The re-election seeking President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently battling to douse tension in Cross River State over his administration’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
In a bid to win their electoral support, he is offering to execute some road projects that are dear to the electorate. To demonstrate that he means business in spite of the blunder of his administration on Onnoghen, the Federal Government on Monday commenced the rehabilitation of the 73 kilometers Odukpani junction – Akpet 1 section of the Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja – Katsina-Ala highway.
Voters have been protesting in the state over the suspension of Onnoghen by the Buhari administration. One of such peaceful protests was organised a seeming ad-hoc group, No Sidon Look, in Calabar, the state capital.
During their protest march, Leonard Anyogo, a lawyer, claimed that the action of the Buhari administration on Onnoghen was unconstitutional and an assault on the sacred temple of justice.
The protesters are demanding that to get their votes, the APC presidential candidate ‘’must’’ apologise to Nigerians and to the state as well as reinstate of the suspended CJN with all his rights and privileges and observe due process and the respect for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 73 kilometers road was however, constructed in 1975. Forty-three years after, Abuja last November 14, approved the award of contract for its rehabilitation valued at N14,017,170,597.90k.
While performing the flag off ceremony at Akpet 1 in Biase Local Government Area Power, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola who was represented by the Minister of State, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, said the road deteriorated due to ‘’frequent usage by industrialists.’’
The road links the industrial town of Akamkpa, to the Biase – Yakurr road. According to Shehuri, ‘’the shoulders of the road have been eroded completely, while the entire alignment is riddled with alligator cracks, as well as characterised by potholes. The completion of the project, will greatly reduce vehicle operations and maintenance cost, improve travel time, reduce accidents as well as loss of lives and properties.
‘’It will also greatly enhance the socio – economic wellbeing of the people along the corridor, generate employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labor and assist in the fight against armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crime prevalent within the area.’’
While charging the contractor to adhere ‘’strictly to contractual agreement by completing the road as scheduled, in conformity with approved design and specifications’’, the minister also acknowledged the co-operation of Governor Ben Ayade, whom he said contributed towards the take off of the project.
Apart from site clearance of the shoulders, scarification of existing failed carriageway as well as the provision, placing and compacting of naturally occurring lateritic material as filling for embankment, the contractor is also expected to provide, place and compact crushed stone base course in compacted thickness of 200mm; placing of MC0 or MC1 on carriageway and shoulders on both sides; provide and lay 60mm asphaltic concrete binder course; provide and lay 40mm thick asphaltic concrete wearing course and the provision and laying of 2 layers of surface dressing on shoulders; provision of concrete lined drains; desilting of blocked culverts and provision of reinforced concrete pipe culverts.
The Director, Highway Construction and Rehabilitation in the ministry, Yemi Oguntominiyi, an engineer, in his remarks said the road has for years, ‘’been in a state of disrepair and has had numerous complaints from the public including the Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union.”
He pointed out that the project will be completed within 24 calendar months, adding, ‘’the scope of works involves the full rehabilitation of the road and shoulders with asphaltic concrete. The flag-off ceremony being held today marks the formal commencement of the rehabilitation works and is another milestone in this administration’s commitment to the provision of motorable roads across the federation.’’
The contracting firm handling the project, Sermatech Nigeria Limited commended President Buhari for signing Executive Order five which has aided the growth of indigenous construction companies.
Managing Director, Isioma Eziashi, in his remarks said the state has never had it so good in terms of road rehabilitation from the federal government since he began operations a decade ago in the state. Earlier, he had identified funding as a problem in an interview however contradicted himself during his remarks at the event and said that funding has always being made available.
For Governor Ayade who was represented by Works Commissioner, Dane Osim-Asu, it was prove that the state enjoys a cordial relationship with the federal government despite differences in political affiliations, pointing out that there has been an improvement in the state of roads since his principal assumed office.
Paramount Ruler of Biase, Onun Nicholas Odum and the Obol Lopon of Ugep, Ofem Ubana in their remarks hailed the decision of the Buhari administration to rehabilitate the road 43 years after it was constructed.
Before the Monday flag off, the federal Controller of Works in the state, Bassey Nsetip had said that the about 250 kilometers stretch of the 330 kilometers Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja federal highway was being rehabilitated by Abuja with three different contractors handling the project.
The contracts were originally awarded in January 2015 with a duration of 24 months but the projects were stalled due to lack of funding.