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Easter gift: 5 FG road projects excite South East

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•But say they are cautiously watching, monitoring

 

“I f the Federal Government keeps its words to handle the five roads it awarded in the South East zone that was announced in the week 2013 Easter commenced, then the zone would have been a beneficiary of very special festival package. “It would be a loud and wonderful way to say Happy Easter to Nd’Igbo and even other Nigerians that benefited in the announced road projects.

I say so because everybody from the zone knows that the major amenity problem the South East has is road, especially the federal roads.

The states have been doing their bit to fix the roads under their watch, but we have been through much suffering on the federal roads.”

That is the way Mr. Willie Ekumankama, Lagos legal practitioner who was in his town in the zone, Edda for the Easter celebration saw the announcement. During the Easter celebration, Abuja Metro was in the zone and spoke with people, especially from those areas directly affected in the contracts. And to a large extent, all the states benefited, though some marginally.

The five roads that were among the 13 announced by the federal government through the Minister for Works, Mike Onolememen are worth about N14.1b including the one that traverses a portion of Akwa Ibom, passes through Aba in Abia and terminates at Owerri, Imo State.

The five roads include the intractable Edda federal road in Ebonyi State that had waited for over 22 years to get re-awarded. Indeed the road has suffered untold abandonment after some six contractors had dumped and not coated a stretch since the mid 70s.

The five roads include Mbaise-Ngwa road in Imo/Abia states with bridges at Imo River to Mangroveech Engineering (Nigeria) Limited at N2,943,534,543.18 with a completion period of 30 months, Abiriba-Ohafia-Arochukwu in Abia State to Beks Kimse (Nigeria) at N2,265,982,372.50 with a completion period of 24 months.

The Ohafia junction (Nguzu Edda)-Oso Ebonyi State road to UniGlobe Construction Engineering Limited at N2,293,965,030.00 with a completion period of 18 months. The others include the Aguobo-Owa-Mgbagbu Owa-Ebenebe (Anambra State border) with spur to Awala-Oyofo-Iwollo road in Enugu State at N3,035,439,907.50, with completion in 18 months and the Ikot Ekpene border-Aba-Owerri dualization in Akwa Ibom/Abia/Imo states, at the sum of N3,780,988,135.00, with a completion period of 30 months.

At an inspection of the extent of work on the road on Easter Sunday, Abuja Metro spoke with a native of Nguzu Edda who said the contractor handling the road, UniGlobe, has moved to site where it has some water tankers, earth moving machines and some other equipment.

It even graded a portion of the road from the Nguzu Junction where the road links the Arochukwu-Ohafia-Umuahia road to Nguzu town. By the man’s word, “Since 1960 when I was a boy and saw Zik visit Edda to promise the road would receive government attention, I am aware of at least 16 announced contract awards.

But we never saw anyone that did any substantial work on the road. Our wish and prayer is that the chain of disappointments on the construction of this road ended before UniGlobe. This time, we have high expectation that it would be fixed.

We have suffered so much, and our development retarded because of this road. Making it passable is a way of liberating us and making us feel we are part of the nation.” Before the announcement two weeks ago, the reality of the award of the Edda road to Uniglobe had been a vexed issue that Saturday Sun reported after consulting the stakeholders, including the contractor and natives of Edda who are affected directly by the road.

A spokesperson for the UniGlobe we spoke with had noted that the company had not been paid a mobilization of N344m we gathered had been paid. Another issue he raised was that they had no copy of the design of the road.

That was a perplexing revelation how a contractor bided for a job without seeing a copy of the design that would guide it on the extent of work needed to be done and the cost. Abuja Metro however went in search of the design in Abuja and ended up picking one from a very reliable source to the Federal Ministry of Works. The 25-page document indicated clearly the stretch of the road from the beginning to the end, a span of 20km.

A letter from the ministry dated December 21, 2010 awarded the design of the road to Sanol Engineering Consultants of Plot 470, Aminu Kano, Wuse 2, Abuja. The same memo signed by Engr. J. O. Chukwu, Director, Public Procurement on behalf of the minister said the decision to award the contract to the company was reached on December 7, 2010.

The entire contract specified the design of a long stretch of road traversing Enugu and Ebonyi states and terminating at the Nguzu Junction where the road links the Arochukwu-Ohafia-Umuahia, which was also one of the five awarded but in another contract.

The design defines Enugu-Nara-Isu-Onicha-Okposi-Amasiri-Oso-Owutu-Ohafia junction. The meaning is that out of a long road designed collectively by Sanol, the FG cut out the Edda end and awarded UniGlobe and the design clearly  indicated at the last page illustrating the road as ‘beginning or project road’ on the Ohafia junction at Nguzu.

That was however a correction of UniGlobe position to us earlier that the project started some 8.3km down the Arochukwu-Ohafia road, another project altogether.

In February last year, Sanol submitted the copy of the completed design to the Ministry which is in its possession for the contractor to pick up and proceed to site for the read action. However, Edda people expressed some appreciation for seeing UniGlobe report to site, at least with the clearing of a space as their site workshop at Nguzu and the presence of some machines and the graded part.

The Ebonyi State Commissioner for Cement Production and Minerals Development, Prince Sunny Ugwuocha told Abuja Metro that: “I have been a private sector person in all my career days, and now I am part of government. So I am aware that what gets a project done is sincerity of purpose and not elaborate CV of past works done. I don’t buy the fear some express that the company might not be competent to handle the project. If there is the will, there will be the way.

If there is sincerity, there is nothing to so difficult in handling the work.” Ugwuocha’s position was in response to the fear expressed by other natives that the same UniGlobe is handling part of the Afikpo-Abakaliki road and has not done so much on the project. They fear that if the company does the same on the Edda road, there might little hope of tackling the job successfully.

They said that while another company on the Afikpo-Abakaliki road has been making visible marks, UniGlobe has been a different case. They pleaded with the company to do its best and redeem its reputation with the Edda road project and register its name with credible and performing contractors worth their calling.

The company also planted its signpost further down the road at Amoso Edda indicating it is on ground for the work. Abuja Metro also spoke with Mazi Ernie Onwumere, a native of Arochukwu who narrated another bitter experience the people have been through in the past 50 years when their road was first constructed and later abandoned.

He said there have been over four failed awards starting from the 1990s when General Sani Abacha was at the helm of affairs.

Then a man from the town was a member of the Petroleum Task Force (PTF) that awarded the road from Umuahia to Arochukwu to Elite Construction company. “Our kinsman told us that government policy on road construction is that work starts at the area of higher density to the lower. So it commenced at Umuahia and by the time they got to the military barracks at Ohafia, the project stopped. Abacha died and nobody pursued it further.

That is how we were left in this trauma until in 2001, we got information that the road was awarded Julius Berger. The next news we got is that President Olusegun Obasanjo terminated the job because according them he had some personal problems with the government of Abia State and it was a way of fighting the state.

The only thing Julius Berger did was grade the road and make it passable but dusty. The state government later awarded it to Idea Construction that just graded it also and we were told that the government had no money to handle actual construction.

Now the road is awarded Beks-Kimse and the amount, about N340m we heard was paid as mobilization is not enough to make any impact. My fear is that the funding might end there because the money is not enough to commence the project.

I would advise the FG to be sincere in these contract awards especially when it is about roads in the South East. “It is not just enough to announce award of contracts, but what about the funding. How can we be sure the government is sincere when we have mot heard of financial backing? After the SURE P was set up, we would be really grateful if the government assures us that they even drew money from the platform to fund the South East roads announced.”

On the Arochukwu-Abiriba road, Beks Kimse flagged off work on Good Friday and reported to site at Arochukwu that same day with some equipment left there on site, giving the hope it has come to handle the road. He also lamented that even when some roads are handled, the quality is always so poor, citing the Ihiala-Orlu-Nkwere-Ideato road as good instance. “That road, a very vital one to the entire region was awarded and constructed in the early 2000.

But it did not last more than one year before it collapsed so baldy once again. Now we are discussing new awards we are not sure how fast they would be handled. The zone has been crying over the deplorable and non-existent Oba junction-Nnewi-Ideato-Okigwe road and no one listens.

Our people are really suffering over federal roads. In response, after these roads were announced, concerned persons – all experts from the South East have set up a team to monitor these roads and be sure work goes on.

If they are abandoned, the team will make out time to tour the roads and report back to the FG. If they are shabbily done, we will also let the government and the public know. But our aim is to ensure total compliance in the completion of these five roads that cut across the five states of the zone. I think the laxity of experts and opinion moulders in the zone to complain against neglect and the tricks of the governments have been our real problem and that has to change.

We have experts that know what is good job or people of privilege whose voice could be heard and we can’t keep quiet any more. “If you check the contractors the jobs were given, none is a big player. So, why are roads in the zone always given to starters to experiment with while in other parts of the nation, especially Edo State and others the contracts go to the big players? We have to ask questions and know if these announced contracts are just politics or reality.

There is one of the roads we got from good source at the ministry that it was to be awarded to the CCECC but at the point of endorsing the award, the minister convinced President Goodluck Jonathan that it should go to a local contractor with owners from Edo State because the amount is below N5b.

We understand his argument was that projects below such amount should be used to encourage local contractors. But how come the Vandeikya-Obudu road below N4b was awarded CCECC? These are questions we need to ask and let people know we are not just robots from this zone.

So, our team will keep updating our people on the progress of the jobs through the media and direct contact with the ministry and the federal government.”

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