A radio station in Rivers State is incessantly and wholeheartedly presenting a programme – “Go Slow Matter”. Telephone lines are opened for information on the subject matter. People from all walks of life in the state either call or send the presenter with text messages anytime the programme was on, to inform where there is or no traffic-jam in the state (popularly called go-slow). This Reporter takes a very perspicuous investigation of the many “go-slow” in the state.
A look at the menace of dilapidated roads in Rivers State under the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government could be likened to contributing to the enlarged enragement of many people. Many of them have become immune to hardship that surrounds Port Harcourt – the state capital – and its environs. For example, the residents of Ada George have been shouting on top of the roof about the ill-condition of their road. Just to mention but a few, a place like Oyigbo is a story with hypothesis thus: ‘entering Oyigbo from a clean town is like entering a place that is marginalized and totally forgotten by any meaningful government.’
However, the state government has assured the people of Ada George that the contract for their road had been awarded only that the contractor is waiting for the rain to subside. While that lasted, a political opposition party in the state has since criticized the whereabouts of funds allegedly allocated for the habitual road maintenance in the state through the “Road Rehabilitation Agency” under Chidi Wihoka. Again, the party criticized the whereabouts of funds for the ‘Zero Pothole Tolerance’ of the Ministry of Works underneath the regulation of the instantaneous past Commissioner of Works, Dakuku Peterside. According to the party, these agencies had produced nothing. But here is the government waiting for the rains to subside before it embarks on road-work, without prior sending its sniffing dogs to investigate the matter.
It was noted that the agencies for the maintenance of the roads allegedly betrayed the trust reposed on them by doing gigantic ugly jobs, which resultant effects are the useless roads people are enduring that are contributing to Rivers’ Go-slow. Like the alleged misappropriation of funds directed for roads maintenance in the state, investigations also revealed that Rivers State scholarship students in Malaysia are allegedly crying to the state government over the non-payment of their allowances and school fees resulting to their suffering in the faraway land.
“Who is in-charge of their allowance?” is a big question many people are asking. It was a shock to note through investigations that the authorities of the institutions they are studying in, allegedly want to stop them from going to school. This is a pathetic story. And the students fear is that if the government delays to answer to their clarion calls for assistance, the students’ visas given them may be cancelled, not minding the alleged report that most of them have been thrown out of their houses. This boiled-down to the alleged lack of payment of house rents by the students. Therefore, the source has it that they are crying to the state government as a matter of urgency to come to their aid, regretting their sojourn to Malaysia with the aphorism: “life is not that rosy outside Nigeria especially in Malaysia.”
Notwithstanding, their journey to Malaysia was not expected to be rosy and cozy for them owing to controversies that trailed the scholarship. And now it has been revealed that these students only depend on the allowances to survive. Nothing more than this! Therefore, some of those whose persons are said to be affected in the Utopian scholarship in Malaysia are calling on the state government to come to their aid. But their fear now is whether the ministry or agency concerned for their welfare would act with integrity if funds are channeled to it by the government to see to their plight.
In the same manner the students were alleged to be in a “Go-slow” scholarship in Malaysia, so also their kiths and kins are abundantly sharing in the “Go-slow” trouble in Rivers State, especially on the roads upon the hope of “dualisation and reconstruction” of the roads by the state government. This has brought the question about where “all the major Urban Roads projects to form a connecting link within Port Harcourt and its environs” are.
This government, it’s noted, has seldom identified and built all the rural roads, not taking to cognizance its promise, to make all communities in the state accessible by road. Somebody who claimed anonymity asked: “What about the reclamation project?” The repairing of distress spots on roads, construct and sanitize drains whilst linking storm water to appropriate discharge points amongst many other project executions, all have been said, lacked sustenance as soon as they were born.
The faux headed problem of poor road network, flooding, difficult terrain, traffic congestion etc. have all not terminated in Rivers State upon the state government’s full-bodied budgetary provision of a minimum of about N100 billion yearly to tackle these challenging issues. Upon these, all that have been heard was that Hon. Peterside had maintained that “the vision of this administration on road development was a Rivers State where all communities were accessible by quality roads and infrastructure all year round.” A notable Rivers man who pleaded for anonymity reacted this way: “Hogwash! Where are the “quality” roads?” He vented this anger when contacted to comment on the road projects in the state.
He therefore swore that the state government’s boasts to actualize its vision of building an unprecedented Rivers State is still aloof, very far because of what he described as the manner and measure with which some persons handling the different projects in the state were/are making the projects to Go-slow.
Under Peterside, it was noted that government through the Ministry of Works, awarded over 195 long-queue contracts. These comprised of over 900km of road, four flyovers/interchange, 10 major bridges and 20 minor bridges, five land reclamation/shore embarkment, two ultra modern market building, the Rumuwoji (Mile I Market) and Port Harcourt town markets, yet the residents are crying of the activities government not-in-sight in their different communities.
Road dualisation or duplication in Rivers State was aimed at easing traffic, yet virtually all the roads in the state, traffic congestion and the pains experienced daily by people on the roads is gradually becoming a culture. The roads the state government reportedly embarked on dualising were to include Rumuokwuta –Choba East West road at a cost of about N8.8 billion; Airport- Isiokpo-Omerelu road at a whooping cost of N21 billion; the Ada George phase I & II – Choba phase 11- NTA- Choba- Airport road at a cost of N10 billion.
Reports show that others include Abuja Mile 3 by-pass 1.075km, Tam David-West Airport road 13.5km, Slaughter Oginiba Rumuobiakani road 3.1km, Rumuola Rumuokwta orad 2.1km, Igbo-Etche/Eneka road, Rumuokuta Mgbuoba Choba Road, Rumukurushi –Eneka – Igwuruta, Eastern by pass Amadi-Ama/Oginiba 5.7km, Ogu Eteo 6km, Prof Okujagu 2km, Okrika Ring Road 4.5km, Rumuorlu Okeah Rumuwoke off Ada George 5.11km, Rumuosi Rumuakeni Aluu 6km, Okehi II Ndashi 14.1km, Rumuagholu Extension to Prof Tam David West Road 3.5km, Rumuogholu road and adjourning Streets 10km etc. This is a long list of roads, amongst others, that have been reported in many local and international journals that works were/are on, but investigations reveal that it is muddled with less tangible result to show on majority of them since three years and some months of the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State.
masses were once informed that the government was working on these roads because of what it termed as “in the quest to further address the perennial road congestion on our roads.” Many residents, however, are not in tandem to grapple with the roads the government said it embarked on their construction known as huge link roads. Some, notwithstanding have said that the roads are said to be the N20billion Ogoni, Adoni and Opobo/Nkoro Unity Road, which the government have claimed would link the rural communities by road to the Urban and Semi-Urban.
It was noted that the Unity Road was to link about 30 communities separated by water in the Rivers East senatorial district of the state, as the name implies, on completion, stretching a distance of about 41km on swamp with 10 bridges. According to the government, “This project is often referred to as road on water because of the swampy terrain and the many rivers that were crossed by bridges.”
The Trans- Kalabari Highway was said to be designed for a total road length of about 47-6km at the cost of about N9.2 billion excluding the bridges, and when completed, will link the several areas of Kalabari Kingdom to Port Harcourt. But in January 18, 2010, a report – “Amaechi’s Dilemma” – was succinct that the governor had expressed his frustrations and his government’s failures during a chat with Rivers stakeholders and the media.
It was noted that Amaechi laid bare his feelings on the grim realities confronting his administration while presenting the 2010 proposed budget estimate of N429 billion to the state House of Assembly on 23 December 2009. Prominent among his worries was the drop from the state’s 2009 budget of N432.28 billion in the 2010 fiscal estimate. According to investigations, this was due to the reduction of revenue from the Federation Account as a result of the ceding of about 200 oil wells from the state to Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa and other bordering states by the National Boundary Commission, NBC, and the Revenue Allocation, Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (which that of Akwa Ibom 86 oil wells ceded to her have been reclaimed by Rivers State recently, 2011).
The “go-slow” continues with the incapacitation of the indigenes given contracts to deliver in Rivers State and this was the greatest Amaechi’s dilemma. Because they are indigenes, reports alleged that Amaechi has found it very hard to be decisive on what to do about the recalcitrant indigenous contractors. (However, he has recently braved-up and sacked that of the refuse indigenous contractors).
Investigations revealed that these contractors have the attitude to messing up construction contracts given to them. Many residents however have asked why Amaechi was lamenting that his “fellow indigenes” have failed him in his government. This followed his several lamentation in many sessions that contracts worth over N10bn for the construction of the trans-Kalabari highway that would link all the Kalabari local government areas awarded by former governor Peter Odili, were awarded to prominent Kalabari sons who, after collecting 40 per cent mobilization, started raising security concerns as excuse for abandoning the project. Amaechi has wondered why indigenes of a particular area could cross their hearts and stake their integrity, only for them to abandon the projects or do shoddy jobs that would not benefit their people. And an anonymous said: “Maybe, they are waiting for the rains to subside before they do a proper job.” But Amaechi had warned: “No contractor can take the people’s money and go scot-free. I am not ready to go to jail for anybody. Those who abandon their contracts would be made to refund the money collected. When they refuse to comply, I will mention their names to you, the media.”
The cry has not yet grows less. The Abuloma-Worji Road project which was said, when completed, will link the Abuloma/Worji axis to Akpajo at the East West road, has been characterized as a sorry tale. This project was noted, stretched a distance of 2km and comprise of a 187m bridge with sand-filling to the depth of about 9m due to its swampy terrain. The story of the government was, “In pursuance to decongest roads notorious for traffic congestion government embarked on the construction of flyovers/interchange.”
When the Eleme Junction flyover which was touted as the most prominent being the N7.2 billion interchange with the purpose of solving the unrelieved traffic was built, there were appraisals of it decongesting traffic jam at the mighty oil mill market and Eleme junction axis that links the State with other neigbouring state as Abia, yet the aim of that project has been defeated as police took advantage of the flyover on the Aba Road to conduct checks on motorists thereby often causing untold “go-slow”.
At the Agip-Rumueme Abacha road junction where a 400 meter bridge was under construction at the cost of over N3.9 billion to ease the chaotic traffic problem in that axis, are not singing a different song of the “go-slow”. The Eliozu-Olu Obasanjo Bypass flyover bridge at N2.1 billion and the Eastern Bypass/Amadi-Ama bridge rehabilitation at the cost of N200 million etc., Bridge project have not seen a concrete work too.
Many projects that abound in the state, some of which are the over N1.2 billion Orashi Steel bridge project, which the government informed will on completion link the communities on the two sides of Orashi River at Idu. “Other such bridges awarded by previous administration but paid for by this regime are the Abalama bridge, Iloabuchi Eagle Island and Ndoni bridge etc,” the information goes on and on.
There is no ruling out that some of the projects have been completed, but their sophistications are questionable. According to the former Commissioner for Works, at least, one to three road projects were being constructed in the rural communities in all the 23 Local Government Areas (LGA), and where no road project were ongoing, land reclamation projects and shore embarkment projects executed. Also, the constructions of some drainage are not in the amiss.
These were to include drainage along the UTC-Azikiwe-Lagos Bus-stop. This was handled by Lubric Construction Company. The purpose of this project was chronicled to channel storm water that settles at the CBN entrance causing flooding at that axis to discharge into the Abonnema wharf River, but the government has shrugged itself of blames about the recent flooding in the state and hinged it on the metrological reports that said the state would be in for ultra-flooding.
An area that has been affected heavily by the flooding in the different parts of the state is also the Ikwerre Road, where a project was reported by the government, stretched from Education Bus-Stop to University of Science and Technology (UST) round about. This project whether completed or on completion, has not addressed the problem of flooding in that axis, with its heralded three discharge points at Okiji, Ekuku and UST round about by Abuja Bypass, the Saro Wiwa Road (Stadium Road). The Rumuomasi flooding has not been taken care of even when the government said it would be taken care of by the Saro Wiwa road project which it said, when completed, would discharge storm water into the Ntawoba stream.
While all the roads dualization or duplication projects in the state were reportedly intended with well planned drainages targeted at channeling storm water into natural drainages/streams/Rivers etc., Rivers State has been in for intense flooding upon the addition of the set-up of an inter-ministerial committee aimed at de-flooding the state with a mandate to decontaminate lumped drains under Peterside.
The then commissioner had said that to achieve this, the services of five reputable contractors were engaged to handle the zero pothole job, but this has been deconstructed as a project tha
t did not meet the eyes by many people and organizations in the state. It was learnt that to achieve this tall dream, Port Harcourt was divided into five zones with each contractor handling a zone. The phase II of the programme cost the government N1 billion.
Rivers State, as at today, government said needed N250 billion Bond currently being sought from the capital market before October, 2011. The governor raised hope in the unsuspecting residents, saying that “Rivers State is buoyant enough to handle projects that would impact positively on its people….The proposed size of the first tranche of the bond will be about 100 billion naira with five years tenures, whereas the total bond programme of 250 billion naira is envisaged over the next several months.” This statement was contained in a press briefing from the desk of the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, David Iyofor, on 31st July, 2011.
People are asking the need for this money which has been said would be coupled to supporting definite developmental projects in the state, which has been the same aged-long developmental projects the government has been priding about works on that included the Greater Port Harcourt City, the Port Harcourt Monorail project, the new Rivers State University of Science and Technology Phase 1, Monte@Rivers (an entertainment complex), the Port Harcourt Ring Road that would connect the old city and Greater Port Harcourt city, and a new M-10 Highway; a beltway that would link the Port Harcourt International Airport to the Onne Sea port.
Against those surroundings, some people still cannot hide their love for the governor, saying that if there was another term allowed by the constitution for elective office holders after serving two term of four years each, Amaechi is qualified many time to go back. “Oh, my God! This guy is driving me crazy with his policies and visions…” a Rivers man said.