By Our Correspondent
In a bid to re-energize and increase footfalls into the famous Obudu ranch resort as well as provide access to produce markets, Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, weekend, flagged off construction work on a 134 kilometers Mfom-Okpoma-Imaje-Bekwarra-Obudu-Obanliku dual carriage road.
The construction of the Federal road which will traverse the five local government areas that constitute the Northern Senatorial District of the state is valued at N31 billion and it is expected to be completed in 30 months.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony that was attended by his deputy, Prof Ivara Esu, House of Representatives members from the five local government areas, traditional rulers as well as a huge crowd of indigenes from the five local government areas of Bekwarra, Yala, Ogoja, Obudu and Obanliku, Ayade said the event marks “the beginning of a new journey in the history of the Northern Senatorial District which for 45 years has been denied the luxury of driving on good roads occasioned by the challenges of the times and circumstances not occasioned by our people.”
Ayade lamented that due to this the “people are totally disconnected from the point of mercantile, social interactions and indeed all prospects that give people dignity.
“Our economic life is completely gone, our large farms that fed the entire South-South and South-East is gone. Our educational institutions and all that united us have gone as a result of perpetual neglect and bad roads, but God has brought us again to take our destiny into our hands that we shall be reconnected and be united.”
The governor further declared: “We will succeed because I know the trying moments of my people, difficulty in gaining access to farm lands, locating streams, coupled with harsh weather condition is over. They toil so much, pray so hard struggle so much but earn so little. God cannot forsake us at this point.”
On the state’s financial power to embark on such a massive road project, Ayade explained: “At this trying time, a time of recession, it is almost impossible to do over 134 kilometres of a dual carriage road at the cost of N31 billion. That is absolutely impossible within the ambit of our financial calculus.
“However, there is an intellectual architecture that I am designing to make up for these financial difficulties. It is so unique that only I know the solution. We cannot wait to have enough money to get the road done. If that was the case we will not have the salaries we are earning today.
“Cross River State is number 35 out of 36 states in terms of federation allocations. In spite of this, we are the most outstanding in the payment of salaries, not because we have enough but it’s because we care enough.”
Ayade further stressed that “When you have the interest of the people and are committed to their wellbeing, combined with spiritual vision, God will make the provision because He sees the sincerity of our heart that indeed, our people are in dire need of this road.”
The governor assured that “Nothing financial, spiritual or political will stop this project. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I never started a thing that I won’t complete. I am indeed a promise keeper. I always keep my word and I am ready to give my right eye to honor my words and will ensure that the job is completed in good time.”
On the economic viability of the road, Ayade pointed out that “This road is not driven by ambition nor childhood propensity to achieve what you have set, but it is a thorough reflection of the yearnings and needs of our people.
“I believe that this road is the beginning of prosperity and in the words of the Paramount Ruler of Obudu, it is clear that it is one thing that is going to build us again as a team and as a people and I l believe that the people of the Northern Senatorial District are totally united in solidarity with this road.” The governor said: “It is an opportunity to attract the desired traffic from the eastern flank of the country to access our facilities at the Obudu, return back to our bustling Okuku market once again and most importantly rewrite the Ogoja’s name in our country’s map.
“This project is beaconed on a promise of decoupling our people from over dependence on government because road is a major infrastructure in the socio economic development of our state”.
The governor particularly thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his ability to appreciate the capacity of every governor particularly those working to free their people from financial crisis.
Also speaking, members of the House of Representatives from the area, Hon. Agom Jarigbe Agom and Hon Legor Idagbo in their separate remarks, described the project as a novelty because it is the first major project to be embarked in the area since they resumed offices as lawmakers, saying that they were proud to be associated with the governor in his quest to transform the socio-economic landscape of the state..
While assuring Ayade of their support, the lawmakers thanked the people of the state for the confidence reposed in him, with one adding: “I can now see that we did not make a mistake by voting Ayade as our governor.”
Speaking on behalf of the Traditional Rulers in the area, Paramount Ruler of Obudu, Uti Joseph-Davies Agba, described the road as a twain that will bind and unite the people again, even as he thanked Ayade for his pragmatism in ensuring that he brings back life to the oldest and neglected local government in Nigeria, Ogoja.
He prayed for wisdom, strength and God’s provision of resources to enable the governor fulfil all his lofty dreams for the transformation of the state to a more prosperous destination.
Former Minister of the Environment, Chief John Odey who spoke on behalf of the host communities, promised to collaborate with the firm handling the project to ensure its timely completion, adding that the importance of the road to the socio-economic life of his people cannot be overemphasized.
On his part, the Federal Controller of Works, Federal Ministry of Works, Engr. Agbara promised to support the state in its effort at constructing the road, assuring that the ministry will be on site to ensure that contractors keep to the scope, design and specification during the course of the exercise.
Commissioner for Works, Dane Osim-Asu who disclosed that the state started procurement for the construction exercise in January 2016, said that after a very transparent process, Messer Sydney Construction was chosen by the State Executive Council in October 2016 for the commencement of construction work.
He thanked the contracting firm for the show of love for the state by commencing construction work before mobilization was paid, describing it as unprecedented. He urged them to maintain the tempo to ensure completion of work according to time line.
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