The Federal government has finally begun the construction of a new bridge in Ikom Local Government Area of Cross River State after many decades of foot-dragging since the collapse of colonialism in Nigeria. The move is aimed at preventing a possible collapse of the current one.
The Controller in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in the state, Bassey Nsentip, an engineer, made this known during an inspection tour of the section two of the Calabar – Ikom – Katsina-Ala highway which is currently under rehabilitation.
According to Nsentip, a large chunk of the almost 330 kilometers of road is currently being rehabilitated, adding, ‘’the existing bridge was built in the colonial time. We have had some issues with the bridge and it is obsolete now because the headroom does not allow articulated vehicles with high payload to pass because of that thrust system.’’
Continuing, he said accidents have been recorded due to the fact that many drivers do not know that the headroom is low added that: ‘’The piles have started showing signs of failure and that is why the federal government decided to build a new bridge to prevent possible catastrophe in the future.
‘’Where we are now is the second section from Ogoja where we have Abuochiche to Mbok junction and there is a contractor working there right now. From Mbok junction to Ikom four corners is in good service condition.
‘’From Ikom to Iyamoyong is the stretch handled by this contractor, the CCECC. It is about 50 kilometers. The contractor has been working and has covered about 71 percent of the road. They just scarified this stretch which will be followed up with earth works and pavement works.’’
Though work is being put on hold till after the Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for February 23, 2019 due to the policy directive handed over to the contractor by Abuja, the top ministry official however, lamented the improper usage as well as sabotage of road infrastructure by residents and called on Nigerians to desist from such acts.
He said, ‘’we will like to advise the public to make good use of these facilities. When government builds roads, it helps develop our economy and improve our social lives. For example, between Iyamoyong and Ugep that we have finished, people are driving at max speed and we hear cases of accidents, so we advise that people should be conscious of the road signs and markings that we put there that will guide them on how to drive on federal highways.
‘’Another thing is the issue of abuse of federal highways. People just go and begin to cut across the road without taking permission. Maybe, they are building houses and they want to cross their water service pipes across the road or cables or whatever, they just go and begin to cut the road without taking permission. And when you do that, it (the road) is not properly protected. When the rains come, water will get in there and it will begin to spoil again.’’
Those who know better say this project was awarded in 2009 and scheduled to be completed within 24 months.
Director of Federal Highways in charge of the South-South zone in the ministry, Godwin Eke, an engineer, explained that the delay in the kick off of the project was due to bureaucratic processes among others.
‘’One, we have the issue of funding. Number two, we have the issue of the contractor accessing the place; what we call taking position in the right of way. In some areas you see these electric poles, they need to be relocated. The contractor cannot come and start working, you need to give him access to work and these things take time. You see buildings on the road, you have to demolish them and you have to compensate the owners, these things take time to package and pay.
‘’These are the issues and then you have the problem of inclement weather, you know last year we had very very bad weather. So, when you package all these things together, they are some of the causes of delay in contracts. You also have the issue of procurement. You don’t just go and award a contract without procuring it, you must follow the laws ok procurement’’, Eke said.
He has expressed satisfaction with the quality of job done, adding that the roads which are expected to last for more than fifteen years often suffer due to wrong usage, a situation he said the ministry plans to tackle.
According to Eke, ‘’we have specifications and what we call the legal axle load. But, most of these vehicles, a lot of them are overloaded and we are trying to enforce the legal axle load now. We also have what we call the ECOWAS protocol because we are in ECOWAS, we cannot be doing a different thing different from the ECOWAS.
‘’So if we enforce the axle load, these roads will last longer. But you know our people, enforcement is a problem, we only have to appeal to them. In the civilised world you don’t even have to appeal to anybody, they follow the rules and regulations. The question of axle load in the lifespan of a road is very important.’’