Niger Delta

NDDC’S Proposed Intervention On Calabar-Itu Road: For How Long Will This Patch-Patch Mentality Continue?

By Substance Nature-Udoh



In August 2016, the Niger Delta Devel
opment Commission (NDDC), under
the protem management of Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, played the interventionist role of collaborating with the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) in engaging four indigenous contractors to patch-up the neglected Calabar-Itu Road for temporary use, covering a distance of about 93kms.

To achieve this, the road was divided into four sections: While section one, beginning from Ikot Ekpene to Itu Bridge head was handled by Faithplant Global Limited, Darycet International Nigeria Limited was responsible for patching from Itu Bridge Head to Okut Ikang Junction. Base Engineering Limited was assigned Okut Ikang to Odukpani Junction, and Zenith Construction Limited from Odukpani Junction to Tinapa Junction, 8 Miles, Calabar.

On one of her inspections of the commendable palliative measure, Semenitari had observed: “If it had not been for our intervention, we won’t be on the road today because it had been cut into two and people were literarily crossing with canoes. The whole idea is to finish recovery of the road and allow commuters to use it without further difficulties. What we are doing on the road would last for at least three years, by which time, the Federal Government would have started a total reconstruction of the road”.

Counting from August 2016 to December 2019, approximately forty months have passed, the same period the federal government had said in the 2016 the road shall be completed and delivered.

Meanwhile, Nigerians especially of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States axis, have been fed with all manner of well-cooked and half-cooked lies by the federal governments and its smooth-talking agents led by the migratory Special Adviser to President Buhari on Niger Delta, Sen. Ita Enang and the Minister for Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.

Amidst all the antics, in the last six months to the present, the road has become so bad that none of the political propagandists any longer could have the courage to bury the truth or perform any successful cosmetic surgery over the lies that have been accumulated in the last five years by spatial aggregation.

However, like it was in 2016, NDDC has come again proposing a collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Works with the old palliative formula, that of making the road at least temporarily passable to commuters.

Speaking about a fortnight ago after inspection of the road, Friday, November 10, 2019, the Chairman of the controversial Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, Dr. Joi Nunieh, represented by the Acting Executive Director, Finance/Administration, Mr. Ibanga Etang demystified politics in openly acknowledging that the poor condition of the road called for urgent attention.

“The road is very bad. A journey that would have taken like one hour form Uyo to Calabar now takes several hours. We will try as much as we can to make sure we do our best so that people can use this road during the Christmas season”, Nunieh had projected.

Nothing tangible has yet been done since this pronouncement.
While this is expected, it is advisable that Sen. Ita Enang down play his usual boomerang intrigues of political gratifications and allow practical action to be taken by the NDDC. Over the weekend, he is said to have sneaked to the road to make some noise against Julius Berger for what he called poor execution and delay of work.

Interestingly, this is the same construction firm the elastic presidential adviser had praised earlier in the year for having taken the dualization of Calabar-Itu Road very close to the end. The Senator should as a matter of necessity stop causing more confusion while NDDC is trying to help out. Roads at other places started either the same time or earlier had since been put to use.

This assertion is rooted in a case scenario analogy: The Illorin-Jebba-Mokwa Federal Road has been in the news about the same time of inception with the Calabar-Itu Road. The road which is part of the Lagos-Algiers Road, otherwise called Trans Sahara road network, was awarded at the contract sum of N13.57billion and work was supposed to have commenced in 2014. By the time President Buhari emerged in 2015, only 15.9 per cent was said to be completed.

But because the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, who hails from the area, unlike Akwa Ibom’s Ita Enang and his self-preserving political rhetoric, has been as frank to his people as necessity should demand in drawing quality attention of the Presidency to the true situation of the road, today, the Ilorin-Jebba, linking the South-West and North-West, specifically giving those on the adjoining borders of Kwara and Niger States a great leap from associated inconveniences, is completed. Lai Muhammed’s commitment, always involving critical stakeholders irrespective of party affiliations in the agitation, is clearly seen both in action and utterances about the road.

To the curious and analytical, the ominous progression of the Calabar-Itu Road was even obvious right from the first term of this dispensation when the road was first said to be missing in the padded federal budget saga. But soon thereafter Mr. Fashola, then and still the Minister for Works, told the world that 54billion had been budgeted for the road, out of which about 6 to 11billion had already been released to Julius Berger in the first tranche. That was in 2017, to bother to be precise.

But the latest situation report, as it stands, is that nobody is cock-sure if even the smallest portion of the Calabar-Itu Road officially appears in any part of the original budget for 2020 that has been passed. Now, with the total collapse of this lone and ancient road, the only serving but rather more dangerous route is the Oron-Calabar River, where the best boats are tenably the worst in fair comparison with the kind of boats that should ply such a river this period of the of the year.

Ever since it was built in 1976 by Fougerole on engagement by the altruistic and pragmatic visionary, Brig. Gen. Udoakaha Jacob Esuene (1936 -1993), in his days as military governor of South Eastern State, the recycling catalogue of failed promises by successive administrations to reconstruct this road is as tall as the Obudu Mountains. Yet, according to the Works Minister, 2.8trillion was spent on federal roads in 2018 alone, making one wonder what percentage of that was spent on the neglected oil-gushing Calabar-Itu Road corridor, one of the arteries in the heart of the Niger Delta.

Or do we begin to hope and wait on a Senate bill that is on the way that will take road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance away from the Federal Government and place it in the hands of foreign and local investors? Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, Geshom Bassey, had hinted on this possibility.

For now, in sure expectation of traditional excuses the federal government is bound to offer, there lies greater hopelessness than lasting solution to the perennial deplorability of the Calabar-Itu Road should the proposed intervention by the current NDDC, like was the case during the Semenitari ad interim management, be made to last for some time which calculation the present administration shall have launched its swansong of unprecedented achievements.

No matter the volume of pretensions and promises driven by the conspiratorial and compatible duo of Sen. Ita Enang and Mr. BabatundeFashola in the interpretive taciturnity of the boss, it would be foolhardy to think that this administration will reconstruct the Calabar-Itu Road. There has been no manifest serious intention.

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