THE ABANDONED, REHABILITATED AND PROGRESSING BILLION NAIRA FEDERAL ROADS

In local parlance, the term, money miss road describes the misfortune of putting money in wrong hands or in the hand of a foolish person. Year in, year out so much money is reportedly churned out of the nation’s coffers purportedly to construct new roads and repair or rehabilitate dilapidated ones. Yet, in thecourse of time, much of the
capital votes fly past the construction or rehabilitation sites into the pockets of super consultants and fake contractors while the genuine engineering firms, mostly the multinationals, reputed for delivering durable roads
and bridges on schedule once they are duly mobilized, are left to experiment with what one Chinese expert describes as, “small money, small job”. That is to say, if government failed to release enough funds for construction work,
nobody should expect elaborate jobs to be delivered o n schedule.

Only last week, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Raji Babatunde Fashola announced at the National Council on Works and Housing meeting held in Calabar that the construction of a network of Trunk A roads across the
nation was progressing rapidly. Fashola who was represented by his Minister of State in the Ministry, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu assured that the more than … kilometers of roads which comes to two road projects per state and the
FCT will add to the nation’s infrastructural assets in the next couple of months. About a month ago, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the release of 􀀀605 billion for construction and rehabilitation of a network of Trunk A roads nationwide. Beyond what ought to be cheery news to commuters, stakeholders in the road transport
sector and the generality of Nigerians, all too often such announcements turn out to be a rehash of tales to justify shoddy jobs executed and a nightmare of macadamized roads ridden with gorging potholes (boreholes wrongly located?) and only about the dual carriageways within the FCT and the Abuja- Kaduna-Kano Highway.

The story of road and bridges sub-sectors and indeed other infrastructure deficit remains a mirage as officials who were quick at laying blames on previous regimes and promised better deals upon assuming office, are not only under-achieving but also chewing their own words as they relish in excuse-mania. The good excuse of difficult terrain, soaring cost of bitumen and charges per metre of roads and construction materials are used to justify the
situation in the Niger Delta region especially the northernmost axis of Cross River and Akwa Ibom where the Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba and Calabar- Ikom-Ogoja-Katsina Ala roads have suffered most. The controversy
surrounding the supposed dualisation of the former and the latter speaks loudly of the contempt some Federal
officials and road operatives hold on a section of the country even as they are subjected to pain and deceit. How have our subjects respond to the Daily Sun Newspaper report of Monday, October 28, 2019 titled, “Reps Committee flays discrepancy on Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road contract”? It captures the amazement and anguish of the Federal
House Ad hoc Committee on Abandoned Federal Roads which expressed disappointment in the haphazard manner the dual carriage construction of Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road contract was awarded by the FG. Contract for the
dual carriageway was awarded in April 24, 2018 by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing which ought to be completed within 30 months. But the House Committee headed by Mr. Francis Udoyok was surprised to know that
sections of the road totaling 29.3 km had not been awarded for construction. Udoyok told journalists after inspecting the Akwa Ibom State stretch of the road from Ididep in Ibiono Ibom to Ayadehe in Itu LGAs respectively that the
exclusion of key sections was disappointing.

“We have come to confirm that the so called award for the Ikot Ekpene-Calabar- Itu road is not in complete truth; a section of it has not been awarded. You can see that from where we stand, which is the end of the beginning of section one, so to speak, is Ayadehe in Itu LG council to where you have the power plant in Odukpani LGC is not
awarded. “Then after the power plant is another (portion) to Odukpani junction. Even the beginning of the project
from Ikot Ekpene to Ididep is not awarded. So, we have a bad spot that is not awarded; over 27 km, then you come in between and award about 21km, then you leave 29.3km and award another 9.3km. So you can see the level of inconsistency.” Meanwhile, upon the reported flag off at Biase in 2018 of the 73-kilometre Odukpani Junction-Ikot
Okopra-Akpet 1 section of the Calabar-Ogoja Federal Highway Rehabilitation by the then Minister of Power, Works and Housing (now without the “Power” portfolio), Mr. Babatunde Fashola, there are many questions to answer.
Of the N14,017,170,597.90 cost attached to the project, how much would the super minister and his erstwhile
Minister of State in the Ministry, Alhaji Mustapha Baba-Shehuri (redeployed in the second term to Agriculture and Rural Development) who represented him, say went into the job? Consider that what is there appears to replicate the “Slow, Men at Work” performance of the PWD (Public Works Department) of the olden days or less than what our
own Road Maintenance Agency (RMA) in CRS is capable of implementing?

Does this demonstrate the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to bridge the infrastructural gap in the country? Will this provide the much needed stimulants for economic growth and ease
of doing business? Has the local contractor, Sermatech Construction Company which handled the project met the
completion period of 24 months? Would the federal government say with any iota of confidence that Cross River and Akwa Ibom states have benefitted or are in any way better off in its (FG’s) heavy investment in the provision of critical infrastructure with at least one ongoing road project per state? Are people and residents of the two sister states or those traversing through their landscapes happy enough to declare their travel comfort upon the acclaimed “massive infrastructure development was embarked on by the present administration across the six geopolitical
zones in the country” as the Director in charge of Highways, Construction and Rehabilitations in the Ministry, Engr. Yemi Oguntominiyi stated? What quality of work can guarantee that 73-km single carriage way linking the industrial town of Akamkpa to Biase-Yakurr road will not deteriorate soon with its frequent plying by industrialists around the area? Will the shoulders of the road not completely erode, the entire alignment not be riddled with alligator cracks or be characterized by potholes in a short while after the rehab? Having inspected other “completed and ongoing
rehabilitation projects along the Calabar-Ikom- Ogoja federal highway”, how impressed was the minister and his
entourage with what they heard from his Federal Controller of Works in the state, Engr. Bassey Nsentip who led the
inspection?

It is a practical thing for the people to judge for themselves as the officials lay claims of perfection through the scope of work for the contract which “entails site clearance of shoulders, scarification of the existing failed carriage way and the provision of asphaltic concrete surfacing. “The scope of work also includes surface dressing of shoulders, concrete lined drains, de-silting of blocked culverts, reinforced concrete pipe culverts among others. “When completed, the road will greatly reduce vehicle operation maintenance cost, improve travel time, reduce accidents, as well as loss of lives and properties. “It will also enhance the socio-economic wellbeing of the people along the
corridor, generate employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labour and assist in the fight against crime,” he said. In the same track, could the FG rationalize why it should not/reimburse/has not reimbursed state
governments that diligently took over its bounden responsibility, all be it based on agreements, of repairing/rehabilitating the Trunk A roads in their states?

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