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Lack of political will, underfunding stall East-West road project

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• N82b Needed For Accelerated Completion— Akpabio
Lack of political will and gross underfunding have hindered the completion of the East-West Road started 14 years ago. Despite the economic importance of the road, which crisscrossed five out of the six states in the South-South, stakeholders in the region have continually decried the present administration’s indifference towards completion of the project, which was awarded for N726b.

Contract for the dualisation of the 675km road was first awarded in 2006 by erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo for N211b. But, the administration never really funded it.

Citing the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration, which added additional 23.9km to the East-West Road to link Calabar with the coastal town of Oron in Akwa-Ibom State, revalidated the contract from N211b to N726b after the production of engineering drawing.

It would be recalled that the project was awarded before the late President Musa Yar’Adua established the Ministry of Niger Delta, which then took over the project from the Federal Ministry of Works.

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But, for the past 14 years, barely 50 percent of the road has been completed, due mainly to lack of political will and funding constraints by the previous and present administrations.

Since the present administration assumed office, sections of the road along Aba/Eleme Road Junction to Onne Road Junction, where many multibillion investments are located, have been abandoned for five years.

The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) spokesperson, Ken Robinson, said it was regrettable that the East-West Road has been under construction for over a decade.

Demand for the speedy completion of the East-West Road was part of the 16-Point Demand earlier submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari by PANDEF in 2016. He observed that the Federal Government’s indifference to these demands was fuelling a feeling of marginalisation, neglect, discrimination, and injustice against the people of the Niger Delta.

“The East-West Road is considered a signature project, because of its significance. But look at its state. No construction work has been added in five years by the Buhari administration. There seems to be a deliberate agenda to run the Niger Delta region to the brink, and perhaps confine the people to a state of depravity. God forbid!…” he said.

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President of Niger Delta Enterprise Initiative (NDEI), George Kerley, however, expressed optimism that if the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs were adequately funded, the Minister, Godswill Akpabio, would oversee completion of the project.

“The Niger Delta is in dire need of world class infrastructure, and it is our belief that Godswill Akpabio has what it takes to bring much of this to fruition, especially the long delayed East West road” he said.

Meanwhile, Akpabio has said about N82b is needed to facilitate completion of the East-West Road.

Akpabio made this revelation in Abuja, when the Petrol Station Owners Association (PESOA) paid him a courtesy visit to demand approval of the revaluation and supplementary valuation of the 40 petrol filling stations belonging to its members.

He said: “I have told the contractors that I want to see value for the money that has been put in there, because so far, the Federal Government has spent about N331m on the road from Warri, while the initial cost remains about N102b. With the release of N20b, what we are looking for now is about N82b and that is what we are working on now, so that as soon as we exhaust this amount, we ensure that the other one is ready.

“Mr. President has graciously returned the construction section 1-4 of the East-West Road to the ministry, and he has said he must commission that road by November 2021, no matter what it takes for it to be completed… “

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PESOA coordinator, Dr. Joseph Obele, explained that the group was informed that compensation would be paid to its members, based on the valuation undertaken about six years ago without conducting a revaluation of the said properties, considering the current economy realities, as it relates to their business.

Obele contended that the valuation of the said segment of the East-West road was done six years ago, when the exchange rate was N160 to one US dollar. As such, it would not be fair to rely and use the old valuation, due to current increase in prices of goods and services, as well as high inflation.

He said: “Most of the association members were omitted, while ownership of most of the properties has changed. Most properties have been improved on, in line with what is currently obtainable in the petroleum industry, as most of the stations are now equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities.

“A new DPR policy negates licensing any station on any land that is less than two plots. Invariably, all the stations will be rendered useless, irrespective of the degree of encroachment…”

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