The deplorable condition of Odukpani – Itu – Ikot Ekpene road have brought untold hardship to commuters plying that road. The impassable state of the road is responsible for the public outcry in recent time. It is very painful that a trip on that road which used to be less than two hours drive now takes over seven hours to nine hours. This situation is worrisome.
I stumbled on a press statement by the Niger Delta Activists Forum (NDAF) which was published on the 23rd of July, 2020. Their concern and agitation expressed therein are genuine but permit me to say a few things.
I will like to begin by thanking comrade Paul Ajie, Chairman NDAF, Cross River State chapter and his team for all they are doing to call FG attention in order to fix the Odukpani – Itu – Ikot-Ekpene road.
However, I am constrained to make a few remarks in the light of the NDAF press statement currently in circulation across social media platforms.
You may wish to read NDAF press release under reference below:
*PRESS STATEMENT BY THE NIGER DELTA ACTIVISTS FORUM OVER THE DELIBERATE PUNISHMENT OF THE NIGER DELTA…
The first thing to note from the release is that the Minister for Works was economical with the truth during his meeting with NDAF.
The N3.5 billion he alluded to was never meant to mobilize any contractor to any site as he claimed. Rather, that money was paid out to Julius Berger for outstanding engineer certificates earned (job certified).
Take notice, the contract for the dualization of the said road was awarded since May, 2018 with an advance payment guarantee (APG) to the tune of about N10 billion. The project duration was 30 months and the awarded section was expected to be completed by November, 2020.
Another thing worthy of note is that out of approximately about 87 kilometers of the entire stretch of the said road starting from Odukpani to Ikot-Ekpene, only 21.9 kilometers was actually awarded in the said contract. That is, 12.2 kilometers and 9.7 kilometers respectively for Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State.
Truth is, Julius Berger (JB) was adequately mobilized since 2018. In fact, JB was on site up until Easter Break of 2019 but suspended ongoing work afterwards following the Federal Government’s inability to pay for job certified up to the tune of about N4 billion.
Therefore, the N3.5 billion, the honourable minister for works, Mr. Fashola told NDAF was set aside to mobilize contractor to site is monies that was used to settle debt owe Julius Berger for work done so far on the project. The balance of that indebtedness is captured in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
This preamble is to debunk the Minister’s overall assertions as expressed in that press statement.
It is my opinion that the Minister tricked NDAF when he entered into agreement with falsehood. Except that, in February, 2020 when the Federal Government realised that their game on the dualization project was over, they hurriedly awarded four new categories of contracts on the same road as follows:
1. Rehabilitation of the road at the cost of N1.6 Billion.
2. Palliative work on the road at the cost of N26 Million.
3. Outstanding portion of Dualization of Odukpani Itu road at the cost of N446 Million.
4. Replacement of handrails at the Calabar-Itu bridge at N22 Million.
The four listed projects will be funded with SUKUK bonds.
Let me move a bit quickly to the “Demands” made by NDAF in that press release. I think their demand is insubstantial especially that they are not sufficiently equipped with facts other than the ones told by officialdom.
Be it as it may, the federal government has already released monies for capital projects. Accordingly, I think the demands of NDAF instead should be to know:
1. Who is the contractor in charge of the Rehabilitation of the road?
2. Who is handling the Palliative maintenance work on the road?
3. Who will replace the handrails at the bridge?
4. If the outstanding N446 million is paid to JB, will they return to site?
5. More importantly, how much is the total amount released for immediate works on the said road?
I encourage NDAF to use their 21 days ultimatum window for fact gathering instead of relying on hearsay.
I am happy to review alternative narratives other than the ones I have presented.
P.S: For the purpose of insight, the most reliable authorities are the 2020 appropriation Act and contract documents.
Otu Otu Ita is the Senior Special Assistant to the Cross River State Government on Fiscal Responsibility.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Otu Otu Ita and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.