Following the increasing number of deaths along the East/West Road, two groups, and individuals have blamed the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe for the deaths, saying that the continued poor state of the road despite the huge sums of money allocated to its repair was a mark of the minister’s failure to deliver service to the Niger Delta people through the ministry.
They urged Orubebe to resign his appointment with immediate effect, just as they asked the Federal Government to pay serious attention to the road.
They said that the road has caused untold hardship to commuters who ply it, adding that Madam Charity Obah, the foster mother of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who died in a ghastly car crash at the Isiokpo-Elele axis of the East-West Road, Rivers State, would not have occurred if the road was in good shape.
The Director of the Institute of Human Right and Humanitarian Law, Anyankwe Nsirimovu, said it was a pity that people die on that road, noting that the late Madam Obah had joined many other Nigerians who had lost their lives on the road.
“That ministry has demonstrated lack of non commitment to that project- the only project that concerns the Niger Delta states, the only project that connects us.
“I do believe that the Federal Government under the leadership of late Yar’Adua set up the ministry of Niger Delta with a view to bringing development. The Minister has no capability to be in that ministry and I call for his resignation with immediate effect”.
For his part, the chairman of the Congress of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Rivers and Bayelsa States, Dr. Meniabi Dagogo-Jack said that based on the failure of the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry to be alive to its responsibilities, the rehabilitation of the East West Road should be handed over to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
He also said there was need for Orubebe to resign his appointment due to his ministry’s ‘lukewarm attitude to the project”.
Orubebe had in March this year in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, promised to complete the road by 2014, while presenting his ministry’s Action Plan for the development of the region to the Akwa Ibom Government, fingering poor detail and financial plan as they reason behind the delay in completion..
He said: “This is a project of N239 billion and only N1.2 billion was provided to the contractors by the Federal Government. We realized that there are detail plan and financial plan. Yet people wanted the project to be completed in 2010,” Orubebe said.
Orubebe and Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi have also clashed on the poor state of the road, when the Governor picked hole in the poor state of roads and infrastructure in the Niger Delta, which forced the minister to accuse Amaechi of performing dismally in his state.
“Some people say all sorts of things about the Ministry of Niger Delta. The governor of Rivers State was talking about the East-West road and was saying that the governors of the Niger Delta want to take over the East-West road, and I just laugh. The resources of Rivers State are so enormous and there are so many villages that are not connected by roads.
“Port Harcourt used to be the garden city of Nigeria. Today Port Harcourt is a slum. He has not provided roads in Port Harcourt and you can’t move in Port Harcourt and I think that he should confine himself in utilising the resources that are there to develop Rivers State and the people.
“I expect him to talk if he is performing like (Godswill) Akpabio. If today the governor of Akwa Ibom state is talking about those things, I will sit down and reason with him but not governor of Rivers State.
Amaechi, who responded to Orubebe’s comments through his Chief Press Secretary, David Iyofor, Amaechi accused Orubebe of not executing any project since he became minister.
“Ordinarily, I would not respond to the ludicrous, thoughtless and bizarre ranting of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godsday Orubebe against Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, but it has become imperative for me to do this and show clearly that the Minister’s game is just to divert attention from his ineptitude and abysmal failure.”
He said the Federal Government had to re-award the contract and “considering the work that has been done so far, the completion of the road would not go beyond 2014. The road has 52 bridges and from 2010 to now we have constructed 38 bridges and a good number of culverts have also been constructed.
“We are sure that the road will be ready in 2014,” he added.
It would be recalled that the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and its industrial counterpart, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), Port Harcourt zone, had threatened to embark on an indefinite strike due to the poor state of the Eleme axis of the road.
The two groups had carried out the threat with Trade Union Congress (TUC), to register their discontent over the poor state of the road.