Fury over East-West Road

2012-02-08
VANGUARD Newspaper- Emma Amaize

EMBLEMATIZED in the road sign of Setraco Construction Company, one of the three road construction companies, handling the dualization of the 337-kilometre East-West Road, from Delta – Bayelsa – Rivers – Akwa Ibom – Cross River states, is a white bird, symbolizing the company’s rapidity in job performance.

However, converse to the understandable symbolism of the road sign and avowed undertaking of the firms – Setraco, Reynolds Construction Company and Gitto Construcauoli Generali, GCC, to “fast track” and “fly the project”, it is not likely that the road, with a completion target of 2012, will be completed in the next five years, given the current snail-pace of work.

Setraco is in-charge of two sections of the road project. Section 1, (Effurun) Delta State – (Kaiama) Bayelsa State and Section 2, Bayelsa – (Eleme junction) Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. Reynolds Construction Company, RCC, is overseeing Section 3, Port-Harcourt – (Eket) Akwa Ibom State; and Gitto Construzuoli Generali, GCC is handling Section 4, Eket – Oron (Akwa Ibom) and Cross River State.

By the terms of the contract, the company is to provide a new 87km asphaltic concrete carriageway, rehabilitate and reconstruct the existing one from Warri in Delta State to Kaiama in Bayelsa State, worth N74 billion.

Scarification of existing pavement

The work involves scarification of existing pavement, removal of unsuitable materials where necessary, replacement with suitable material, mostly dredged sand, which will be stabilized to sub-grade strength, provision of 250mm sub-base and 250mm crushed stone base.


Another bad portion on the road
Section two of the road, from Bayelsa to Port-Harcourt, has been divided into two sub-sections. The first is asphalting (Eleme junction) Port-Harcourt to Ahoada, a distance of 47 km with 15 bridges, 941, 031 cubic metres of sand dredging and filling with stone base of 255, 950 ton. Sub-section II is Kaima to Ahoada with 19 numbers of 11 metre wide bridges across rivers. The length of each bridge ranges between 30m to 850 m. The 850m long bridge is a navigational bridge with span length of up to 95m and pier height up to 20metres above the pile caps. The bridge is being constructed using the balanced cantilever pre-cast pre-stressed segment erection method.

RCC is handling the 99km road from Port-Harcourt (Eleme Junction) to Eket in Akwa Ibom State, worth N35.6 billion, while GCG, according to the terms of the contract, is to increase the existing single carriageway to dual carriageway of 2×7.3m road pavement, 2.75m outer shoulders and 1.0m inner shoulders with 4m wide median.

The work also includes rehabilitation and improvement of the existing single carriageway by strengthening the existing embankment and pavement layers and provision of new asphaltic concrete courses where necessary.

In addition it is to construct an additional lane, running parallel to the existing alignment by provision of compact natural and excavated lateritic material as sub-grade and sub-base. At the site, GCG is also to build six bridges including 398m major Eket Bridge over the Qua River.

Clark exasperated: But, the people are angry as construction works are not moving as envisaged. So infuriated was former Federal Minister of Information and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark over the development that uncharacteristic of him, he requested the Federal Government at an interdenominational thanksgiving service/civic reception, organized by the Izon of Delta State in honour of former acting managing director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Pastor Power Aginighan in Warri, recently, to return the East-West Road, presently being supervised by the Ministry of Niger-Delta to the Ministry of Works. (The project was handed over to the Ministry of Niger-Delta in April, 2009).


Ore-Benin road
Anybody who knows the relationship between Chief Clark and the incumbent Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe can visualize the burden in Clark’s heart when he made this call. He, in fact, installed Orubebe as minister in the first instance and would not want to do anything that will undermine his office, but on the question of East-West road, the outspoken leader was not prepared to paper issues.

He declared that the return was apposite, as the Ministry of Niger Delta was like a toothless bulldog that could only bark, but not bite, as far as the East-West Road was concerned. His words: “The ministry is faced with a lot of internal problems, so if allowed to carry on with the project, even for 10 years, it cannot be completed.

Infrastructural development

“The Niger-Delta has not seen any change in President Jonathan’s administration in terms of massive infrastructural development”.

The elder statesman was perturbed that even when the people of the region were complaining, some ethnic groups were blackmailing President Jonathan, saying he awarded 70 per cent of capital projects to the Ijaws, which is not true. He urged Mr. President not to be intimidated by any form of blackmail, but was quick to add, “I am not in any way saying that he shouldn’t develop Nigeria, but should take the development of Niger-Delta as his priority”.

Citizen threatens court action against Setraco

Nevertheless, in the opinion of Hon James Idogho, a PDP stalwart in Delta State, the South-South leader was only verbalizing. The construction companies were toying with a project that is of paramount importance to the people and only a court of law would settle the matter. Therefore, he has given 21-day ultimatum to one of the firms, Setraco, to speed up work on the Ughelli axis of the road or he would drag the company to court for abandoning the contract.

Hon. Idogho, who resides in Sapele lamented that for many years after the contract was awarded to the construction company, “it only carried out partial work on the Effurun to Kaiama section and ran away for no just cause, leaving the Ughelli area in a complete bad shape to the agony of road users, who often times were involved in fatal accidents within these bad areas of the road damaged by the heavy duty equipment of the construction company.”

Idogho appealed to the governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, to prevail on the construction company to go back to site since Ughelli is within Delta State where he is the leader. He complained bitterly that the road was in a very deplorable condition by Afiasere junction, Ughelli, around Biggs area of the town and other parts from Ughelli to Bayelsa State that are equally in a deplorable state.

Citizen Idogho suggested that if Setraco could not immediately do the new road, it should rehabilitate the old road, which people were still using before they came in, saying that as a former employee of Dumez Construction Company, he knows that a construction company was supposed to be working with heavy duty search light in the night “and before the following morning, a new and a very good road has been created to people to travel on.”

The party chieftain advised the government to wade into the matter immediately before the youths would turn against the company “so that no one will blame them and say the Niger Delta youths have started again.” He also advised the company to stop dredging sand from the river within the town and very close to the road it is working on, as such is against engineering and construction regulations.

The same advice he also gave to the people of Ughelli who are involved in on-going dredging of sand inside Ughelli town, less than 30-60 metres from the road.

FG, not robustly committed to speedy completion

Vanguard reporter travelled on the East-West Road recently and what was very clear is that the Federal Government was not committed to speedy completion of the project. Officials of the three construction companies who spoke to Vanguard said they were being starved of funds to execute the project by government. They said the government was not showing enough commitment to the completion of the road with the manner it was releasing funds for the project.

However, Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, is known to have carried out several inspection visits to appraise the extent of work on the project. Efforts by this reporter to get his comments proved abortive as he neither answered the several calls made to his GSM line nor replied the Short Message System, SMS, sent to him on the reasons for the apparent snail pace of work.

It was reliably learnt, however, that the Ministry of Niger-Delta was complaining of lack of enough funds for the ministry to push the project. Government had under the tenure of the former Minister of Niger Delta, Ufot Ekaette, threatened to sack contractors who failed to put up appreciable performance by the beginning of 2010, but it could not carry out the threat because it was defaulting on its part in the area of finance.
Where is the additional

N106 billion for East-West Road?
In August, the Federal Government approved additional funding of N106 billion for the East-West road to ensure quick completion of the project. But the worry of contractors who complained of lack of funds is the whereabouts of the N106 billion, as they were being owed for jobs already done and certificates issued.

“Ask the minister when was the last time his ministry paid money to construction companies on the East-West road project. We have certificates for completed works certified by government, but payment is not forthcoming. There is no way we can deliver in 2012 under this arrangement. We are sourcing money to execute this project on behalf of government, but the government is not serious. They pay very late, making us to incur more debts and liabilities.

That is the problem”, an official of one of the construction firms told this reporter.
The fresh funding initiative covers sections I, II and III of the road, thereby bringing the total sum to N245 billion, as against the original cost of N138 billion. The 2011 budget for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is N55. 2 billion while N51.9 billion is for capital project. For the East-West road, N15.6 billion has been set outside for the project in 2011 appropriation.

 

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