Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
There was eruption of joy in Aba on Thursday as Governor Alex Otti awarded the construction of the all-important Port Harcourt Road Aba to Julius Berger.
The 6.5 kilometer road was awarded to the construction giant at the tune of N30 billion.
This would be the first time Julius Berger would be engaged by the State Government for road projects since the creation of Abia 32 years ago.
Port Harcourt Road Aba which is the major entry and exit point to the Enyimba City from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has literally collapsed and remained inaccessible for decades.
Many buildings including schools and residential houses in the area have been abandoned due to lack of access road.
Ponds and weeds have taken over parts of the road while some parts have been converted into refuse dumps by residents.
Peeved by the deplorable condition of the road, Gov. Otti shortly after his emergence even before his inauguration brought the Management of Julius Berger to evaluate the road, promising to fix it after assumption of office.
Four months after his swearing in, the Governor has made real his promise.
Aba residents thronged out in their numbers to witness the flag-off of the road project on Thursday.
Speaking at the event, Otti said the era of using Abia as example of under development was over.
He said that the road when rehabilitated, would revive economic activities in Aba.
Ikengaonline reports that Port Harcourt Road Aba which was constructed during the adminstration of the late Sam Mbakwe of Old Imo State was once a bustling hub for economic activities but has seriously deteriorated over the past two decades due to neglect by successive administrations.
In his speech titled “Building on a Solid Rock of Excellence,” Governor Otti expressed his unwavering commitment to restore the road to its former glory.
He emphasised that the reconstruction was not a mere political gesture for short-term gain but a holistic effort to restore the road’s durability and economic significance.
The Governor said his administration enlisted the expertise of Julius Berger PLC; a renowned civil engineering company in Nigeria with a reputation for delivering landmark projects, to ensure the highest quality was achieved.
He said Abia stands to benefit much from the rehabilitation of the road due to its economic importance.
“I am glad that we are taking yet another strategic step in fulfilling one of my major campaign promises which is to permanently break the jinx of Port Harcourt Road Aba and revive the long-abandoned economic activities along this corridor, activities that once gave Aba a set of peculiar advantages, starting from the early 1980s when our revered leader, Dee Sam Mbakwe, Governor of Old Imo State, constructed this road to feed into the expansion of the booming oil industrial complex in Port Harcourt,”he said.
Otti said that he was partly fulfilled that we have reached another milestone in what had been a very long process which started immediately after his victory on the 22nd of March 2023.
He pledged to complete the payment to Julius Berger on schedule to avoid any setbacks arising from delayed payment, adding that the project has a delivery timeline of 18 months.
“My expectation is that whatever needs to be done to meet the target would be done, including working round the clock. On our own part, we have set up a robust financing structure to see that we complete the payment on schedule to eliminate any setbacks arising from payment delays,” Otti pointed out.
Governor Otti who expressed gratitude to the people of Aba for their patience and commitment to genuine change, urged them to cooperate fully with the construction team, assuring that the short-term sacrifices would lead to long-term benefits for the economic nerve center of the state.
The Governor further said that his administration’s ambition is to reset the fundamentals of the city by improving economically significant roads, waste management, and various social infrastructure as well as creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, create jobs and reduce poverty.
He assured the people of that his administration was dedicated to delivering on its promises adding that the forthcoming months would witness a significant transformation in the city’s infrastructure and economic landscape.
In his remarks, the Group managing Director Julius Berger Nigeria Limited, Dr Lars Richter, promised to deliver the project based on specification, describing the project as another milestone for the 4 months old administration of Governor Alex Otti.
He commended Governor Alex Otti for his commitment to the infrastructural revolution of the state and thanked him for choosing Julius Berger to be part of his rebuilding agenda in the state.
In an interview, some business owners and road users including Mr Peter Azubuike and Mathias Ogbonna, said that the road was strategic to the economic rejuvenation of Aba as it is the home of major fabrication outlets and heavy equipment.
They described Governor Otti as truly on a mission to rebuild Abia.