•Continued from last week
But people in the communities are not amused. The village head of Nkim Itam, one of the communities which the road traverses, Chief Bassey Ekanem, said the dilapidated road had led to loss of more than 20 lives to vehicular accidents.
“Many of the trucks usually fell at that junction, which is terribly bad. Even some bad boys from this community usually capitalize on it to block vehicles and rob their occupants. Pouring stone base without tarring the road is just a waste of resources because very soon, it would go bad again,” Ekanem said.
But Francis Anthony, a businessman in Ikot Akpan Itam, said the people of the area feel neglected by the Federal Government despite the fact that Akwa Ibom State is the highest producer of crude oil which the Federal Government uses to finance its projects.
The Bori-Bodo-Bonny road, the seemingly jinxed East-West Road, as well as the Port Harcourt and Onne sea ports are federal projects that can be easily identified in the state.
The East-West road, in particular, has generated so much concern and protests by aggrieved youths of Niger Delta region that it seems like the government has become used to the agitations.
Recently, youths from the Ogoni ethnic nationality staged a weeklong demonstration, because of the East-West road, especially the Akpajo-Eleme axis of the road. During the protest, the youths shut down the road and paralysed all business activities in the area. The Akpajo-Eleme axis of East-West road leads to the Port Harcourt Refinery, Eleme, Indorama Petrochemicals, Eleme, Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne Sea Port, and Customs, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Navy Basic Training School, Onne.
The East-West road traverses four local government areas (Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai) that make up Ogoni ethnic nationality.
People who regularly ply the road daily experience the trauma of the half-hearted executed federal project.
Investigations by Sunday Sun revealed that work on the Emohua axis of the East-West road being handled by Setraco is progressing. But, the situation is different for the Akpajo-Eleme part of the road.
Notable natives of the state, Mr Livingstone Wechie and Mr Christian Lekia, are expectedly not happy with the way the government has handled the East West Road project.
Non-payment of compensation, lack of funding and delay in approving pending bills of quantities, have been identified as factors delaying the completion of the dualization of the Benin-Auchi-Lokoja road project awarded by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Sources at the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing while responding to Sunday Sun enquiries attributed the slow pace of the project to these factors.
Part of the agreement reached between the Federal Government and the benefiting states from the project was that the states were to bear the cost of compensation of communities, but the states are yet to meet this agreement.
Besides, it was learnt that because of the long time the project had taken, funds meant for it have been converted to maintenance, a situation which necessitated the contractors executing the project to put up new bills of quantities which the Federal Government is yet to approve.
“The contractors have submitted new bills of quantities for augumentation which the Federal Government is yet to approve,” a source at the Ministry told Sunday Sun.
When contacted, the Controller of Works for Edo State, Engr. Ademola Aransiola, said: “All the contractors are still working, but constraint of funding is a factor that has caused the delay of the road project.”
For several years, the Jos-Abuja express road has been a nightmare for motorists and residents of Plateau State who ply the road daily. The situation is due to deep potholes that dot almost the entire stretch of the road.
In some instances, the deeply failed portions of the road turned into gullies that have led to trucks falling, causing loss of lives, goods and blockage of the road to traffic for hours and days.
In the resulting situation, armed robbers pounce on hapless commuters at such failed portions. The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has made minimal and ineffective efforts to rehabilitate the road.
This year, FERMA carried out some repairs on major Federal Government roads through direct labour with a view to reducing the pains and agony of the people. The rehabilitation work was due to public outcry that bandits and armed robbers were taking advantage of the bad road to rob and kidnap innocent citizens.
The rehabilitation and reconstruction work brought some relief to people along Kuru down to a bridge at Farin-Lamba, but residents are worried over the durability of the work, which is usually washed during rainy season.
Pam Stephen, a motorist, suggested that the Federal Government should dualise it just like it is doing on the Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga and Makurdi roads, adding that filling potholes every year is a waste of resources.
In Abia State, some of the Federal Government projects that readily come to the mind include the reconstruction of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge rail line which runs through the state.
Others are the Ariaria Market Independent Power Project (IPP), the ongoing rehabilitation of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, the reconstruction of the Umuahia-Bende-Ohafia and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene and the Aba-Ikot Ekpene highways.
Equally being handled by the Federal Government in Abia is the NSIA Healthcare Investments medical diagnostics centre in Umuahia.
Also, the other federal project is the installation of the 300 MVA 330/132/33kV transformer at the Alaoji transmission substation, near Aba.
Among these, the completed and commissioned projects include the medical diagnostic centre. Also, the first phase of the Ariaria Market (Aba) IPP, which is to supply electricity to 4,000 shops has been completed and commissioned. Residents of Umuahia and traders in Ariaria Market who spoke to Sunday Sun on the completed projects tanked the Federal Government for making life easier for the people.
The installation of a brand new 300MVA 330/132/33kV power transformer in the Alaoji transmission substation has been completed. This has boosted the substation’s installed capacity from 450MVA to 750MVA which makes it the biggest substation in southern Nigeria. The new transformer it has also boosted supply to the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, benefiting communities in Abia North.
The Umuahia-Bende-Ohafia and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene highways appeared completely abandoned.
A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who is from Umuahia, Prince Benjamin Apugo, in a recent interview expressed displeasure over the abandonment of the two roads.
He recalled how the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola had performed the ground breaking ceremony, but till date, nothing has been done.
When Sunday Sun reporter visited some of the roads, contractors or their representatives were not on site, as they had moved out their machines.
There are few Federal Government projects sited in Ebonyi State, some have been completed while others are ongoing. Some of the completed projects include the 2000-capacity auditorium at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital-Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA). The beautiful edifice sited at the AE-FUTHA 2 was commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2019.
A nurse at the hospital, Mrs. Nnenna Anyasi, told our correspondent that the auditorium is the place where all public events concerning the hospital are held.
“Since 2019 when it was commissioned, it has been very useful to the hospital community. Almost all the public events concerning the hospital hold here. It was the current CMD, Dr. Emeka Onwe, who ensured that the project was completed and put to use,” she said.
Another important federal project in the state is the newly established Federal College of Education Technical, Isu, in Onicha local government area of the state.
The college was among the six new federal colleges approved for establishment in 2020 by President Buhari for the six geopolitical zones in the country.
Early in 2021, the Provost, Prof Reuben Okechkwu, announced that the college would take off and commence academic activities by October this year.
However, a visit to the temporary site of the college at Isu Secondary School, Nkwagu Isu, evidently showed that the school is yet to take-off. There was no structure in place to host the college except for a few old buildings newly renovated which investigation showed that one of them has been designated to serve as the temporary administration block of the college.
A community leader in Isu community who requested not to be mentioned lamented the delay in the commencement of academic activities in the school.
He said: “We are worried that the school has not commenced. When they came looking for land, they assured us that in six months academic activities would kick off. Our people rallied round, donated this place and even assisted them in the provision of some amenities. But look at it now. It has been abandoned.”
When contacted, one of the principal officers of the school confirmed to our correspondent that the school was yet to take-off.
The officer who pleaded for anonymity said the failure of the college to take off as earlier announced by the Provost was due to lack of funds.
He said: “We didn’t take off again in October as we had announced. It was not the fault of the principal officers. The reason was that the Federal Government failed to release the take-off grant which we expected. Now, they have told us that the fund will now be released to us by January 2022.
“There is no structure yet on ground except some renovated buildings done by the community and some non-governmental organizations to support the school. TETFUND was supposed to release money for office buildings, but the money has not come. They said fund was not captured in the 2021 budget. But they said it has been captured in the coming 2022 budget. So we are still waiting.’’
Another important federal project in the state is the maternity complex being constructed by the Federal Ministry of Health. The project is a two-storey building sited at the premises of the National Obstetrics Fistula Centre in Abakaliki. It will be completed April 2022.
John Terwase, a resident of North Bank area of Makurdi, the Benue State capital, is overjoyed that the Makurdi-Lafia highway is finally being given attention by the Federal Government.
Terwase joy streams from the fact the massive work ongoing dualization/reconstruction of the Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road has reached the popular Makurdi New Bridge. The dualization of the 222 kilometers road project was launched in November 2018 by the Federal Government. As at the time of this report, the project has reached 50 per cent completion between Lafia and Makurdi.
Also ongoing in the state is the rehabilitation of the Makurdi-Gboko-Katsina-Ala road and the construction/rehabilitation of Makurdi-Naka-Ankpa road where clearing, excavating, laterite filling or bitumen laying works are ongoing.
Our correspondent observed that work on all the roads have been intensified lately even as the quality of work has also been commended.
“They are doing a good job. The quality of tar on the road is very good and I also commend the pace of work especially at North Bank,” Terwase said.
However, Paul Denen, a resident of Naka town in Gwer West local government area of the state, looks forward to when the stretch of road from Naka to Makurdi will be completed.
“We were happy when we heard that the work has started from Adoka and coming towards Naka. Also, from what we have seen around Adoka, the quality of work is good, but we are eager to see the road completed up to Makurdi soon because travelling on the Makurdi-Naka Road has been a nightmare for everyone.”
Efforts to get the comments of the contractor failed, but the Federal Controller of Works in Benue State, Engr. Charles Oke, assured that work on the fourth section of the dualization from Lafia to New Makurdi bridge which is progressing steadily would be completed before the end of April 2022.
He said some of the portions are yet to be attended to on the Lafia-Makurdi road because of issues of compensation, but assured that all those would be resolved soon.
Oke who spoke to our correspondent by telephone also disclosed that work had gone far from Adoka to Naka adding that work would commence fully on the Naka- Makurdi portion of the highway.
Despite the enormous benefits being envisaged from the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, residents of the immediate host community in Delta State, Oko-Amakom have lamented the twin impact of lack of access roads and environmental degradation as a result of the ongoing construction.
The Second Niger Bridge which connects Anambra and Delta states became imperative because of growing inadequacy of the old one built in 1965.
Work at the N414 billion Federal Government bridge project has advanced with the possibility of having it commissioned next year.
But residents of Oko-Amakom said the bridge has denied them access to the old bridge en route to Onitsha where most of them engage in economic activities for daily living.
They also complained that the ongoing construction work has brought woes with particular emphasis on environmental degradation.
Their lamentation is coming in spite of appeal by the Minister of Works, Fashola, that they should be patient, and that the various issues would be addressed adequately.
However, when Sunday Sun visited Oko-Amakom recently, a group of elders alleged that they had been forgotten, expressing fears that if their demands were not addressed, the bridge project would be meaningless.
Charles Enebeli Eguonu while saying that the project was well conceived noted that issues in all impacted areas must be adequately addressed to avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“We are suffering as a result of the construction work going on. To start with, there is no road in Oko. The people here are suffering. They have to do the adjoining roads because if the bridge is completed and there are no connecting roads, it will become a bridge to nowhere,” Eguonu said.
His fears were reinforced by the Ogah of Oko-Amakom, Onochie Ezenyili, who lamented the lack of access to and from the community.
“All these Oko roads have not be done. From here to the head bridge (old bridge), there is no access again. You will have to climb up, then come down and in a little while, they will close it because of what they are doing here.
“We can no longer access Onitsha. That is what we are suffering here. No compensation. We said they should work on this our road as compensation and let us have access in and out of Oko. From here to Oko Secondary School is what we are begging them to do for us,” he said.
Also speaking, Ojuke I of Oko-Amakom, Pius Chukwurah, said the contracting firm, Julius Berger, has tried, but reminded the company of its promise to construct the Oko road as compensation.
“Now this Second Niger Bridge is nearing completion, but this our community road has not be attended to. We want them to do this road as part of their corporate social responsibility.
“We don’t have anything, I don’t know why they are delaying doing it for us,” Chukwurah stated.
Another resident who preferred not to be named in print lamented that the construction of the bridge had caused enormous flooding, resulting in the destruction of houses and farmlands.
The resident also said if the access roads were not constructed, the development would aggravate the sufferings of the community dwellers as they would not be able to evacuate their farm produce from the hinterland.
“They should construct access roads that will connect Oko with the old Niger Bridge road. This is because the Second Niger Bridge has blocked us from accessing the bridge.
“If the access road is not constructed, our farm produce will waste away and the hardship will be aggravated,” he said.
Meanwhile, at a town hall meeting some months ago, Minister of Works, Fashola, described the bridge project as a story of prosperity for the host communities.
Fashola stressed the need for peaceful co-existence to complete the project, adding, “we also need some sacrifice. We have to give some things in order to get some things and, therefore, we need to be patient.”