Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The era of dilapidated roads in Abia may have been over as a construction giant, Julius Berger Construction Company, has commenced inspection of the strategic but impassable Port Harcourt Road Aba.
This is coming barely one week after the Managing Director of Julius Berger Dr Lars Ritcher, met with the Governor-Elect, Dr Alex Otti, in his Nvosi Isiala Ngwa South country home.
Otti had during his campaign tours, promised to engage Grade A construction firms in the state if voted into power.
A team of engineers from Julius Berger inspected the 5.9-kilometre Port Harcourt Road Aba to determine the level of its dilapidation for a possible reconstruction.
Although a federal road, the strategic road serves as a major entry route to the Enyimba City from Port Harcourt in Rivers State, and as an exit route from the Enyimba City to Port Harcourt.
A number of major markets in Aba including Ngwa Road Market, Cemetery Road Market where provisions are distributed can easily be accessed through the Port Harcourt Road.
During the inspection, the team from the construction giant along with newsmen, trekked for hours from No1 Port Harcourt Road all the way to the Alaoji end of the 5.9-kilometer stretch.
They were cheered by excited residents and traders who were curious to see any meaningful intervention on the road.
Ikengaonline observed that the road had totally collapsed at some points.
Ponds had also taken over parts of the road while the Crystal Park Junction nearly opposite to the famous National High School Aba, had been converted to a refuse dump.
Stench oozing out from the mountain of refuse dump poses serious health hazards to residents.
It was equally observed that majority of the buildings around the area and adjourning streets have been abandoned and deserted by their former occupants due to lack of motorable access road.
Even though a federal road, Abia State Government in 2017, awarded contract for its rehabilitation but the project looks abandoned as no sign of construction is observed on ground.
Apart from the sight of demolished buildings along the road and few kilometers of water channels, there is no other sign that work is going on on the road.
Member representing Aba South state constituency, Hon Obinna Ichita, has been having a running battle with the State Government over the$27.4 billion World Bank fund for the road and other key infrastructural projects in Aba.
The lawmaker has been challenging the State Government to account for the largesse even as there has been public outcry over deplorable condition of some strategic roads in the commercial city.
Fielding questions from newsmen after the assessment tour, Otti said that he would not award any contract in secret but transparently follow due process and make every process bare to members of the public.
The governor-elect who spoke through his Special Adviser Media, Mr Ferdinand Ekeoma, said that his administration would always be accountable to the people.
Otti who noted with regret the deplorable condition of the strategic road said his administration would engage reputable ‘Grade A’ construction companies to fix Abia roads.
He explained that he decided to bring in Julius Berger to assess the road in fulfillment of his campaign promises, adding that discussions are still on-going for the formal engagement of the construction giant to fix the road.
“During the campaigns, Otti promised to bring reputable construction companies to Abia to build our roads. This is what he has done by bringing Julius Berger to inspect the condition of the road. Discussions are going on.”
“During the inspection, we trekked from No 1 Port Harcourt Road to Alaoji end. We saw the tragedy that has befallen our people. Now that Julius Berger has first hand information on the road, we expect to do the needful in a matter of weeks.”
Asked if Otti who is yet to be sworn in as Governor, had awarded any contract, he said: “We are not going to award contracts in secrecy.”
“When it’s awarded, Abians will know everything including the cost and the millage. There will be nothing to hide because Government should be answerable to the people.
“But the most important thing is that Julius Berger and other reputable grade one construction firms are coming to handle projects in Abia.”
Otti who said that Port Harcourt Road “is very strategic” to the economic survival of the state, vowed to give it and other key strategic roads in the commercial city a face lift.
“This road is very strategic to our people. So many people have buildings here but unfortunately they have been abandoned due to the deplorable condition of the road. Residents of adjoining roads are also affected.
“Otti considers it a top priority to begin with Port Harcourt Road while discussions are on-going on other roads. Julius Berger will handle strategic roads including Obohia Road. Otti has made a firm promise to use grade A reputable companies to execute road projects that will stand the test of time.”
Otti who noted with concern the fate of the owners of the demolished buildings, said he would dialogue with them.
“There will be a holistic analysis of what happened concerning demolished structures along the road.
“Based on what we gathered, a lot of houses were demolished without any compensation to the owners. Most of the demolished buildings are far from the road. Ordinarily, you have no reason demolishing the buildings but because Government was not thorough, articulate and humane.
“It should have sat with the contractor to know whether those buildings actually encroached on the road. They didn’t take those things into consideration but went on demolition spree.”
Otti who regretted that some of the owners of the affected property had died out of frustration, said he would like to “interact with them to know what to do to ameliorate their sufferings.”