A National Media Team put together to embark on a nationwide assessment tour of all on-going federal road projects across the country at the instance of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing just completed its assignment in the Northeast. ABAH ADAH (Abuja) reports.
Free and easy movement of people, goods and services in locations in the north eastern part of Nigeria remains a nightmare to millions of residents in the region as collapsed federal roads has unleashed untold hardship on their lives.
This has not only weighed down their economic activities, it has exposed them to avoidable road accidents that has tormented them for years even before the emergence of insurgency that has almost crippled the entire region for over eight years now.
LEADERSHIP Friday visited some of the affected roads in the region and residents of communities along the areas expressed pains of having to endure what they called, the rigour of traveling a failed road.
They described it as frustrating and dehumanizing.
Some of the bad roads the people said are bad are the Hong-Maranban Mubi Road, Lamordi-Numan Road, Zing-Mayo-Bwlewa Road, Yola-Lafia Road in Adamawa State.
Others include; Jalingo-Wukari Road, Bali-Sarduana Road and Gboko-Wukari Road in Taraba and Benue States.
Other roads said to be in similar state in Borno State are the Biu-Gombi Road, Gwoza-Bama Road while several others are off use as they remained closed to traffic due to the activities of insurgents in the state.
In Yobe State, federal roads residents say are bad include Potiskum-Gombe Road, Damaturu-Gashu’a-Nguru Road, Potiskum-Maimari Road, Damaturu-Biu Road and Damaturu-Kano Road which is still under construction.
Federal roads in Bauchi State said to be in similar bad condition include the Bauchi-Gombe Road, Darazo Road leading to Yobe State. The Magama-Rishi-Rahama Road connecting to Kaduna is said to need the attention of the government.
Abubakar Liman, a trader who is very familiar with developments along major roads in the region told LEADERSHIP Friday that farmers and traders are worst hit by the dilapidated roads in the region.
“It is worse during the wet season where trucks get stuck in mud for days. Our goods perish and traders from other parts of the country who frequent our markets are now avoiding our areas for other places with safer roads.
“Boko Haram made things very difficult for us with their attacks but the roads are not helping matters either. It’s a double jeopardy for us here in the north east and has affected our life as a people,” he said.
Kefas Bitrus, a yam trader who shuttles between Gboko-Wukari-Jalingo, said the road is terrible and requires immediate attention of the federal government.
“We cannot be living like this. The federal roads especially the Wukari-Gboko Road and the one leading to the state capital, Jalingo are really bad. The state of the road is a serious impediment to our economic life and many people have lost their lives to road crashes. Drivers, while attempting to dodge pot holes end up ramming into incoming vehicles or run into ditches killing innocent lives,” Bitrus lamented.
Meanwhile, the minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in July 2017, unveiled the federal government’s established plans to build road and bridge network across the country as well as the order of priorities in which they would be built through a revolving plan in the next three years 2017- 2019.
Fashola reiterated that the intention was to connect states, drive economy, move fuel, food and import and export of goods.
The minister, while rolling the plans, said in addition to the plan for 44 federal highways construction contained in the 2017 Budget, government had also identified 63 roads in the First Quarter of the year that would be prepared for emergency intervention across the country ahead of the rainy season to give relief to Nigerians subject to appropriation.
According to him, the 63 roads were identified and prepared for intervention during the inspection tour of roads in 34 states of the federation by the ministry which he personally leads.
He said for the purpose of effective implementation, the federal government has classified the roads into Critical Economic Routes and Agricultural Routes to include all roads traversing geopolitical zones, advancing trade and commerce across the states and leading to the ports as well as those passing through agricultural areas across the country.
Noting that the road projects are spread out in such a way that no zone has been left out, Fashola listed the proposed priority highway projects slated in the 2017 Budget thus:
In the North East, the road projects the federal government included in the nationwide massive repairs and reconstructions are: Construction of bridge at KM 32 along Billiri Filiya in Taraba and the repair of Billiri-Filliya Road in Gombe, Potiskum-Agalda-Gombe State Border (S/B) and Potiskum-Kari-Bauchi S/B Road in Yobe State.
Also included in the list are Tella Road and Bridge 2 Abutment and Apawa-Junction-Zing-Adamawa (State Border) in Taraba State, Bauch-Darazo-Kari Road in Bauchi State, Numan-Lafia-Gombe State Border Road, Numan-Jalingo Road, Numan-Guyuk (Borno State Border) and Ngurore-Mayobelwa Road in Adamawa State.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari in January on his official Twitter account (@MBuhari) tweeted that: “Our focus in 2018 is infrastructure: roads, our railway projects, power, and airport concessions. We will intensify our efforts, and you will see progress.”
The President told Nigerians to expect development in the areas of roads, railway and power. Since then expectations has been high among communities in the region for the Presidents talk to materialise to action on their roads.
However, the National Media Team put together by the federal government on inspection of the projects in the North East zones, has scored the government high on actually walking the talk.
According to this correspondent, residents of some of the areas visited, especially those employed, expressed their joy even as the contractors confessed to receiving their payments regularly amidst improved security in the area.
“Work is currently ongoing on both the road and housing projects sites visited. Contract for the execution of some of the projects were awarded over a decade ago but progress of work was allegedly stalled due to non release of funds and, worst still, the insurgency that broke out uncontrollably in some parts of the area with its attendant cases of abduction, abusing and killing put a halt to the work.”
During the tour, the team (LEADERSHIP included) visited the N12 billion, 47km Tudun-Wuss-Wundi-Baraza-Durrzumbul-Polchi-Dot-Kwanar Road of contract No.6298 under construction at 2.5% completion; N7 billion, 38km Ningi-Yadgungume-Fuskar Mata Road Phase III of contract No. 6264 under construction in Bauchi State at 37% completion.
Others were the N7 billion, 38km Gombe-Numan-Yola Road phase II at 47% completion; construction of 14 billion (original contract sum), 73km Burga-Dull-Mbatt-II-Tandum-Gobbiya-Badagari-Gwaranga-Sum Road of contract No. 6308 at 9.55% completion; Rehabilitation of Tumu-Pindiiga-Kashere(Gombe State)-Futuk-Yalo (Bauchi State) Road/ Construction of 15km Yalo-Bashar-Dengi section (Buachi/Plateau States at 49% completion; Dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri Road sections II, III, IV, and V, all in the Northeast which are at various stages of completion.
There were also stop-over visit to several National Housing Programme sites within the zone where works were in progress and at various stages of completion. All the contracts, most of which have had their completion date extended for up to two, three, four times or more respectively, are scheduled for completion from the second half of 2018 to the end of 2019.
Speaking on the Burga –Sum road which has reached 2.5 per cent completion, the village head of Baraza, Buba Garba, said the project is one that is so important to his people who have suffered over the years due to lack access roads.
“We are happy and grateful to the President, and our son, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara for his facilitating role in the award of the contract. We are ready to reciprocate the gesture by cooperating with the contractor to ensure the project is completed on schedule,” he said.
Garba, who confirmed that so many of those who lost their properties to the project were yet to be given any compensation, however, urged government to consider paying them as soon as possible to enable them resettle properly.
Construction of Burga –Sum road whose contract sum is N12 billion began in May, 2017, and with a 24 months duration, it’s expected completion date is May, 2019, It has suffered time lapse of about 35 per cent-a situation the federal controller of Works in the state, Engr Charles Ezike, attributed largely to the flood experienced in the area during the rainy season while introducing the project to the team.
The project manager said the support being given his company by the federal government, especially in the area of fund and the cooperation of the indigenes have helped a lot in the progress made, assuring “we are ready to deliver this project on schedule”.
On the 37km section 3 of the Ningi-Fuskar Mata Road, the foreman who is an indigene, said “We have started reaping the benefit of this project already. “About 46 of us are employed on this site alone. As for me, after I came out of school, I got this job with the company,” he said.
During the inspection, it was discovered that the section of the project which was given out in four phases already had phases 1 and 2 completed, while the on-going phase 3 which has an extended completion date of 16th December, 2019, is 39 per cent completed.
The contractor handling the construction of the Yalo-Bashar-Dengi Road through Bauchi and Plateau States has assured of the capacity to complete the project on schedule provided the challenges that have stalled the construction of the bridges involved over time is resolved in good time.
While collaborating, the project manager, Majdy Jarad who told the team that he has no fund challenge with the ministry at all, and that he has about a hundred indigenous employees including two engineers working with him, said he is capable of delivering by the extended completion date of 27th July, 2018.
The rehabilitation of Tumu-Pindiga-Kashere (Gombe State)-Futuk (Bauchi State) road and construction of Yalo-Bashar-Dengi section (Bauchi/Plateau States) contract No. 6214 with project length of 15km which was awarded at the sum of N3, 076, 381,622, 747.2 with the commencement date of 30th January, 2014 is currently at 49.56 per cent completion. With the initial completion date of 29th July, 2015 extended to 27th July, 2018, the contract period became 54 months, and so far the percentage time lapse is 89 per cent.
The initial plan for the three span bridges of 15 metre each involved in the project was construct them with 45 metre breadth, but along the line, it was realised that the waters across which the bridges are to be built tend to change their course through seasons, and there was a call for a new arrangement to have them built at 100 metres breadth in order to avoid any problem that may result from the change of course in future.
However, the Director, Highway, North East Zone in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Engr Rufai Muhammed, said the bridge issue is almost resolved by the concerned unit in the ministry, adding that a new approach would soon be adopted to ensure that the contractor continues the work without further hitches.
Another project visited in the area is the Gombe-Numan-Yola road phase 2 began in January, 2015 at a contract sum of over N7 billion with a completion date 23rd December, 2019, currently at 47 per cent completion.
In his remark after going round with the team, the director of Works, North East, Engr Rufai Muhammed, expressed satisfaction with the level of progress made on on-going federal roads in the zone, adding the government is prepared to give contractors all the necessary supports to enable them deliver on schedule.
“As you have seen, all the contractors were on site, working. The quality of work I saw is Ok. They have all affirmed that they are not being owed and have made commitment to complete work on schedule, so what is needed is for the tempo to be maintained. Government on its part has made the commitment of continuous support.
“About three years ago, these contractors abandoned the sites, largely because they were being owed and security was nothing to write home about. Now they confirmed to you that the debts have been cleared and they are being paid regularly amidst improved security and you can see the speed and quality of the work being done, and the zeal with which the people, skilled and unskilled, who confessed to have been gainfully employed, are going about their work. Indeed, I am highly satisfied,” Engr Muhammed said.