction materials in the country.

He said, “… Allow me to give you some insight from us on this project. This project was initiated in 2013 and today we are talking of 2024, which means the project is more than 11 years old. In 2014, we received the letter of award and the project couldn’t commerce. Then in 2017/2018, the NLNG stepped in with the infrastructure tax credit scheme for modalities in funding the project.”

Richter said the company asked for the augmentation because as at the time the contract was drafted it was based on the exchange rate of N305, adding that, “Last year there were some developments in the economy which result to a huge change in prices of construction materials, diesel, among others.

“When we signed this project, we were talking of N142 per liter for diesel. But today we are buying diesel for N1500/N1600 per Liter. In 2013 the price of bitumen is far cheaper than today that we buy the bitumen for N1.2 million.”

Contrary to media reports and details of the meeting that went viral Thursday, insiders confirmed that the augmentation fee requested by Julius Berger is N80 billion and not N28 billion as in the quote from the ministry which said the company requested only that amount.

One of the reports read, “David Umahi, the minister of works disclosed this during a meeting with contractors and the peace committee on the project from Bonny Kingdom, in Abuja on Wednesday. He stated that the government do not have the funds to meet the N28 billion request made by the contractor (Julius Berger company).”

One stakeholders, who vowed to formally disclose the facts and fictions of the media reports on the meeting, said the facts as stated by Dr. Richter in his speech at the occasion include the following; “The original contract sum was N199 billion. The company requested in August 2023 for augmentation of N289 billion. By March 2024 a discount of approximately N10 billion was given to bring the amount down to N279 billion.”

According to the statement, “The representatives of the Community and Peace Committee, also present at the meeting, were very much in favour of Julius Berger completing the contract and commended the company on its progress, engagement of the community and social responsibility among others since the first inception of the Bonny NLNG plant and the subsequent commencement of the road project.”

It noted that, “Leader of the peace committee delegation, Chief Abel Attoni, expressed gratitude over the decision to complete the Bodo-Bonny Road project; even as he urged the parties to be patriotic and make the necessary sacrifice for the actualisation of the project.

“One of them, King Jasper Jumbo did not mince words in declaring that, Julius Berger used to be his biggest enemy, but with all the engagement they have been into since the Bodo-Bonny road project began, he has loved them and their commitment to the work.

“The federal government should ensure Julius Berger complete the road. And I want to see the road delivered in my life time,” King Jumbo stated.

Blueprint reports that the Bodo-Bonny Road project as at March, 2024 was only 65 per cent completed as against the 80 per cent disclosed by the ministry officials as stated by Dr. Richter and confirmed by the committee constituted by minister of works  including external Consultants, PEARL & NLNG.

The 39km long road was the first road link between Bonny Island to the rest of Rivers state, and has cross culverts and two mini bridges with a span of 23m each, as well as two creek bridges, Afa Creek Bridge of about 530m length, and Nanabie Creek Bridge of about 640m length.

This is in addition to the construction of a major river bridge of about 750m length over the Opobo Channel.