Work on the 50-km Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Road in Abia will any moment from now begin in ernest as the construction firm handling the project, Hartland Nigeria Limited, has returned to site fully mobilized. For now, the firm is negotiating for a burrow pit to scoop red mud for its reconstruction process.
It will be recalled that Federal Government first awarded the N13.2 billion contract to the company in 2019, but the job was stalled by the paucity of fund and in 2021, the Federal Executive Council re-approved the project for funding by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) through the Road Tax Credit Scheme, our Reporter who visited the site Ndoro Oboro in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State observed.
It was observed during our visit that the company is mobilising equipment to site as the officials have gone to one of their sites in Ohafia to retrieve their equipment there to start work in earnest at the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Road site, according to Evangelist Abraham Osondu, the Community Liaison Officer of the project and Liaison Officer to Representative Sam Onuigbo who reportedly attracted the project.
Managing Director of the company, Mr Fayez Khalaf, had earlier informed journalists that the company started mobilising equipment to site and that the federal government had released the fund, including the outstanding, to enable the company to expedite action on the project.
According to him, the company would need to fill the failed portions, especially at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike axis, adding, “We are bringing in more equipment. We have made some big investment to increase the number of equipment and workforce on the project”.
Osondu confirmed this to our Reporter when he said at the company’s site that, “for the greater part of yesterday (Thursday, February 10, 2022), we searched through the road, beginning from Aba Road-Ikpt Ekpene junction to Awomukwu, the boundary with Akwa Ibom, looking for burrow pit. When they start, there won’t be anything stopping them”.
On that note, Fayez Khalaf assured of the company’s commitment to ensure thorough rehabilitation of the single-carriage way with drainages due to be delivered by 2023.
Also, the lawmaker representing Ikwuano-Umuahia Federal Constituency, Rep. Sam Onuigbo, who reportedly facilitated the project, expressed joy over the resumption of work by the contractor, stressing that the resumption of work meant that the pressures he mounted on the Federal Ministry of his efforts and contractor had yielded result and hoped that the project would soon be delivered to alleviate the plight of his constituents and other road users.
Bur our Reporter who travelled from Umuahia to Awomukwu, Ikwuano LGA, Abia State, the boundary with Akwa Ibom State where the project terminates, said there was mixed feelings on the nature of the mode of execution of the contract. Most people interviewed wanted total expansion (i.e. dualization), stressing that only rehabilitation will make the road not to relapse after few years of handover.
Other reasons they gave are that the road attracts huge traffic, particularly heavy duty vehicles and that its tiny nature will aggravate traffic congestions, accidents and flooding. Elated Mrs Precious Chinyere Christian, shoe seller at the gate of Michael Okpara University Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), said though she is happy on the rebuild, the road should be dualized completely.
“Dangote vehicles and other heavy duty vehicles ply here daily; most of the times they collide because of the compact nature of the road and kill students and villagers. Besides, whenever the rains fall, the whole place (referring to the frontage of the university gate) is flooded. So there should be properly constructed drainages on both sides to solve that problem”, she contended, adding that the Federal Government should also consider building a Flyover at the MOUAU gate.
Similarly, Mrs Chigozie Ifeanyi suggested to the contracting firm to build good drainage system to take in flood water to save the road from collapse few years after its completion. Mrs Atumonye Ogu Juliet, who shouted and indeed danced for joy on hearing that work on the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene will soon start, said whoever did this should be commended.
“Look at this portion and see the signs of the flood, how it dealt deadly blows on us and our wares over the years. I’m ready to go Government House or Abuja to thank the facilitators. Do you mean what you’re saying gentlemen?” She asked the Reporter rhetorically. “But they should expand the road please, please, please!”
In the same vein, Madam Victoria Oleka and her son, Oleka Jonathan, both petty traders opposite the MOUAU gate, argued that the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene being a Federal Government road, “should have been rehabilitated by before now if our leaders are alive to their responsibilities. Last time some people came here and collected our names and measurement of the road. We thought good things were coming out of it, but up till now, nothing positive came out. Let’s hope this time; they do something by dualizing the road. It’s overdue”, they said.
“Because of flood in the road, I lost a refrigerator and television set which I bought N100,000 and N75,000 respectively”, the woman who says she hails from Umuariaga Oboro added.
But two students of MOUAU, Chidera Benjamin and Obinna Obogu, asked rhetorically, “Is this road not supposed to be a federal road? The reconstruction is long overdue. It has caused a lot of accidents. Last year, we lost some students through accidents. We thank them for funding the road project this time.
At the Awomukwu Ikwuano, this Reporter noticed that the portion of Akwa Ibom was beautifully laid out with solidly bituminous road snaking its way from the border to Ikot Ekpene town.
However, a commercial motorcyclist, at Ahiaeke Market, Ndume, Ibeku in Umuahia North LGA, Emeka Awazie, pleaded that the rehabilitation should start immediately now that the dry season is here. “If they don’t commence immediately, the reconstruction will be forestall by the rains. And they have excuses of non-completion. Please, we don’t excuses again”, he warned.
Note: Operation See Projects is an assessment programme embarked upon by thewitness magazine to ascertain the projects built by public officeholders both elected and appointed across the nation, particularly in Abia State in the past 8 years and to make out the impact of the projects on the people supposedly the beneficiaries.
The people are the ones to say it the way it is.
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Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.