By Aplefe Ojong
Cross Riverians and road users living along and plying the Ugep-Alesi section of the Calabar-Ikom highway have complained about the pace of rehabilitation work on that section of the road currently been handled by SERMATECH Nigeria limited.
This is coming less than a month after the construction company began asphalting the road, a few weeks after legal practitioner and activists, Okoi Obono-Obla wrote the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) demanding for details of the contract with rising complains over the state of the road despite what a respondent, Benedict Adah calls “the hypocritical presence of SERMATECH to fool people into thinking they are really working.”
Speaking to CrossRiverWatch at the Ovonum axis of the highway, Benedict says “The fact these guys begin work late in the day, between the hours of 2 and 3 pm only to close by 8 or 9pm shows hypocrisy, they are not ready to work.”
Findings by CrossRiverWatch reveal that, apart from rehabilitating the culverts, less than 10 kilometres of the road has actually been rehabilitated as only the axis spanning from the Ovonum in Obubra campus of CRUTECH to Iyamoyong has been tarred while areas such as Ochon, Ofat, Ofordua in Obubra, Ugep, Ekori, Mkpani and Nko in Yakurr and a section of Okuni in Ikom local government areas are still in bad shape with no work going on there.
When this reporter (who posed as a job seeker) visited the company’s project office located in Obubra, it was deserted with the security personnel denying this reporter entry into the facility with the excuse there was no one to attend to the reporter.
Other road users who spoke with CrossRiverWatch say they can’t wait for the total execution of the project which is hoped, will cut down the number of man hours wasted on that section of the highway.
It will be recalled that, the contract for the rehabilitation of the Ugep – Alesi section of the Calabar – Ikom highway was awarded to SERMATECH NIGERIA LIMITED on December 11, 2014 for the sum of N9,168,931,117.00k (Nine billion, one hundred and sixty eight million, nine hundred and thirty one thousand one hundred and seventeen Naira only).
The date for the commencement of the contract was January 24, 2015 to be completed January 23, 2017. As at January 2016, the Ministry of Works, Housing and Power in a letter with reference number WX/42777/T/38 dated January 15, 2016 to the law firm of Okoi Obono-Obla said less than 4 percent of the job had been done in 11 months.
This is despite the payment of N1,725,852,473.50k (One billion, seven hundred and twenty five million, eight hundred and fifty two thousand, four hundred and seventy three Naira and fifty kobo) to SERMATECH so far of the total contract sum which represents almost 20 percent of the total contract sum.
According to a letter dated January 25, 2016, emanating from the South South zonal office of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency and signed by the Director, Highways South-South, Engr C.O. Uzo also to the law firm of Okoi Obono-Obla, the contract which is tagged Contract No, 6263 showed that N1,309,740,053.50k was paid as advanced payment in December 2014, with an additional N416,112,421.00k paid totaling N1,725,852,473.50k.
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