|A Nigerian Road|
One of the vital needs of every society remains access to good road network. Alongside the several good desires of every citizen, the quest for good roads has remained paramount. In Section 15 (3a) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amended (in 2011), this important aspect of public life is also entrenched. It was in a bid to achieve this that the construction of the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way worth billions of naira was embarked upon by the former President Shehu Shagari’s administration during the Second Republic (1979-1983). The contract was awarded to two giant foreign construction firms: the Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) which firm was awarded the contract from the Enugu end to Oji River portion; while the Oji River end to Onitsha Niger Bridge portion was given to the Loggiani Construction Company (LCC).
In doing this, the former president under reference varied the initial design put up in place by the former military government, which his civilian regime succeeded. The variation was indeed to facilitate the socio-economic activities of the people of old Anambra State most especially, and then other Nigerians who daily ply the very busy highway. Undoubtedly, thousands of people go through the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway daily making it one of the three busiest highways in the Southeast zone. Others are the Onitsha-Owerri and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Ways. This is considering the fact that the Road under reference experiences heavy vehicular traffic on daily basis and links most of the South East and South-South States; hence the reason for its recent past dilapidation and prompt need for rehabilitation.
Many fatal auto-accidents have steadily been encountered on it. The route has until recently been termed a death trap by motorists. Prior to the award of contracts for the reconstruction of the two important portions of the Road, over 1000 lives were believed to have been lost owing to its deplorable condition. In one of such fatal mishaps in October 2009, which took place at the Umunya portion of the all-important Road, about 70 people were killed and commercial vehicles conveying them got burnt beyond recognition. Another major reason responsible for the total collapse of the Road before recent intervention is poor maintenance culture.
There have been several public outcries and representations over the years as to the deplorable state of the Road culminating in the award of another contract for its reconstruction by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2009. The contract for its reconstruction was initially given to the Niger Cat Construction Company from Bridgehead to Uga Junction as well as the Upper Iweka slip roads and Upper Iweka to Ziks Roundabout while the remaining part of the Anambra portion of Road; from Ziks Round About to Amansea, was awarded to the Consolidated Construction Company (CCC). The Amansea end joining the 9th Mile Corner at Ngwo, in Enugu State was awarded to the Niger Cat Company Limited while the 9th Mile Corner with a spur to Enugu Capital City was also given to the CCC. This all-important Road is one out of 45 Federal Roads, which the Federal Government says it is working on in the Southeast zone totaling 1, 196.1 kilometers at the total cost of N243.2Billion.
However, under an inter State-FGN arrangement called “reconstruct, fund, handover and be refunded”, the Government of Anambra State under former Governor Peter Obi negotiated with the Federal Government and took over the reconstruction and funding of its own portion of the all-important Road with minor re-adjustment in its original designs and addition of solidity in the quality of its work. The contract was re-awarded with introduction of more construction companies and segmentation for speedy work delivery. As a result, the reconstruction of Service Lanes was given to the IDC Construction Limited, while the Main Lanes were awarded to the CCC Limited.
The State Government under reference also divided the Road into segments as follows: Niger Bridgehead to Uga Junction; Uga Junction to Upper Iweka; Upper Iweka to Borrowmeo/Zik’s Roundabout; Borrowmeo/Zik’s Roundabout to old Onitsha/Umunya Toll Gate; old Onitsha/Umunya Toll Gate to Awkuzu; Awkuzu to Amawbia Roundabout; and Amawbia Roundabout to Amansea Border Bridge. The Obi’s government paid more attention to and is reconstructing the portions that are densely populated or heavily congested, which are: Niger Bridgehead to Upper Iweka, Upper Iweka to Borrowmeo/Zik’s Roundabout, Borrowmeo/Zik’s Roundabout to old Onitsha/Umunya Toll Gate and Amawbia to Amansea Border Bridge. The reconstruction of Umunya to Awkuzu and Awkuzu to Amawbia portions is retained by the Federal Ministry of Works. In other words, the portions are being reconstructed and funded directly by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The work completion levels on these portions are as follows: Niger Bridgehead to Uga Junction (99%), Uga Junction to Upper Iweka with adjoining roads (99%), Upper Iweka to Borrowmeo/Zik’s Roundabout (80%), Borrowmeo Roundabout to old Onitsha/Umunya Toll Gate (100%), old Onitsha/Umunya Toll Gate to Awkuzu (45%), Awkuzu to Amawbia Roundabout (5%) and Amawbia to Amansea Border Bridge (30%). In all, the work done on the entire portions under reference is in the completion of about 60% with quality solidity and uniformity. The pace of work on the remaining portions is also very high. In the handover note written by former Governor Peter Obi to his successor; Mr. Willie Obiano in March 2014, a sum of N10Billion was approved by the Federal Government for refund to the purse of the Government of Anambra State as sums spent by his administration in the reconstruction of federal roads in the State. The present Government of Mr. Willie Obiano has also continued from where his predecessor stopped by ensuring proper State funding of the reconstruction of the remaining portions of the all-important Road as well as sticking to quality work delivery.
Conversely, the state of work and its quality on the Enugu portion of the all-important Road is horrible and an eyesore. Presently, the work on the site appears to have been ceased and totally abandoned. This is a shocking opposite of its Anambra counterpart. The worst is that some portions that appeared to have rehabilitated have collapsed. Nothing minding the soil friendly advantage enjoyed by the Enugu portions, which makes its reconstruction so easy and cheaper; yet nothing concrete on the ground can be seen, except “cut and join” and snail pace sort of work going on at the Oji River axis. For the record, the Onitsha-Enugu Federal Road is 108.6 kilometer long.
Yet the contracts for the reconstruction of the two inter-State portions were awarded same day, date and time in 2009. While the Anambra portion is about 60% completion, the Enugu portion is still struggling at 10% completion. Up to N20Billion or more is believed to have been expended so far on Anambra portions by the Government of Anambra State.
Ordinarily, the Federal Government of Nigeria has no business in asking or allowing the federating States to undertake the responsibility of reconstructing any federal road whether it is “Express Way, Dual Carriage or Single Carriage”. This is because it amounts to abdication of its constitutional responsibilities and a gross violation of its social contract obligation. But owing to the fact that federating States are closer to the people as well as the strategic importance of such federal roads to the affected States and their peoples; the reasons for the involvement of some States in the provision of such important social services becomes pronounced.
Though a State Government like the Government of Enugu State deserves the right to insist that it will not take over the constitutional function of another tier of government (i.e. federal government) by embarking on the reconstruction of Federal Roads such as its own portion of the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way, but the exercise of such right is not always socially grounded. For instance, it is a well known fact that Federal Roads are located at strategic parts of some affected States like their capital cities and exits and entrances. In Anambra State, the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way is located at important parts of the State including Onitsha Niger Bridgehead, which is the major entrance into the State and the Southeast zone. Others are its major commercial city of Onitsha and its capital city of Awka. The Road remains the State’s major access road to its two biggest cities of Onitsha and Awka as well as its major link to Enugu State. Until recently, the Road has rubbished all the development projects executed by the former Peter Obi administration in Anambra State due to its horrible state.
These explain why it is no longer fashionable for a State to fold its hands and watch major Federal and State roads getting decayed and causing its people untold hardships including traffic fatalities. This is more so when such a State can get a refund from the Federal Government under a signed agreement provided such State does not embark upon unilateral reconstruction or rehabilitation of any badly failed Federal road. In the case of Anambra State, for instance, the “reconstruct, fund, complete, handover and be refunded” agreement negotiated by the Government of Anambra State with the Federal Government was done in pieces or segments with approval obtained one after the other. The State Government further initiated “segmental reconstruction and completion arrangement”; whereby it awards a contract for a segment of the Road, completes it before awarding another one.
Lastly, it is very obvious that the snail pace and poor quality of work going on at Enugu portion of the Road is as a result of poor funding and supervision. This is because the project is being funded directly by the Federal Government through its Ministry of Works. In the case of Anambra State, for instance, such was the order of the day when the Federal Government awarded the contact in 2009; leading to “cut and join” and sparsely and poorly delivery of work. It got to a point where portions already rehabilitated got collapsed. These forced the then Government of Anambra State under Mr. Peter Obi; in addition to public outcry, to seek permission to take over the reconstruction and direct supervision of the execution of the contract especially the congested portions of the Road. This was granted to it around 2011 leading to joint supervision by the duo of the Anambra State Ministry of Works and its Federal Government counterpart.
It is our firm position that the poor work as well as its snail pace going on at Enugu portion of the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way should be condemned by all and sundry. We further call for immediate reversal of the horrible trend of event on the all-important Road. The Senate and the House of Reps Committees on Works should immediately investigate the deep gap between the paces of work and its qualities on the two portions of the Road under reference. Why is Anambra portion 60% completion and Enugu portion 10%? What is the state of funding of the Enugu portion? Is appropriate funding being provided but diverted? How much funds have been provided to the contracting firms handling the Enugu portion and have the work and its quality delivered in commensuration with the funds released?
Are the contracting firms handling the Enugu portion being starved of funds by the Federal Ministry of Works? Are the report findings, if any of the Controller/Director of Works of the Federal Ministry of Works and other relevant bodies in tandem with what is obtainable on the site of work at the Enugu portion? These are the important questions that the Works Committees under reference as well as other interested bodies will seek immediate and concrete answers to in the course of their investigations. The flood control and indiscriminate digging of artificial gullies by contracting firms in place of proper guttering and flooding management should also be checkmated.
While commending the Government of Anambra State for proper funding of its strategic portions and high pace of work as well as high quality work delivery, we observe that the pace of work at the Nkwere-Ezunaka to Amawbia portion, which is under direct funding of the Federal Government is slower than those being worked on by the Government of Anambra State. Though the quality of work being delivered on the portion is commendable but there is need to increase its pace of work. On the same page, we demand for proper funding and timely release of approved funds for contracting firms handling the Enugu portion. This is more so when the reconstruction of the all-important Road was billed to be completed in December 2013. If things continue this way, then the Enugu portion will not be completed in next ten years. There is also need to ensure that the Road, especially its congested portions, is adorned with modern road safety gadgets like road markings, street lightening, traffic lightening and pathways.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., Head, Publicity Desk
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law