The Federal Government says more than 17,500 road construction workers are to be re-engaged as contractors return to project sites across the country.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, made this known when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said that the contractors had declared their readiness to re-engage workers, who were laid off due to the huge debt owed by the Federal Government in the past three years.
“We are trying to ensure that everybody (contractors and workers) go back as quickly as possible to have the most effective impact.
“Just by speaking to 20 of our road contractors yesterday on the number of people they have laid off who they can move back to work.
“The return that I got was over 17,500 people that they would re-engage. “So, that is the first step. We have over 200 road projects, so, that is just 20 contractors and we are going to be meeting with more.
Now, that’s change. People who lost their work are coming back to work. That’s what this budget brings.
“Capital expenditure for the ministry is about N353 (billion). That’s a lot different from what we had in 2015.’’
Fashola criticised the failure of the previous governments to settle debts owed contractors, a situation, which he said, had created enormous challenges even in the face of dwindling oil revenue.
He, however, stressed that the government would not allow current challenges to distract it from doing its best possible to improve the well-being of the people.
“If contractors have not been paid for three years when oil was selling for a lot more, the budget is bigger now but the responsibility is just enormous because the oil resources have reduced.
“So, this is what we should have done three years ago when we had income at close to 100 dollars per barrel.
We are going to run as hard as we can. And everything little thing that we do, we hope would improve the quality of peoples’ lives.
According to him, the biggest impact of the budget so far is the restoration of jobs, beginning with the construction sector.
“Taking one simple step means that we can take about 17,500 and more people to work. That’s more important to me than how much debt was owed.
“Those people are heads of families. They are Nigerians who can get up again, have their dignity restored and go back to work; that’s how you rebuild an economy.’’
The minister, who expressed displeasure over the delay in the passage of the 2016 budget, said that the contractors had pledged to cooperate with the government to complete the projects as soon as possible.
He said to that end, government had appealed to the construction companies to increase the pace of work on site in order to regain lost time.
He added that although the ministry did not get all the funds it had proposed, “but compared to the 2015 budget, the difference is change’’.