Written by Odimegwu Onwumere
At the St. John’s Anglican Church, Rumueme, Rivers State, Governor Chibuike Amaechi said that his administration has created roads in the state. He swanked that the roads are of towering value and funds had been spent to ensure that the roads were sturdy which could stand the test of time. He made this declaration at the church dedication ceremony of Master Godstime Samuel Ndubuisi, son of Venerable Jolly Ndubuisi, on 5th February 2012. While he said that he had initiated the contractor handling the Okporo Road project to expand and dualize the road, his face was of smiles that in the Port Harcourt area roads that include Elekahia/Rumuomasi Road, Ikwerre Road, Oginigba/Trans-Amadi Road, Rumuola Road and Old Aba Road have been completed. On the contrary, he regretted the width the contractor handling the Okporo road gave to it. He admonished the freelancer-contractor to widen the road with the view that it was going to cost the state more money but there was no alternative to that. He rumbled “We want to do the roads in the State once and for all.”
Ada George Road was one of the roads that had seen the test of time. Regarded by the governor as a “key artery road in Port Harcourt” the ongoing work on it has been promised by the governor that the residents would be smiling on the road again before this year’s rainy season would begin. While these roads the governor said are experiencing change, many others like the Rumuolumeni and Eliparanwo Roads, he said that no bulldozer was going there till “due process” was completed for the award of their contracts. Work has not commenced on the Ogbogoro road, which had been awarded, the governor nevertheless informed that the residents of the area would soon be disturbed by the sound of machines reconstructing the road.
Oyigbo Local Government Area is one town that’s recklessly neglected by the Amaechi-led government of Rivers State. The roads there are pits-of-hell, but Amaechi seems to be answering to the quandaries of the residents, as he had guaranteed to invalidate all failing road contracts in the area if the freelancer-road-engineers the contracts were awarded to did not meet-up with the demand of the state government of putting the roads in good shape before the rains begin this year. It is very shameful of the contractors to be putting the efforts of the residents and the government in a box, whereas the governor had said that “almost all the roads in Oyigbo have been awarded”. Why are the contractors not doing well?
The archetypal Amaechi we knew at the beginning of this administration in 2007, who came with vigour and ebullience to the saddle but nearly went oblivion, had said that everybody must put hand on the deck to make this government work as “time was not on the side of his administration to deliver on its projects.” It is not the best of time for the Commissioner of Works. The force-opening eyes of the governor are, without a blink, on the Commissioner. He had been ordinanced to delist any spineless contractor that does not know his or her onus in the construction of roads from the “good book”of the state’s Ministry of Works.
Much as the Rivers State residents want unity and cooperation of the state government, Amaechi had assured that the “Unity Road” project in the state was not a fluke. In a statement of Jannuary 4th, 2012, Amaechi comforted the people of Opobo community on the early completion of the Ogoni/Andoni/Opobo Unity Road. As a “Thanksgiving Governor”, he pledged this during the Iria thanksgiving of the wife of the General Officer Commanding the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj-Gen Kenneth Minimah at Minimah Town in Opobo Nkoro Local Government Area of the State.
While Mrs. Felly K Minimah was of a joyous flash at the Thanksgiving, Amaechi told the Opobo people to watch, very soon, that the construction work that was nearly getting close to Kalaibiama Town, would soon take Opobo by surprise. This is where the project is anticipated to come to an end. Kalaibiama has two bridges and the Opobo creeks would be suffering if they are closed, so the governor had said that the 500 metres bridge is important and is the foremost one. The governor told the people that every other project in the area would be made easy once the bridge is crossed. He nonetheless promised to release more funds this January to haste the project.
It is on record that Engr Tele Ikuru and his boss, Amaechi, challenged a contracting firm, Rivigo JC, last year. This was after the contractor was financially mobilized and perhaps did not stand firmly for the occasion. N20 billion is not a fewer money which was mapped out for the road that is targeted to link about 30 riverine communities. This is in the South-East Senatorial District of the state.
Dakuku Peterside, when he was the Rivers State Commissioner for Works before he got the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest for membership of the House of Representative to represent Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro constituency in 2011 elections, which he won at the polls, had swaggered in an interview that before Amaechi came to power on 25thOctober 2007, the majority of the roads in Port Harcourt were almost impassable. He was of the opinion that most of the roads needed to be opened-out in what he called expansion. According to him, traffic was chaotic; the roads were either non-existent, riddled with potholes or were too narrow to make any sense. He said that the two greatest achievements of Amaechi administration in the road sub-sector as whole is the fact that he dualised the whole major roads in the city of Port Harcourt. (Wonder shall never end!).
He collaborated what the governor had said at the Thanksgiving service of the little Ndubuisi, saying that the present government dualised the Rumuola-Rumuokwuta Road, Slaughter-Oginigba-Rumuobiakani Road; reconstructed the road from Eastern Bye Pass-Amadi Ama-Abuloma- Oginigba; it also dualised the road from Rumuokwuta-NTA-Choba; NTA-East-West Road -Airport, the popular Prof. Tam David-West Road; also dualising the road from Airport-Isiokpo-Elele-Omerelu to the boundary with Imo State.
Hon. Dakuku confirmed that the government was about to expand the Okporo road, but was dualising the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road and had started the dualisation of the original Ada George Road, parallel to Ikwerre Road; Ikwerre Road was also being upgraded and the government was dualising Azikiwe Road linking UTC to Lagos bus stop; Creek Road in Port Harcourt township was being reconstructed. In his words, it was very germane at a point that the government needed to first expand, improve, upgrade and make the roads capable of taking the traffic; which he said would address the wastage of manpower that government experience through the cause of chaotic transport; it was also critical at that point to address flooding and in the course of upgrading these roads the governor introduced sub-surface drains using ring pipes, that has substantially addressed drainage challenges.
Without mincing words, the government of Amaechi swooped into action in the area of road construction during its first year of administration and achieved the confidence of the people, but the irony of it is that Rivers State has not turned to the London in Nigeria that was the hope of many people because of the ebullient speed with which the governor came to battle the underdeveloped Rivers State he succeeded. But Dakuku was of the stance that the government had added over 500 kilometres to road network in the rural areas of the state, awarded contract for the building of 1000 kilometres of roads. He however strutted that it’s on record that it’s in the Amaechi-led government of Rivers State that the highest metreage of roads was built (by any government), less than three years from the creation of Rivers State till date. He was of the pity that the milestone must be viewed under the context that the government of Amaechi succeeded a very harsh situation and it costs so much to build roads in Rivers State, four times what it will cost in any other part of the country. He hinged his point on the fact that the topography of the states is a high-water-table, which results to challenges such as the use of sharp sand to build roads.
While Amaechi was of the opinion that the state has achieved in the building of sophisticated roads, Dakuku had said that there were two critical achievements of the government in term of road construction which was the added of 500 kilometres of roads to the entire road network.“That is unprecedented in history,” Dakuku had said. And the other, he said, was the courage to continue with the Unity Road, which passed from Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro.
These roads reportedly were not gotten on a platter of gold. According the Hon. Member of the House of Representatives, that road was costing N27 billion; originally the cost was N11 billion and the government has spent about N3 billion; the sum of over N17 billion had been spent to drive the project and the government made tremendous progress. He hoped that if funds were at the embrace of the government it would be completed, because the government had created massive land mass in a state that is located within the coastal periphery of the country.
In most of the areas in Rivers State, land is a major challenge for development, but Dakuku had informed that 50 hectares of land were created in Opobo; the same ‘creation of land’ was also applicable to Buguma, headquarter of Asari/Toru Local Government Area (LGA). He had added that the government was into a land reclamation and shore protection in Ogba Ama in Okrika, Owukiri in Ogi area, Abalama in Asari Toru Local Government Area and a couple of other places and had built bridges that would have thus far been considered impossible and four flyovers were built within this period and awarded contract for seven flyovers on the whole.
In his remark, Amaechi-led government had built four of the flyovers, one at Eliozu, awarded by the previous government; the government then has not shifted the ground before the present government arrived and the contractor was almost making away with the money. Dakuku blew his own horn, saying, “We got him back to site he has completed partially.” The former Commissioner mentioned that the government has done the flyover at Rumuokwurushie/Eleme junction, regarded as a multi-billion naira project handled by Julius Berger and was almost completing the flyovers at AGIP by Sani Abacha by Ikwerre Road on the Port Harcourt-Owerri section of the road and was completing the flyover at East-West Road located at Obiri Ikwerre, located specifically by Tam David-West Road. He emitted the news that there would be another flyover that would take the residents through Peter Odili Road-Woji-Elelenwo- Akpajo.
While some of these projects may have been completed by now, it is imperative to ask how much does it take to develop a state? The former Commissioner had said that he considered all the very critical achievements in a state like Rivers where to develop infrastructure is very difficult and that the governor made his vision very clear. That was, to build infrastructure that will drive economic growth. Alas! “Amaechi does not joke with his integrity,” Dakuku had said.
Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, Media/Writing Consultant and Motivator, is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV); and Founder, Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org