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Delayed payment of compensation frustrating Port Harcourt/Aba road project

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Residents, Motorists Lament Difficulties
The delayed completion of construction works on the Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway has subjected motorists and other road users to serious difficulties, as a journey of one hour now takes about five hours. No thanks to the gridlock occasioned by the deplorable state of the, which has sadly become a constant. The road is a very significant link road between Aba and Port Harcourt, which are two major cities in Abia and Rivers State respectively. The road also plays a vital role in facilitating commerce and business in the two states.

In fact, lorries, trucks and sundry articulated vehicles that carry goods from Aba to Port Harcourt sometimes breakdown on the road, while others are trapped for three to four days.The Guardian reliably gathered that the Federal Government’s delay in releasing money for the payment of full compensation to owners of structures on the road was affecting the pace of work, and largely responsible for the woes faced by the road users.
 
The road project was awarded to Messrs CCECC Nigeria Limited in 2014 as a-four lane road project, but mobilisation was not substantially paid until 2016 when work fully commenced.It was further learnt that work commenced on January 2016 after some owners of affected structures who were affected by the project were paid only a percentage of the compensation.

But after the completion of just one kilometre of the road project, the Controller of Works, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Rivers State, Mr. Johnson Fadire, and the contractor realised that the project needed to be expanded from its original design of four lanes to eight lanes to enable it accommodate the massive flow of vehicular traffic. Sequel to this, the expansion of the road from four eight lanes was approved by the Federal Government in March 2018, with the same contractor still being in charge.

Speaking with The Guardian, Fadire, disclosed that after the approval, the contractor was paid and mobilised to site and work commenced, but stressed that the major problem that the project is facing is that of payment of compensation to owners of structures, whose buildings were affected due to the expansion.

Fadire noted that some structures were not properly captured during the preparation of documents for the expansion, a situation he said was currently delaying the approval of compensation estimate by the government.He said, “However, after estimates was carried out on the new affected structures,  it was sent to government for approval and presently, we are still expecting the approval and that has really affected the progress of work.He continued,” Moving  on, the stakeholders met the owners of properties within 2km from Imo River to Oyigbo and with their understanding and that of the contractor, 50 percent of compensation was paid by contractor pending official approval of compensation hence we are able to achieve full construction works within the road section”

The State Controller of Woks insisted that for works on the approved  upgrade to eight lane to be executed, compesation issues must be solved.He said, “ if compensation is approved and paid, together with availability of fund, the project shall be 100 percent completed by the year 2020”.Also, the project Manager of Messrs CCECC  Nigeria Limited ,Gao Qiang,described the  Aba/PortHarcourt road as a very terrible road.He explained, “ To work on the road project,first, you scrap the surface soil, sand fill, pour cement, stone base then asphalt. The estimate for the project increased due to the delay and steady increase in construction materials especially, the asphalt”.

He added,  “ We are facing a lot of difficulties  in terms of traffic, compensation and insufficient fund .If we can get the approval and support of funds, the road would be fastracked”.

Meanwhile, the State Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mustapha Shehuri, during his recent visit  to the project site assured that funds would be made available to finish the work on time.He reasoned that the  expansion of the road is very necessary considering that PortHarcourt  and Aba are very big  cities where alot of commerce between the two states are high and need serious attention.

The Minister said, “The road has the right design, there is no provision for dryness of funds, it has to be actualized . The current design is made to carry heavy trucks , You are doing a good work, the issue of compensation would be looked into , funds would be made available to finish the work on time”
 
Some of the road users lamented their frustrations.Moses Uzo, a truck driver said, “We  suffer so much on this road, my truck has parked here since three days. we are asking government to come and help us and fix it”

Another motorists, Micheal Amadi said, “ This road has been a nightmare, it has been like this for a long time. It has made people to relocate from Oyigbo to other cities. Businesses has crumbled and it is affecting prices of goods in PortHarcourt because trucks can no longer come into the city”.


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