By Jonathan Ugbal
The federal government on Monday commenced the rehabilitation of the 73 kilometers Odukpani junction – Akpet 1 section of the Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja – Katsina-Ala highway.
The road was constructed in 1975 and 43 years after, the federal executive council on November 14, 2018 approved the award of contract of the rehabilitation valued at NGN14,017,170,597.90k.
And, while performing the flag off ceremony at Akpet 1 in Biase local government area of central Cross River, the minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola who was represented by the minister of state, Mr. Mustapha Baba Shehuri said that the road deteriorated due to “frequent usage by industrialists.”
“The Odukpani Junction – Ikot Okpara – Akpet 1 section of the Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja road is a 73 kilometer long single carriageway. It links the industrial town of Akamkpa to the Biase – Yakurr road, hence, it’s frequent plying by industrialists around the area which led to it’s deterioration,” Shehuri said, adding that: “The shoulders of the road have been eroded completely, while the entire alignment is riddled with alligator cracks, as well as characterised by potholes.”
The completion of the project, Shehuri said, “will greatly reduce vehicle operations and maintenance cost, improve travel time, reduce accidents as well as loss of lives and properties.”
He continued: “It will also greatly enhance the socio – economic wellbeing of the people along the corridor, generate employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labor and assist in the fight against armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crime prevalent within the area.”
Shehuri who called on the contractor to adhere “strictly to contractual agreement by completing the road as scheduled, in conformity with approved design and specifications,” also acknowledged the co-operation of the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade among others whom he said contributed towards the take off of the project.
The scope of works, CrossRiverWatch gathered, will include; “site clearance of the shoulders, scarification of existing failed carriageway as well as the provision, placing and compacting of naturally occurring lateritic material as filling for embankment.
The contractor is also expected to provide, place and compact crushed stone base course in compacted thickness of 200mm; placing of MC0 or MC1 on carriageway and shoulders on both sides; provide and lay 60mm asphaltic concrete binder course; provide and lay 40mm thick asphaltic concrete wearing course and the provision and laying of 2 layers of surface dressing on shoulders; provision of concrete lined drains; desilting of blocked culverts and provision of reinforced concrete pipe culverts.
The minister and his wife are had earlier toured the Ugep – Alesi section of the highway which is near completion.
The Director, highway construction and rehabilitation in the ministry, Engineer Yemi Oguntominiyi in his remarks said that the road has for years, “been in a state of disrepair and has had numerous complaints from the public including the Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union.”
Mr. Yemi who said that the project will be completed within 24 calendar months, also disclosed that: “The scope of works involves the full rehabilitation of the road and shoulders with asphaltic concrete. The flag-off ceremony being held today marks the formal commencement of the rehabilitation works and is another milestone in this administration’s commitment to the provision of motorable roads across the federation.”
The contractor, Messrs Sermatech Nigeria Limited commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing Executive Order five which has aided the growth of indigenous construction companies.
The managing director, Mr. Isioma Eziashi in his remarks said that the State has never had it so good in terms of road rehabilitation from the federal government since he began operations a decade ago in the State.
Eziashi who had earlier identified funding as a problem in an interview however contradicted himself during his remarks at the event and said that funding has always being made available.
For Governor Ayade, it was prove that the State enjoys a cordial relationship with the federal government despite differences in political affiliations.
The Governor who was represented by the commissioner for works, Engineer Dane Osim-Asu, said there has been an improvement in the state of roads since he assumed office.
“There was a lot of commotion and disconnect in the state of roads in the State
Also, the Paramount Ruler of Biase, Onun Nicholas Odum and the Obol Lopon of Ugep, Obol Ofem Ubana in their remarks hailed the decision of the federal government to rehabilitate the road 43 years after it was constructed.
The flag off ceremony comes a few days after the federal controller of works in the State, Engineer Bassey Nsetip told journalists that about 250 kilometers stretch of the entire 330 kilometers of the Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja federal highway is currently being rehabilitated by the federal government with three different contractors handling the project.
“It is a very important road in the state. In fact it is the main arterial Federal Road we have in the state. It connects all the local governments to the state from the south up to the north.
“It is a very important road and the Federal Government has been maintaining the road to ensure that business does not collapse here.
“You know the road is the life wire of the economy and if you want to shut down Cross River State, you shut down this road.
“From Calabar to Ugep that used to be three hours, is now one and a half hour from Calabar.
“If ask the people, they are very happy. We have 250km we are working on right now. Areas we are not working on are areas that are still okay,” he said.
The contracts were originally awarded in January 2015 with a duration of 24 months but due to lack of funding, the projects stalled.
But, the ministry said it has intervened in collapsed portions of the road in the Odukpani, Akamkpa, Yakurr, Obubra, Ikom and Ogoja local government areas in the past three years.
And, Nsetip disclosed that the federal government had to urgently fix two culverts to replace the collapsed ones at the Iwuru – Akamkpa section of the road at a huge cost because of the economic importance of the road as it was the only link with the South-South, South-East and North-East from Calabar.
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