Niger Delta

How Many Times Will Contract For Calabar-Itu Road Be Awarded”? X-Raying The Inyang-Eyen Interview


In July 2018, the then Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), now Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Ita Enang, granted an interview on Inspiration Radio, Uyo. That was immediately following what he called “pre-construction inspection and flag-off of the main construction work on Calabar-Itu Road”.

He summarized the package for the listening public this way: “The Federal Government is not reconstructing the entire Calabar-Itu Road, even though the road will be dualised. Where it needs patching, it will be patched. The President has mandated me to go around the road and show Julius Berger where there are rough portions for them to intervene”.

RELATED: Lingering Calabar-Itu Road Project Saga: A’Ibom Alleges Foul Play by Sen Enang

About two months later, when the 2019 Presidential election was smelling thickly in the air, Sen. Enang, again, propounded that the Federal Government had released N11billion in addition to N5billion already paid to Julius Berger, the reason for which he was on the road to see things for himself: “We are here at Calabar–Itu-Ikot Ekpene Federal Highway where the Federal Government awarded contract to Julius Berger Nigeria Construction for the dualization of the road. So, I came here on behalf of the Federal Government to look at the extent of work that is going on. I am impressed by the extent of work done….We all came to see the extent they have gone because we have money in the budget this year for this road.”

Before this time, both President Buhari and then Minister for Power, Works, and Housing had poured rain of promises on the same road. On 1st October, 2016, President Buhari had stated in a national broadcast that the Calabar-Itu Road led 11 other federal road projects where construction work has commenced. “Notwithstanding the budgetary constraints, the current budget allocated two hundred and forty billion naira for highway projects against twelve billion in 2015. Work on the following highways has now resumed: 1. Dualization of Calabar-Itu Road in Cross River/Akwa Ibom States; etc…”

RELATED: Julius Berger fell Short of Expectation on Calabar-Itu Highway

On Wednesday, May 3, 2017, the then Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had announced to journalists that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of that day approved N54 billion for the reconstruction of the Calabar-Itu Road:

“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had just one memorandum. It was for the award of contract for the reconstruction of the Odukpani-Itu-Ikot Ekpene route linking Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. The road project was approved for award to Messrs Julius Berger Plc…What is expected of the Federal Government is a complete reconstruction of Calabar-Itu Road to a 4-lane expressway similar to the East West Road and not merely patching and resurfacing of the existing 2-lane road constructed in the 1970’s. And by this time next year, the stories on the road will change.”

In October 2019, the former Senator and three-term House of Representatives Member. Enang, again corroborated Fashola when he said on radio that the Federal Government had awarded contract for the dualization of the Odukpani Junction in Cross River State to Ibiakpan in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, worth at N54billion, since 2017, but only N3bllion was released in the 2018 budget.

This being too poor, was why Julius Berger left the site because the National Assembly slashed the money meant for them: “We have taken steps to ensure Julius Berger returns to site. In 2019 budget, we secured N3.9 billion but much has not been released to the contractor. We are appealing to them that even though we have not given them what is substantial enough, they will return to site when the rain stops”.

The former Senator’s cacophony took on a new tune as soon as the 2019 elections were over. In one of his post-election media charades in Uyo, Friday, 27th December 2019, the senator informed us that Federal Government has requested funding support from SUKUK bond for the completion of Calabar-Itu Road, upon which he had personally written to the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Works and Housing to assist in the arrangement. “I have written and I am requesting for funding support from the ministries, from the SUKUK bond through the Debt Management, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Works and Housing”, he disclosed.

However, on another radio interview on January 11, 2020, Enang said the Akwa Ibom State government should reinvest the refunded controversial N78billion to her by the Federal Government for constructing or maintaining federal roads to reconstruct the Calabar-Itu Road. “Why is the governor not using the money so far refunded in working on the road instead of waiting for the Federal Government? The essence of the refunds was partly that the state government will plough it to reconstruct the Calabar-Itu Road”.

And barely a week by today, Mr. Fashola said Federal Government has awarded contract for the “expansion” of the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road. However, taking extravagant advantage of the people’s indifference, usurping and arrogating duties to himself, bypassing his superiors with presumptuous unilaterality and without consulting critical stakeholders, Ita Enang hurriedly wrote a personal letter on behalf of Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Abia people thanking and commending the Federal Government with bloated optimism:

“Your Excellency and the Federal Executive Council have by this breathed life into the economy of the South/South and South East. This road being the economic artery of the two zones will indeed lighten the sufferings of the commuting public…a big thank you as we together make more impact in the South/South and South/East geopolitical zones.”

Like it was the case with Calabar-Itu Road, Sen. Enang was ambiguous about whether the contract is for full reconstruction of the road or for repairs and expansion. Many have condemned this butterfly choreography as part of Enang’s tactical game of stealing needless attention for self.

This was one of the points the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen, emphasized in his interview on Planet FM 101.1 popular programme, “Gov. Udom Beyond Politics” in Uyo, Tuesday, 18th February, 2020. Inyang-eyen observed in the course of the interview that Sen. Ita Enang appears to be playing parochial personal politics with the Calabar-Itu Road by muddling up issues, misinforming and confusing the people, and therefore making the Federal Government develop an album of cracking kindergarten rhymes with nothing really happening; while other roads in the country with less attention were being constructed and delivered without razzmatazz.

“Ita Enang has messed up the entire thing…Is it now the duty of Ita Enang to be thanking the President on behalf of the people of Niger Delta, when we have a minister, senators and House of Reps members who would have written to thank the President? Is Ita Enang the one to be signing press releases or Senator Akpabio?” Ita Enag our son should stop embarrassing us. He is not coordinated in what he is saying. Other roads that are constructed in Nigeria don’t carry such stories”, the Works boss stated.

Indeed, if previous and recurrent utterances by Sen. Enang on the Calabar-Itu Road since resumption of office by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 were anything to hold onto, Mr. Inyang-eyen’s remark about Ita Enang’s cyclical oscillation cannot be any exaggeration or an attempt to throw stones. Like no other person in Akwa Ibom State and the entire country, Sen. Ita Enang has spoken volumes on this road. Yet, the only things too sure of are the excruciating frustrations and losses to lives and property the road has recorded over these years of playing Ostrich by those who would have championed its cause.

Inyang-eyen therefore advised the former Senator to endeavour to be realistic, factual and frank to Akwa Ibom people in his situation reports on the Calabar-Itu Road. He said it was disturbing the way he keeps mixing up issues and confusing even the Federal Government on the true state of the road and and other matters affecting the state.

Apparently, some persons were not comfortable with Mr. Inyang-eyen’s bold and naked truth. That should be understandable. In the words of Czeslaw Milosz, “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot”. The gist is that Sen. Ita Enang has made Calabar-Itu Road a pothole of confusion and controversies. Trust Inyang-eyen, he would have made the same remark had any other person been involved.

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